John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bangor, Maine, Fair Grounds

September 02, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. My friend and colleague, Ed Muskie; my friend and your next Governor, Frank Coffin; Lucia Cormier, Dave Roberts, John Donovan, ladies and gentlemen, I came here to Maine to start this campaign in my own backyard. I do so not merely because I live in Massachusetts. I do so because here in this part of the United States we have in a very real sense the same feeling of a new frontier that I talked about in Los Angeles when I accepted the Democratic nomination. And I am here also because we have in this State, I think, a singular opportunity to send some distinguished people to hold positions of responsibility in the Government of this State and Nation in the next 4 years.

I must say I don't come here and speak for them just because they are Democrats. I think in this election the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are means to an end, not an end in themselves. They are a means of providing gifted men and women for the service of this country in a difficult and dangerous time.

I think that Lucia Cormier, Frank Coffin, Dave Roberts, and John Donovan follow in the tradition of Ed Muskie, who was chosen by a State which had been Republican, not because he was a Democrat, but because they thought that he was the kind of a man that they wanted to speak for them in this State and in the Nation. And what is true of Ed Muskie is true of Frank Coffin, it is true of Lucia Cormier, it is true of Dave Roberts, and it is true of John Donovan. Adversity brings out the best in a man and in a country. And it brings out the best in a political party.

The reason that the Democrats of this State have selected unusual people is because it isn't easy. Now, the challenges that face this country aren't easy. But because it isn't easy, I think it is going to get the best from us.

I run for the office of the Presidency because I believe, because I know that this is the great office in the gift of the United States and, really, the great office in the gift of the free people of the world. We represent not only ourselves. The President of the United States represents not only the Democrats of this country, he represents all of the people around the world who want to live in freedom, who look to us for hope and leadership.

I must say that if I am elected President of the United States, I am not going to attempt only to select men for positions of high leadership who happen to have the word "Democrat" after their name.

When Franklin Roosevelt became President in 1932 he selected three Republicans to be members of his first Cabinet. When President Truman was the President, he selected men like John McCloy, Robert Lovett. He continued men like James Forrestal. He brought John Foster Dulles into the State Department to negotiate the Japanese Treaty. He secured for the great positions of responsibility the best men and women he could get.

That is what we are going to do in the future.

Can you name me a man or woman in the great offices of this country in the last 8 years involving the security of all of our people who was a member of the Democratic Party, comparable to the positions held by Knox, Stimson, and all the rest during World War II and afterward?

The reason is simple.

We believe in securing the best for our country because nothing but the best will do, because we believe this is the best country, and because we realize that it isn't the President of the United States that is in trouble, it isn't the Republican Party that is in trouble, it is the country that is in trouble and it is we who are in trouble. The reason we are in trouble is because we are faced by a dedicated and determined adversary who recognizes that we live in a revolutionary world and who is reaching toward the future. I don't want it said that here in the 1950's and the 1960's we began to be passed by - that kind of leadership is what we need, a helping hand. [Applause and laughter.]

In any case, we are here today to ask your help. We have about 65 days between now and the first part of November when this election is going to be decided. In spite of all the debate between political parties, we have a common interest today to select the best people we can get, people who recognize the kind of State we live in, the kind of country we live in, the kind of world we live in; people who look to the future, who are ready to break into that future, who are ready to lead, and who want this country to move again.

Thank you very much.

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bangor, Maine, Fair Grounds Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives