John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Union Square, New York, NY, Amalgamated Clothing Workers Rally

October 27, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Potofsky, Senator Lehman, Congressman-to-be Vanden Heuvel, Arthur Levitt, our distinguished mayor, Mayor Wagner, ladies and gentlemen: I am delighted to be here today and delighted to be the guest of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, a union which I have known during my 14 years in the Congress, which has spoken for the interest of its members and also for the public interest. I am honored to be your guest. I come here today [applause] I come here today as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, a party committed to progress for the American people [applause].

In 1936, in accepting his second presidential nomination, before 100,000 people in Franklin Field, Pa., President Roosevelt said:

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded and the sins of the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

The choice which you have to make here in New York City, here on November 8, is whether you want a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference, or whether you want a government and a people that is moving forward, that is standing here in this country and and around the world for progress, for progressive leadership. [Applause.]

The choice between Mr. Nixon and myself is a very sharp one very simple. We lead two different parties, committed to two different philosophies of government, with two different legislative histories, both from the party point of view and the individual point of view. I represent a party which in the 1930's passed the Social Security Act. Mr. Nixon represents a party which voted against the Social Security Act 90 percent. I represent a party which passed the Housing Act of 1949. Mr. Nixon represents a party that voted against it, and Mr. Nixon himself voted against it. I represent a party which tried to pass a minimum wage of $1.25 this summer. Mr. Nixon represents a party that voted 80 percent against it in the House of Representatives. I represent a party committed to equality of opportunity for all Americans regardless of their race, their religion, their color, their creed. [Applause.] Mr. Nixon represents a party which controlled the Presidency, the House, the Senate, in 1953 and 1954. Not one single piece of legislation dealing with civil rights ever saw the light of day in either the House or the Senate.

Mr. Nixon runs for the Presidency he runs on a program of progress. In 1952, the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act came up. The McCarran-Walter Immigration Act provided that even though the population of England and the population of Italy is the same, 60,000 English citizens can come to the United States every year, and 5,700 Italians, 350 Portuguese, 400 Greeks, few Poles, few Hungarians, a few Czechs, a few Rumanians. Mr. Nixon voted for that bill and he voted to override the President's veto. I voted against it, and I voted to sustain the President's veto. [Applause.]

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Nixon may campaign and say parties don't mean anything, but I think the kind of candidates the parties put forward does mean something. I stand where Franklin Roosevelt stood and Governor Smith and Harry Truman [applause] and Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Nixon stands where Mr. Dewey stood and Mr. Landon. [Response from the audience.] The only three candidates in this century who tried to do something about the Republicans were Theodore Roosevelt, and they drove him out of the party, Wendell Willkie, they rejected him in 1944, and Nelson Rockefeller, and they moved him right out of the picture and brought in Dick Nixon. [Response from the audience.]

I want someone to tell me a single piece of domestic legislation that Mr. Nixon ever proposed that stood for progress for the people, from minimum wage, social security - this summer we tried to pass a bill for medical care for the older citizens. Under the bill, which the President signed, before you or your mother and father, who may be retired, who may have a heart attack or cancer or sick for several months - before they can get any assistance under that program, they first have to sign a petition that they are medically indigent. They have to take a pauper's oath and then they can go down and get public assistance. Do you know what we proposed? That it be tied to social security, that everyone contribute 3 cents a day, and they be given out of a fund to which they contributed medical care when they retired. [Applause.] We proposed our bill. Forty-four Democrats voted for it in the Senate, and one Republican. Do you know what a great national magazine said when we were defeated? "Mr. Nixon turned," it said, "and smiled." You have to decide whether that is the kind of leadership you want, a leadership frozen in the ice of its own indifference. [Response from the audience.]

It is no accident that while we have stood still at home, we have stood still abroad. We stood for the most abroad when we stood for the most at home. Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor to Latin America because he was a good neighbor to the people of this country. Woodrow Wilson stood for the new freedom at home and he stood for freedom abroad. Unless you have a progressive, forward looking, vigorous program as a nation, your image abroad is uncertain. Why is this administration compelled to hide the surveys which show our prestige has dropped? You cannot possibly move abroad, you cannot possibly attract the image and the commitment and the imagination of people scattered around the world who want leadership, who want leadership for freedom, unless this country is moving ahead. I am not prepared as an American to see three recessions in 8 years. [Applause.]

You make clothes or hats, or work and manufacture. You, yourselves, know that this fall of 1960 this country is not moving the way it should. Do you know we built 30 percent less homes this year than last year at this time. Why is that? We are using 50 percent of our steel capacity. Do you know by the middle of November we will have a million unsold cars in inventory, the highest in the history of the United States? And they run on peace and prosperity, and we have never had it so good, and experience, and reward experience. Casey Stengel showed what happened, that experience does not always count. [Applause.]

Well, now, what counts in this country of ours, what we can do for it, how we can make it move again? I come here today and ask your support in this campaign. Give us your voice, give us your hand. [Applause.] And I can assure you that if we are successful on November 8, we will move this country forward. We will strengthen this country and once again the title of citizen of the United States will stand for freedom around the world. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Union Square, New York, NY, Amalgamated Clothing Workers Rally Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives