John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Trade Union Council of Liberal Party, New York, NY

October 27, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Dubinsky, Alex Rose, Governor Lehman, Bill Vanden Heuvel, the next Congressman from this district, and he will make a good one, Miss Bankhead, Mayor Wagner, Miss Lee, Miss Winters, Mr. Douglas, Miss Loy, ladies and gentlemen, and all of you. I know that you have to go back to lunch. Let me say very briefly what I think the issues are in this campaign. They are generally the great domestic issue which goes to the question of the kind of society that we can build here. Can we as a free society maintain full employment for our people, educate our children, provide security for our older citizens, provide equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of their race, their origin, or the circumstances of their birth. Can we, in other words, build the kind of society which we promised to build in all of the great statements of our leaders, and if we can build that society, can we build it with sufficient vigor, sufficient strength, can we do it in the sixties to set an example of freedom to all those who look to us for leadership?

Our problem abroad is connected with our problems here at home. If we build a strong society here in the United States, if we build a society which practices what we preach, if we build a society of strength and vigor, then quite obviously it affects our relations all around the world. One of the great problems which now affects the United States, affects our security, affects our leadership, affects our chances for peace, is that the United States in recent years, rather than giving an image of strength and purpose and vitality, has given an image of reaching middle age and beginning to fade as an inspiration and hope to the people all around the globe. All of the discussion which Mr. Nixon and I have had in this campaign about our prestige in the world does not go to the question of our popularity, whether we are liked or disliked; it goes to the question of whether people in Latin America and Africa and Asia will decide to follow our example, will decide to associate with us, representing the way of the future, or, standing on the razor edge of decision, will decide to follow the example of the Communists. That is the real serious issue which I believe is incumbent in this election of 1960.

The New York Times this morning carried a poll taken in England and France this summer. It showed that only 7 percent of the people of England and France thought the United States was ahead of Russia in science. An earlier poll showed that a majority of the people in 10 countries believed that by 1970 the Soviet Union would be first militarily and scientifically.

Now, if the people of the world begin to get that idea of the relative strength of our two societies, then it goes to the question of peace, and it goes to the question of our security. How can we lead a free world if they no longer look to us as an example? How can we speak for freedom when we no longer give an image of a strong free society?

My chief disagreement with the Republicans and my chief disagreement with Mr. Nixon is that I don't think they have the vaguest idea of the kind of times in which we live and the kind of national effort that will be required if the United States is going to maintain its position in the sixties. To have 5 million people out of work, have nearly 3 million people working part time, to have nearly half of our steel capacity unused at a time when we are undergoing our most serious tests - what impression does that make on Mr. Khrushchev? Does he think we are a serious society when we can only use half of our society? Do you know by the 15th of November - and this goes to everyone who deals in textiles or fabrics - that we will have 1 billion dollars in inventory unsold, the highest we have ever had in the history of the United States? Do you know this year we built 30 percent less homes than we built a year ago? How can we maintain prosperity on that basis? How can we serve as an example around the world on that basis? When people around the world in Africa, Latin America, and Asia ever get the idea that we don't represent the future but another society does, hostile to us, then I would say we have lost a most important struggle. So I regard our responsibility in the coming years as twofold:

First, to build strength in the United States, to maintain employment in our country, to use our resources to the fullest, to develop the kind of society which Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson and Truman in their day tried to develop, but to do it and to do it in the sixties.

Secondly, to speak for freedom around the world. In the vote in the United Nations on the admission of Red China there were 16 nations from Africa. Do you know how many of those voted with us? None. Do you know we had more foreign students studying here 10 years ago under the Federal Government than we do today? In June we offered 300 scholarships to the Congo in an emergency, as if you could turn out an educated man overnight. Do you know that was more scholarships than we offered to all of Africa in the year before? Do you know how many Congolese students are here? Seven. Guinea, which now votes with the Communists, asked us for 500 teachers this year. Do you know how many we sent them? One. We had more people stationed in Western Germany in 1957 than in all of Africa.

Does anyone wonder why in Latin America, Africa, and Asia the United States no longer serves as a symbol? Do you know the Soviet Union has 10 times as many broadcasts in Spanish to Latin America as we do? Do you know Indonesia has more broadcasts to Africa than we do? Do you know Radio Cairo has more radio programs around the world than we do? And this administration and Mr. Nixon runs on that record.

The gap between our programs and performance has never been wider and you have to decide on November 8 the kind of country which you want to live in, the kind of society you want. Do you feel that what we are doing now is good enough? If you do, then Mr. Nixon is your man. But if you take the view that I take, that the United States cannot possibly afford at a time when we are the chief defender of freedom and when freedom is under attack all over the globe - we cannot afford to be second in education, in space, in housing, in industrial production, in the kind of society and opportunity we present. On that basis we can move the country. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Trade Union Council of Liberal Party, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives