John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Boston, MA, Faneuil Hall

November 07, 1960

ANNOUNCEMENT: Eleven o'clock, election eve, 1960, Boston, Mass. From Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, cradle of liberty, Citizens for Kennedy-Johnson present an election eve program with John F. Kennedy, Democratic candidate for President of the United States, and from Austin, Tex., the candidate for Vice President, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. * * *

Senator JOHN F. KENNEDY. Thank you, Lyndon. Ladies and gentlemen, we are meeting tonight in old Faneuil Hall, which is the cradle of American liberty.

Here in this hall, men and women met days before the American Revolution to work for freedom. The 13 steps behind me celebrate the 13 nations and States that first signed the Constitution. Here in this old part of Boston, which my grandfather represented once in Congress 60 years ago and which I represented first as a young Congressman 14 years ago, we hold our last meeting of this campaign. Our work is now over, and tomorrow you must make your judgment. Your judgment of what you want your country to do, your judgment of what you want your country to be. I want to present to you for just a few minutes some of the highlights of this campaign that has taken us to all parts of the country. I think it shows something about America. It shows something about what America can do and what America must be. Perhaps the most exciting was whistlestopping through the valleys of California, way back in September. This is the meeting of the Houston ministers at Houston, where they were kind enough to invite me, when we discussed the so-called religious issue of this campaign.

I believe in America where a separation of church and state is absolute. Where no Catholic prelate can tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners how to vote. Where no church or church school is granted public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in America. It is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. Where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or public acts of its officials. Where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. This is the kind of America I believe in, and this is the kind of America I fought for in the South Pacific and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then we might have had a divided liberty or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the, I quote, "the freedoms for which our forefathers died." If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole Nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world. In the eyes of history and in the eyes of our own people. But if, on the other hand, I should win this election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency, practically identical, I might add, with the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation I can, and I quote, "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God."

Despite the fact that it was a rainy afternoon, the National Plowing Contest in South Dakota gave me a chance to give my views on our No. 1 domestic agricultural problem.

(Bad audio.)

* * * and wait every month for surplus food packages from our Government. There are 4 million Americans in this country who wait every mouth for a package from our Government of surplus food. You wouldn't believe what is in that package. Some grain, some rice, and this summer the Department of Agriculture is adding lard. These aren't just people living in India or Latin America. They are fellow Americans. Some thrown out of work, many of them sick, many of them with families, and here's this country which stores food and lets it rot on occasion. We can't find enough good food to send our own people.

Some say the turning point of this campaign might have come with the first of the four nationally televised debates.

I don't want historians 10 years from now to say that the tide ran out. No; I want them to say that these were the years the tide came in. These were the years when the United States started to move again. Thus: the question before the American people - and only you can decide what you want, what you want this country to be, what you want to do with your future. I think we are ready to move. And it is to that great task that, if we are successful, we will address ourselves.

War is a moving experience. To speak from the house where Franklin Roosevelt often stayed and where he died. The "Little White House" in Warm Springs, Ga.

Franklin Roosevelt was the champion of the aged, and of children, and the handicapped, and the friend of those who have been forgotten, of those who have not been remembered, of those who have needed a helping hand, and of those who needed a good neighbor. There is still unfinished business before us in the field of health. There are still over 18 million Americans who live out their lives without assistance, without any recognition of the great problem that they face in the field of health. This campaign, like all the rest, reached a climax of party spirit in the final week. Even a driving rain could not dampen the torchlight parade in New York.

This is the campaign and it's now come to an end.

I think this old hall reminds us of how far we've been as Americans and what we must do in the future. This painting behind me is of the first Thanksgiving, December 13, way back. It was painted in 1821, and of course it was of the first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony. They had had a long, hard experience. Many had died. And yet the first harvest came in, they gave thanks to the Lord for His generosity to them. It reminds us of our great history, of what our people have been willing to do in order to build our society.

There's another picture on the wall from the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Battle of Bunker Hill which was one of the key battles of the American Revolution, was fought only a few hundred yards from this old building.

This is a great country. It has passed through many trials and tribulations and it has emerged in 1960 as the most powerful single country in the world, as the greatest hope for freedom of the world.

It is our function now in our generation in the 1960's to keep it that way, to make sure that this country meets its responsibilities, to make sure that we stand as the sentinel at the gate for the cause of freedom around the world.

If we succeed, freedom succeeds. If we fail, freedom fails. That is the sober and awesome responsibility which events and our own choice have put upon our shoulders.

I believe that we can fulfill our function. I believe we can maintain our position as the hope of freedom. I believe that we can check the Communist advance, that we can turn it back, and that we can, in this century, provide for the ultimate victory of freedom over slavery.

That is our job and I believe that that can best be done if we build in this country a strong and vital society.

Our prestige in the world, our strength in the world, our influence in the world - all of these are directly related to the strength, energy, and drive of the United States itself.

This is the place where we must start. The next President of the United States must go to Washington and get this country working again.

We must provide opportunity for our people. We must provide with their help employment for our people. We can't possibly maintain our own freedom and the freedom of others when we work part time, when we use our steel capacity 50 percent, when we build - as we built this month - 30 percent less homes than a year ago.

We have to provide education for our children - the best there is. We have to make sure that talented boys and girls - and nearly 35 percent of our brightest who graduate from high school today never see the inside of a college - we want to make sure they have a chance to develop their talent.

We want to make sure that our older citizens have a chance to protect themselves - they have a chance to live out their life in dignity and security under a medical care plan tied to social security.

We want to make sure that the great abundance that American farmers have brought to us is used as a blessing around the world.

This is a blessing from the Lord. He has been generous to us and we have to make sure that we use all that we have.

This is the choice, then, in 1960. Shall we go forward? Shall we move with the times? Shall we progress again in the United States? Shall we stand as the great symbol of freedom around the world, or shall we sit still? Shall we lie at anchor?

In my judgment, that is the question that separates the Republican and the Democratic Parties in 1960, as it did in 1932 in the election of Franklin Roosevelt, as it did in 1912 with the election of Woodrow Wilson.

I believe we must go forward. You have to decide what you think. Are you satisfied with things as they are? Do you feel we must do better? Do you feel that we have to do better in the sixties? Do you feel that we have to go to work and build this country of ours stronger than it's ever been, more powerful than it's ever been, more dedicated to peace than it's ever been? I believe we should. And I come tonight and ask you to give me the opportunity to serve in this high office, this most responsible office, so that we can once more start on the forward road.

My wife could not campaign with me this year because she is having a baby in 3 weeks, so that I haven't seen her very much, or my daughter, and she couldn't be with me here today because she has to stay home and relax. But she is home and I am now going to let you say hello to her. Hello, Jackie. We're switching over to you.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Jack, I've enjoyed watching this program tonight. I only wish I could have been there with you at the end of this longest and busiest day for you and the end of the long road that we've traveled together since the primaries in January. The doctor wouldn't let me leave Hyannis Port tonight so I'll be here until tomorrow morning at 6:30 when I drive to Boston to join you en route. I wouldn't miss that for anything. And then we'll have you back with us at least to wait out the election returns together.

One of my happiest memories of this campaign has been all of the people who have believed in you, who worked so hard and helped so much. I want to thank all of you who are listening tonight and tell you that we'll never be able to repay our debt to you, and that it is you that we thank tonight with gratitude.

Before we go back to Faneuil Hall, there have been so many thousands of messages of support received within the past few days we're going to show you just a few of them that have been recorded on film.

(Filmed sequence:)

Mr. Kennedy, I am going to vote for you because I do not like Secretary Benson and I feel like if I should vote otherwise, we will still have to put up with him for another 4 years and I just don't want him in there. He's not a man for the job.

I am voting for Senator Kennedy because I think he's a much greater statesman than Vice President Nixon.

