John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bowling Geeen, KY, City Hall Square

October 08, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Combs, Lt. Gov. Wilson Wyatt, Governor Clements, Governor Wetherby, Keen Johnson, your next U.S. Senator from the State of Kentucky [applause], Congressman Natcher, who runs like we would all like to run, uncontested [applause], Congressman Frank Chelf - we flew over his district - they were down there waving at us [laughter], ladies and gentlemen, I want to give you the best two-horse parlay in the State of Kentucky today. That is Western Kentucky State College in the winter and the Democratic Party in November. [Applause.]

I am delighted to be in this community with two distinguished colleges and universities, a center of education and where there is a look to the future. Prince Bismarck once said that one-third of the students of German universities broke down from overwork, another third broke down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany. I do not know which third of the student body of Bowling Green Business University or Western Kentucky is here today, which third of the student body is here today, but I am confident that I am talking to the future rulers of America. [Applause.] In the sense that all educated citizens participate in the discipline of self-government.

I come today as a candidate for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, which is the only national party in the United States [applause] and which was founded when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison went up in the early part of the 19th century, traveled up the Hudson River on a botanical expedition, hunting butterflies and catching fish, and they came down the Hudson River and they stopped in New York and met Aaron Burr and the knights of Tammany, and founded the coalition which then developed between the rural South and the industrial North. That tradition has been maintained to the present day.

I come today from Massachusetts, not hunting butterflies, but asking Kentucky to rejoin the Democratic Party. [Applause.] Here in this State which has been represented by great Democratic Senators in the past, which sent Fred Vinson to the Senate, which sent Alben Barkley to the Vice Presidency, I believe in 1960, Kentucky and the country are going to say "Yes" to the future, "Yes" to the Democratic Party. [Applause.]

The history of this country moves in rhythms, back and forth, between progress and standing still, between liberalism and conservation, and I believe in 1960 the choice for the United States is forward. I cannot believe that in the most revolutionary age that the world has ever known, in science, technology, in outer space, in the minds of men around the globe, I cannot believe that the American people are going to give their endorsement to a political party which says, "You have never had it so good," which endorses the status quo, which endorses the past, which says that everything that is necessary to be done is being done. I cannot believe that the American people will not say that in these changing times, in these times of revolution, in these times of forward motion around the world - I believe that the Democratic Party is best suited to lead in those times. [Applause.]

I believe the record is clear. No democratic candidate for the Presidency ever said that party labels are unimportant. Every Republican candidate every 4 years says, "Don't pay any attention to the record of our parties." No Democratic President ever called TVA "creeping socialism." [Applause.] No Democratic President ever ran on a record of repealing social security. No Democratic President ever vetoed a tobacco bill. [Applause.] No Democratic President in this century has presided over the temporary liquidation of American agriculture which has seen a drop in corn in the last 8 years of nearly 30 percent, which has seen livestock go down 23 percent in the last 8 years, and which puts forward an agricultural program, a complete repetition of Mr. Benson - and why not. Nixon called Mr. Benson the most remarkable Secretary of Agriculture in the history of the United States.

(Response from the audience.)

Senator KENNEDY. And I must agree. He has spent more money than any Secretary of Agriculture, or all of them, in the history of the United States. He has piled up higher surpluses. He has dropped farmers income more sharply and after 8 years in office he still blames it on the Democrats. He is the most remarkable Secretary of Agriculture in history. But I cannot believe that this country is going to give their endorsement to a program which continues Mr. Benson's policy of tying the support price on agricultural commodities, tying the support price to the market price of the last 8 years, which will provide a steady drop in agricultural income. This is a serious time, and I believe that the United States if it is to meet its manifest destiny, must build its strength here at home.

The reason that Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in Latin America was because he was a good neighbor in the United States. And I know of no better example of the partnership which can exist between local groups and States and the National Government than the development of the Tennessee Valley, and I do not know any project in this long history of ours that has had a more lasting effect all over the globe, in eastern Persia, in the Indus River, in the country of Colombia, in South America - every country now is trying to duplicate what the Tennessee Valley did. And it is a source of satisfaction to me that the Tennessee Valley received its greatest impetus in the twenties not from a man who represented the people of this area, but from George Norris and the State of Nebraska, 1,000 miles away, who recognized the national interest, who put the Tennessee Valley, with Franklin Roosevelt and the rest, in over the opposition of the Republican Party and built this valley until it is now one of the richest in the Nation. [Applause.]

I say that party labels do mean something, if the party stands for something. No political party is of any use to the people, nor is any politician if he does not stand for definite principles and the principles that I stand for in this century are the same principles that Woodrow Wilson stood for in 1912, and which Franklin Roosevelt stood for in 1932, and which President Truman campaigned on in 1948, and my judgment is that their success abroad, the success of the foreign policies of those three Presidents, were directly tied to the success of their policies here in the United States. The 14 points of Woodrow Wilson were tied to the new freedom of Woodrow Wilson. The good neighbor policy was tied to the New Deal. And the Marshall plan, NATO and the Truman doctrine and point 4 all had their domestic counterpart in the efforts which President Truman made to lift our country forward.

I come in the most somber time in the history of our country, when in 1960 our steel production is at 54 of capacity. Last week the Soviet Union outproduced the United States in steel capacity, with one-half of our potential. By 1975 the Soviet Union will be equal to the United States in hydrocapacity, and 10 years ago they were about a third of us. By 1980, according to Allen Dulles, of the CIA, if the present rate of economic growth continues, and theirs is from two to three times as great as ours, by 1980 the lines will cross, and unless we begin to move ahead at a faster rate, they will begin to outproduce us.

Today they produce about 44 p ercent of what we produce, and yet they maintain a Communist defensive, a great military power, and increasing their power in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I come as a citizen of the United States and say that what we are doing is not good enough. It is my responsibility as leader of the opposition party in 1960 to state that the decision which the American people will make in 1960 is between a political party which looking at the world around us and at our country says it is good enough, and a political party looking at the world around us and our own country which says it is not good enough. Our effort is not good enough. We are not moving ahead fast enough. We are not building our strength in relation to that of the Communists with sufficient vigor. That is a decision which you as voters of the State of Kentucky will have to address yourselves to, to which party, to which political philosophy, to which viewpoint, do you believe, after making your own careful judgment?

This is not a view of mine. It has been expressed by commission after commission appointed in the last 8 years, by distinguished Republican after distinguished Republican, by general after general, who has warned that the relative power of the United States and of the free world is not rising as fast as it must, if we are to maintain ourselves and the cause of freedom around the globe.

I take no pleasure in this message. Whether I win or lose, however, this message is going to be given, that what we are doing now is not good enough, that this is a strong country which must be stronger. It is a powerful country which must be more powerful, and it is on your judgment and your sense of responsibility, and your willingness to face the future which is looming in front of us, in a crowded and turbulent world, it is on the good judgment of the people of Kentucky that I rest my case. I believe as in other days and other years, in other great crises, that the Democratic Party, old as it is, stretching back in history as it does, I believe it is the most vigorous, the most modern, the most up to date, the most vital, the most in touch with the changing world around us. So I come here today and ask your support. I ask your support not only for our candidates, but I ask your support and your enlistment in the great cause of building the strength of the great Republic. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bowling Geeen, KY, City Hall Square Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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