John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at the Airport at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

October 29, 1961

Governor, Mr. Mayor, Commissioners, Senator McClellan, Senator Fulbright, Jim Trimble, and Members of Congress:

I want to express my thanks to Fort Smith and to Arkansas for a welcome today. It is a year since I used to make airport speeches, and while I'm here for only 8 minutes, I do want to express my appreciation to Arkansas for eight electoral votes.

I am delighted to be here. I served in the Congress of the United States for 6 years, in the House of Representatives, with your distinguished Congressman Jim Trimble-who spoke for this District and also spoke for the country. And I served in the Senate of the United States for 8 years with Senator McClellan as a member of the Rackets Committee--where he spoke for what is best in the United States, and with Senator Fulbright on the Foreign Relations Committee--who has worked for a strong United States in a peaceful world and also spoken for the interests of Arkansas.

I do not believe that there is anything inconsistent in the year 1961, in a critical and dangerous period, in our opening up Fort Chaffee in order to strengthen this country, and in also dredging the river in order to make it navigable by 1970.

This Southwest United States was built by men who carried rifles and plowed their fields. They plowed their fields because they were building for the future, and they carried their rifles in order that there might be a future.

We believe in a strong country. We believe in a country which is militarily prepared. We have, in the last 6 months, increased our expenditures for defense by over six billion dollars. But we do so because we want this country to be able to fulfill its destiny. We want this country to grow stronger and we do not concentrate only on our military strength. We believe that as you build the river and as you build the ground and reclaim it, and as you strengthen the resources of this country, together they will ensure this country will not only survive but its ideas prevail.

I am proud to come to Fort Smith. When Fort Chaffee was closed in 1959, this community showed what it could do. It has built a great industrial base here. Now Fort Chaffee is open, and we're going to keep it open--and we're going to keep this community and this State and this country moving.

I am proud to be here, and I thank you.

Note: In the President's opening words he referred to Orval E. Faubus, Governor of Arkansas; Robert R. Brooksher, Jr., Mayor of Fort Smith; John L. McClellan and J. W. Fulbright, U.S. Senators from Arkansas; and James W. Trimble, U.S. Representative from Arkansas.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at the Airport at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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