I am voting for Senator Kennedy because I have always been a Democrat and I think it's time for a change.

Mrs. Burton, Whittier, Calif., Mr. Nixon's hometown. I am voting for Jack Kennedy because of his background, his education, his intelligence, and his stability.

I am going to vote for Senator Kennedy because I want to get this country off a dead center. I want to make this country move both domestically and regain our lost prestige abroad.

I am a good Democrat and I'm going to vote for Jack Kennedy because I think he is entitled to the office at this time. He is a brilliant, outstanding man and the United States needs a great leader such as I believe that he can give to the United States.

I am voting for Jack Kennedy and my dad made the mistake in 1928 or voting for a Republican the first time. I am not going to be cheated in this election for voting for the Republican Party.

I am going to vote for Senator Kennedy because he is a sincere, conscientious man and I think will make one of the greatest Presidents of my time.

Well, I think the reason that I am voting for Senator Kennedy is because of my tremendous faith in the American people. In our whole history we have seemed to inevitably choosen the right man for the right time. We have had weak times and weak Presidents. But always it has been the man we have named, at that time. These are the days when we need strength and courage. We need inspiration, directed courage and supervision. These we have in Senator Kennedy. This is what America needs. This is why I must vote for Senator Kennedy.

Mr. KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank all of you for your kindness in coming tonight. Nearly all of you were present when I was elected to Congress 14 years ago, and I'm delighted that you're present tonight as this campaign of 1960 goes into history.

We are meeting in the old hall which was the scene of Otis' speeches and Samuel Adams which led up to the American Revolution.

Behind me are three statues of three distinguished citizens of this State who served their country - President John Adams, his son, President John Quincy Adams, and Senator Daniel Webster from our State of Massachusetts.

All of the past tells us something about the future.

I've traveled all over the United States - been to 50 States in the last month - and I must say I come back to this old city with the strongest possible confidence in the future of the United States, in the ability of its people to meet its responsibilities, to bear our burdens, to strengthen our cause, to identify ourselves and others with the cause of freedom around the world.

In 1860, in the campaign a hundred years ago, Abraham Lincoln said the issue was whether this Nation could exist half slave and half free.

Now 100 years later, the question is will the world exist half slave and half free or will it move in the direction of freedom? Or will it move in the direction of slavery?

I believe it will move in the direction of freedom. And I believe that this is especially true if we here in the United States begin to move again.

The challenge of 1960, of 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964 is whether or not the people of the United States are determined to move forward again; to build a stronger, more progressive, more vigorous society; to demonstrate what freedom can really do; to serve as an ornament to the cause of freedom around the world; to send the most talented men and women we have in the country to service in Washington, to represent us all over the world as spokesmen for freedom, as well as spokesmen for the United States.

I believe we can do these things. I believe we can build a strong and productive society that employs our people, educates our children, provides security for our aged and opportunity for all.

That is the responsibility of all of us, and it is especially the responsibility of the next President of the United States to set before our country the unfinished business of our society.

This campaign is now over. The responsibility has ceased to be ours who are candidates and it is now yours, the citizens of this great Republic.

You must make your judgment between sitting and moving.

This is a race not merely between two parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, or between two candidates. It is a race between the comfortable and the concerned. Those who are willing to sit and lie at anchor and those who want to go forward.

This country has developed as it is. We are here tonight because in other great periods of crisis we have chosen to go forward.

And I am confident tomorrow in 1960, November 8, this country will once again choose progress, this country will once again choose to go forward, this country will once again choose to go to work to build a strong society here and to build a peaceful and productive world.

That is our responsibility and that is our opportunity, and the judgment now is yours - the citizens of this country.

ANNOUNCER. This program has been presented by the Citizens for Kennedy and Johnson. Portions of this program were prerecorded and edited and live from Austin, Tex., Hyannis Port, and Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Good night.

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Boston, MA, Faneuil Hall Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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