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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, War Memorial Auditorium Steps, Nashville, TN

September 21, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Ellington, Senator Gore, Mrs. Kefauver, former distinguished Governors of the State of Tennessee, Congressman Loser, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, I come from Massachusetts which is over 2,000 miles away, but no Democrat who comes to Tennessee, the State of Andrew Jackson, comes as a Stranger. [Applause.] I don't know whether those two signs hanging on that hotel mean anything, but we will settle for that big a majority next November 8. [Laughter and applause.]

I am grateful for all of you being kind enough to come here today and greet us. I am grateful to your distinguished Governor who was a loyal supporter of Senator Johnson before the convention, and who has given equal support and equal friendship to a ticket of Johnson and Kennedy after the convention [applause], to Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver, who have spoken for the interests of this State and the country, and who speak now as Democrats who believe in a national Democratic Party. [Applause.]

I come here to Tennessee, which helped start the Democratic Party. I come here to the home of Andrew Jackson, and I ask Tennessee to come back home. I ask you to. [Applause.] This State and this country have seen in the last 8 years you cannot live in the Tennessee Valley and say that it does not make any difference which party is in control of the Government; you cannot live in this valley, which was built by the people of this area and the Democrats, and say that a Government which has made a boast of no new starts is good enough for the 1960's. [Applause.]

Andrew Jackson in 1812 sent out a notice to the people of this State which was answered on that occasion and in that statement he said, "We are freeborn sons. We are going to fight for the reestablishment of the national character." We are going to fight for the reestablishment of the national strength. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon said yesterday that the members of the Democratic Party should not go around the country saying the country is weak because it will give Mr. Khrushchev encouragement. I want to make it clear that nothing that I am saying will give Mr. Khrushchev the slightest encouragement. [Applause.] He is encouraged enough as he stands 90 miles off the coast of the United States.

I propose to discourage him. I propose that when the Democratic Party assumes its control in November that we rebuild our national strength and vitality. [Applause.] The most ominous sound that Mr. Khrushchev can hear this week is not in the debates of the United Nations, but a sound of the United States on the move again, of a country ready to move. [Applause.]

I am not satisfied to see a Communist satellite 90 miles off the coast of Florida, 8 minutes by jet. Those who say that they will stand up to Khrushchev have not demonstrated any ability to stand up to Mr. Castro. [Applause.]

This State is an important State in this election, and I think this State shows not only what the country can do and what our people can do, but what the cause of freedom can do, because along with Andrew Jackson this State has a great inspiration, not only to our country but to the people of the free world, and that is the Tennessee Valley. I do not come to Tennessee and say that this is a noble experiment and then go back to Washington and say it is creeping socialism. [Applause.] The Tennessee Valley is the greatest asset we could have, not just to the Tennessee Valley and not just to the United States, but to all those people who stand today in the underdeveloped world and try to make a judgment which road they will take. Will they go the road of freedom or will they take the road of Moscow and Peiping? The Tennessee Valley shows them what freedom can do by the collective action of the people and the vision of the leadership. [Applause.]

I run in the tradition of great Democratic Presidents. No Democratic President in this century has ever run on a slogan of "Stand pat with McKinley," "Return to Normalcy with Harding," "Keep cool with Coolidge." No new starts with this administration.

The Democratic slogans have told something of the Democratic Party, the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, the Fair Deal of Harry Truman. [Applause.] And I ask you today to come with us across the New Frontier of the sixties.

Only an America which is strong and developing, only an America which is using its own resources to the maximum, only an America which is rebuilding its cities and distributing its food in a way that benefits our people and the free world, only an America which has a strength second to none, can lead the free world. This is a great election. In many ways it is more critical than the election of 1932, because in 1932 what was at stake was the preservation of freedom in this country. What is at stake in the election of 1960 is the preservation of freedom all around the globe. [Applause.]

Lyndon Johnson and I do not run for President and Vice President promising that if we are elected life will be easy, but we do promise that if we are elected this country will start to go forward again this country's strength will increase, this country's momentum will quicken, and we will once more, as we were in the days of Roosevelt and Wilson, be a source of inspiration to all those who wish to travel freedom's way. [Applause.]

During the American Constitutional Convention there was behind the desk of General Washington a picture of a sun low in the horizon, and many of the delegates wondered whether it was a rising or a setting sun. At the conclusion Benjamin Franklin stood up: "Because of what we have done here today," he said, "We know it is not a setting sun, but it is a rising sun, and the beginning of a great new day."

I think in 1960, if we are willing to bear our burdens and meet our responsibilities, and look to the future and say, "Yes," to the next decade, I think it can be a rising sun, and the beginning of a great new day. Thank you. [Rising ovation.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, War Memorial Auditorium Steps, Nashville, TN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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