John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Cadillac Square, Detroit, MI

September 05, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Williams, the next Governor, John Swainson, Senator McNamara, Senator Hart, Walter Reuther, leaders of organized labor, ladies and gentlemen, I have come today from Alaska, America's last frontier, to Michigan, to state the case for America's new frontier. [Applause.] I have come here today on a day that belongs to the working men and women of America, to ask you for help in translating the Democratic platform into reality. Give me your help; give me your men; give me men like Pat McNamara and Phil Hart in the United States Senate. [Applause.]

Next January we will have four more votes in the U.S. Senate to give us medical care for the aged under social security. [Applause.] And next January there will be no threat of a Republican Presidential veto. [Applause.]

Give us next January more men like the Democratic Congressmen from Michigan and next January we will get a minimum wage of $1.25 without Republican opposition. [Applause.] Elect John Swainson as the Governor of Michigan to succeed a great Governor of Michigan, and we can tell you that we are going to work to make Michigan a stronger State, and a stronger Nation, with John Swainson and Mennen Williams. [Applause.]

I am taking our case to the American people in the next 2 months because I believe that the American people should decide which direction this country is going to go. The issue is before you and I am confident that in November you will make a choice for progress, not for standing still. [Applause.]

I am confident that the American people will make a choice that they want this country to be first in the world and first in the fight for peace. I take my case to you as the descendants of immigrants who will welcome other immigrants to this country without fear or favor, here a home for the homeless. [Applause.]

I take my case to you because I am confident that the American people do not want to continue in this country poverty and discrimination and disease and slums. They want to move ahead again, and we are going to do it beginning January 1961. [Applause.] I take my case to the American people because I am confident that the American people will want to bring an end to racial discrimination everywhere, in the schools, in the homes, in the churches, in the lunch counters. I want every American free to stand up for his rights, even if some times he has to sit down for them. [Applause.] And finally I am here because we share a common, deep-seated belief in the workings of free collective bargaining and in the growth of free, responsible unions, and, unlike our opponents, we don't just believe that on Labor Day. [Applause.]

I welcome the support of working men and women everywhere and I am proud of the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. [Applause.] For the labor movement is people. The goals of the labor movement are the goals for all Americans and their enemies are the enemies of progress. The two cannot be separated. The man and party who oppose a decent minimum wage also oppose decent wages for our teachers. The man and the party who oppose medical care for the aged have no more compassion for the small farmer or the small businessman, or hungry families here in the United States or around the world. That kind of man and that kind of party likes things the way they are. Their slogan is, "You never had it so good." But let them tell that to the 4 million people who are out of work, to the 3 million Americans who must work part time. Let them tell that to those who farm our farms, in our depressed areas, in our deserted textile and coal towns. Let them try to tell it to the 5 million men and women in the richest country on earth who live on a surplus food diet of $20 a month.

The facts of the matter are that the Republican Party for 40 years has opposed all kinds of progressive social legislation. They did it in the special session in the last 4 weeks, and if they are successful they will oppose legislation for the next 4 years. That is not what we want for this country. We want America to move again. [Applause.]

Franklin Roosevelt said it when he accepted the second presidential nomination before 100,000 people in Franklin Field in Philadelphia, and in that speech he said

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded and the sins of the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. [Applause.]

For the last 8 years in this country we have bad a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. Where Franklin Roosevelt set before our country its unfinished tasks, the unfinished agenda for America, this administration has set ceilings, has set goals. I think we must recapture the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt and start moving forward on the unfinished business facing this country. [Applause.]

This is a great country, but it can be greater. This is a prosperous country but it can be the most prosperous country in the world, where all Americans share that prosperity and none live on the marginal edge of existence. But we have to grow, and under Republican leadership this country is standing still, here in this country and around the world. Our workers have seen it in shorter workweeks, our steel industry sees it in producing 50 percent of capacity, and Mr. Khrushchev sees it when he promises to bury us.

Here are three facts: One, our economy under the first 6 years of the Republican Administration grew one-half as much as under the last 6 years under the Truman Administration.

Fact No. 2, the Russian economy is growing at three times the rate of ours.

Fact No. 3, last year, the United States had the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world.

I don't like to see the United States second to any country. We are going to make the United States the first, here, and to all those who look for freedom. [Applause.] With an average rate of growth in this country, every workingman in the last 8 years would have received $7,000 more than he has received, for an education or a new house or a rainy day or his old age. With a really healthy rate of growth, this country can have full employment for all who want a job. With a really healthy rate of growth we can pay for all the defenses that this administration says we can't afford. With a really healthy rate of growth we can afford the best schools for our children and the best paid and the best trained teachers.

Finally, with a really healthy rate of growth, we can talk about an economic crusade for justice. But it is time that we stopped talking about it and elected an administration that will do something about it. [Applause.]

The fact of the matter is that the President of the United States stated on August 10 that we had a fine year in automobile production, even though a few years ago we produced 1,500,000 more cars than this year, and even though in the city of Detroit you know those who work with you who are unemployed in the auto industry. I don't take that view of the American economy. I think this country's power is unlimited. I think if the President of the United States will just merely set before us our national goals, that all of us are willing to bear the burden that must come to reach those goals. [Applause.]

I spent 1 month in West Virginia in the primary, and I saw all through the coalfields men waiting at 45 years of age for a job they will never get because automation has thrown them out of work, and yet this administration has not even recognized the problem, which may be the most serious domestic problem which our country will face in the next 10 years. We don't want to have machines throwing men out of work. We want machines that will help men live a better life. [Applause.]

And finally, if we are going to grow the way we should grow, we must adopt fiscal policies that will stimulate growth and not discourage it. Every American who financed a home, who bought a refrigerator, who bought an automobile, bought a television set, has suffered from this high interest rate policy. Those of you who bought a home for $10,000 with a 30-year mortgage are going to pay out $3,300 more for that house than you would have paid in the Truman administration. This kind of growth that I am talking about is not antibusiness. It is probusiness. It is not antiprivate enterprise. It is proprivate enterprise, and it is pro the American people.

I run for the office of the Presidency not because I think it is an easy job. In many ways I think the next years are going to be the most difficult years in our history. I don't run for the office of the Presidency telling you that if you elect me life is going to be easy, because I don't think that life is going to be easy for Americans in the next decade. But I run for the Presidency because I do not want it said that in the years when our generation held political power that those were the years when America began to slip, when America began to slide. I don't want historians writing in 1970 to say that the balance of power in the 1950's and the 1960's began to turn against the United States and against the cause of freedom. I don't want it said that when we held office and when we were citizens that the Russians and the Chinese Communists began to expand their power. The new frontier is not what I promise I am going to do for you. The new frontier is what I ask you to do for our country. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, and this country can move again. [Applause.]

This is a great country. When the American Revolution came, Tom Paine wrote, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." Now, in 1960, in the great world revolution, the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. If we succeed in this country, if we make this a great country to live in, if we reflect our vitality and energy and strength around the world, then the cause of freedom is strengthened. But if we fail, all fail. If we stand still, freedom stands still.

I ask your help. I ask your devoted service again to our country, and I can tell you that if we are successful in this election, we shall lead and this country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Cadillac Square, Detroit, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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