John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Tri-Cities Airport, Bristol, VA-TN

September 21, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Ellington, Senator Gore, Members of the Congress, visitors from three States, ladies and gentlemen, it is my understanding that the last candidate for the Presidency to visit this community in a presidential year was Herbert Hoover in 1928. [Response from the crowd.]

Senator KENNEDY. President Hoover initiated on the occasion of his visit the slogan "Two chickens for every pot," and it is no accident that no presidential candidate has ever dared come back to this community since. [Applause and laughter.] But we are here today because we begin in Tennessee today a campaign for the Office of the Presidency in this State, and we ask your support. I think it is most appropriate that we should begin in this community with visitors from three States, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, because it was Virginia which produced Thomas Jefferson who founded the Democratic Party. [Applause.] And it was North Carolina and Tennessee that produced and brought to fruition Andrew Jackson, who built the Democratic Party. [Applause.]

I run for the Office of the Presidency in a difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country. Senator Johnson and I do not run for President and Vice President promising that if we are elected life will be easy. I think to be an American in the 1960's will be a responsible and difficult and hazardous occupation. Yesterday Mr. Nixon suggested that during the time that the United Nations was in session that we should diminish our campaign, that we should support the President, that we should rally around the United States. I support the President. I did not need to be reminded of that yesterday. And so does every American here, Republican or Democrat. [Applause.] And we support the United States. But I am concerned about the future of our country, and I think it would be far more hazardous and far more dangerous for any American who is concerned about the future of our country, to stay still, to say nothing, to keep his peace.

We settle in the next 6 weeks, we make a decision in the coming days, which way this country will move, not from now to January, but for the next 4 years, and possibly the next 8 years, and I will not miss a single occasion to see what is on my side, and that is that this is a great country, but it can be a greater country; it is a powerful country, but it can be a more powerful country.

Mr. Khrushchev is not impressed by words, nor is Mr. Castro, nor are the satellite leaders. They are not impressed by speeches. They are not impressed by debates. They are impressed by power. They are impressed by strength. They are impressed by the determination of the American people. They are impressed by our vitality as a free society. And it is my responsibility as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this election to speak the truth, to say what we think. [Applause.]

The Democratic Party does not run on a program in this election which will give any satisfaction at all to Mr. Khrushchev. If we are successful, our objective will be to rebuild our country, to strengthen our country, and strengthen its position around the world, to strengthen its defenses, to rebuild the economy of this United States. The reason that Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson were successful in their day around the world was because they were successful here in the United States. [Applause.]

The 14 points of Woodrow Wilson were greeted with such significance in Europe, were the logical extension of the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson here in the United States, and the hand of friendship which Franklin Roosevelt held out to people around the world, was the same hand he held out to the people of Tennessee in the Tennessee Valley, and the people of the United States. [Applause.] And the Marshall plan and NATO and the Truman doctrine had their counterpart in the Fair Deal here in the United States.

I come as the standard bearer for the oldest political party on earth. I think the people of Tennessee and Virginia and North Carolina and Kentucky can make a clear judgment in this campaign, and that is on the record of the two parties. Which party is good for the people? Which party has fought for the interest of this part of the United States? Which party has concerned itself with education and the position of our older citizens and full employment for our people, and party income for our farmers? Which party has fought for the American people? Which party has said "Yes" to the future and which party has stood still, and which party has looked back?

I think that this can be not a period of gloom for us. I have confidence in this country. I don't downgrade the United States. I say we can do better. I have more confidence in the United States and its potential than our adversaries who say what we are doing now is as much as we can do. I know we can do better, this valley and this State included. [Applause.]

In 1932 and 1933, and 1934 and 1935, there were those who saw no future for Tennessee, or parts of North Carolina or Virginia. But Franklin Roosevelt saw it and Harry Truman in his day saw it and Woodrow Wilson in his day saw it.

I run as the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, and I ask your support. I don't say that life will be easy, but I say this country and this State and this area can move. I think our brightest days as the defender of freedom around the world are still ahead. I think the 1960's can be days which historians will say, "This is when the country moved." I ask your help in this campaign, as we move across the new frontiers of the 1960's, not resting on our oars, not saying what other Presidents in other times have done, not saying that previous generations had a rendezvous with destiny, but saying our generation does, our generation does. [Applause.]

During the election of 1860 one of the candidates, Lincoln, wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God and that He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, but if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready."

Now, in 1960, we know there is a God and we know that He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Tri-Cities Airport, Bristol, VA-TN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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