John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Chase Hotel, St. Louis, MO - (Advance Release Text)

October 02, 1960

Much is different between 1948 and 1960 - but much is the same. It was 2 years earlier, in 1946, that President Truman brought to Fulton College one of the great figures of the English-speaking world. And on that historic day in March, Winston Churchill bluntly confronted our Nation and the world with the fact that "from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent."

He warned the world that "time is plenty short," that we cannot "take the course of allowing events to drift along until it is too late," and that "our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them [or] by merely waiting to see what happens." He called for action to establish conditions of freedom throughout the world to strengthen our Western alliances and the United Nations. And he particularly emphasized these words which have meaning for us today:

"From what I have seen of our Russian friends and allies during this war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins offering temptations to the trial of strength." These prophetic words of 1946 are even more true in 1960. If we are to protect our heritage of freedom - if we are to maintain it around the world - we must be strong - militarily, economically, educationally and morally strong. And that is why I am dedicating this campaign to the goal of a stronger America - to the proposition that this Nation is strong but can and must be stronger.

Mr. Nixon says that my call for a stronger America demonstrates a lack of confidence. If by that he means a lack of confidence in Republican leadership - if by that he means a lack of confidence in the policies and platform of his party - if by that he means a lack of confidence in the same Republican campaign promises that have been repeatedly broken during the last 8 years - then he is absolutely correct - I do lack confidence in that kind of leadership, and so do the American people.

But I have great confidence in the people of this State and Nation. I have confidence that this country is strong enough to permit free and open discussion of our needs and shortcomings. I have confidence in our ability to close the missile gap, to modernize our conventional forces, and to give this country the kind of defensive strength it needs to stop the next war before it starts; the kind of strength Stu Symington pointed out we would need many years ago. I have confidence in this Nation's ability to look out for its older citizens - to see that they have a decent pension, a decent home, and decent medical care. The people who oppose this program today, under Mr. Nixon's leadership, are the very same people from the very same party who used the very same arguments against social security a generation ago. They said it would mortgage our future and socialize our economy. But the Democratic Party under Franklin Roosevelt had confidence in America then - and I have equal confidence that we can take better care of our older people today.

I have confidence in an America where the farmer does not have to be a second-class citizen - where he can obtain through Government help the same share of the national income and the same kind of bargaining power and the same return on his capital and services as his cousins in management and labor. I think it is time that this Nation faced up to the agricultural revolution which has brought us so much abundance - that we forget about reshuffling the Benson program, as Mr. Nixon proposed, which will only bring us more farm surpluses and more farm foreclosures - and concentrate instead on a program of supply management which will give to each farmer his full parity of income.

I have confidence in an America able to afford the best schools and the best teachers in the world - an America where no one is denied his full constitutional rights by reason of his race or religion - an America where every family lives in a decent home in a decent neighborhood - an America where the cost of living is not completely beyond those who work for a living - particularly those receiving an inadequate minimum wage of $1 an hour.

I have confidence that America is capable of operating at full capacity - that we could consume in new schools and hospitals and dams and highways the full output of our steel mills now operating at only half their capacity. And the same is true of the coal mines in West Virginia and the textile mills in Massachusetts and the lead mines here in Missouri.

I have confidence in an America that can meet the economic challenge of the Soviet Union - this challenge to outdo us in economic growth in heavy industry, in agriculture, and in one particularly vital area of national strength: the development of electric power.

America's power production is the greatest in the world. But, as I pointed out in last week's debate, that superiority is threatened by growing Soviet power development - a growth which is so rapid that it threatens to overtake us by 1975 if we continue to stand still. Mr. Nixon says this statement is false. He boasts of tremendous progress in power development during the last 8 years - and he asserts that the Russians could overtake us only if we did nothing for 15 years while they built eight Grand Coulees a year.

That is his charge. What are the facts?

The facts were reported last year by a committee of the same U.S. Senate over which Mr. Nixon presides. That committee's findings, and I quote - were that "although the United States is still far ahead, the Russians couldd overtake us in 1975 - in 15 years - unless we speed up or they slow down."

For, they pointed out, under current plans and projections "both countries will have equal power-generating capacity, which will be 337,500,000 kilowatts in 1975."

It would not take eight Grand Coulees a year to bridge this gap by 1975. It would not even take three.

And the facts of the matter are that this year the Soviets are building three dams larger than Grand Coulee, two of which are more than twice as large and what have the Republicans been doing in the meantime? Ask your local REA director about what has happened on generation and transmission facilities. Ask the people who live in our great river valleys whether our rate of power expansion increased as fast as it did before. Ask the Army Engineers to list all the projects Mr. Nixon talks about, and you find out, contrary to his implication, they are not power projects, they are not public projects and they were not initiated by the Republican Party.

It's time to get moving again on power development - to help our farmers and small businessmen and homeowners obtain cheaper electricity to help our industries to expand - to help our defense production disperse and expand to match the growing Russian menace. For if we should ever offer what Churchill called "temptation to a trial of strength" there would be no time then to build new dams or new plants or even new missiles.

This is the time to act. And regardless of Mr. Nixon's charges, I intend to keep pressing for action.

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Chase Hotel, St. Louis, MO - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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