John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Democratic Fund-Raising Dinner, Syracuse, NY - (Advance Release Text)

September 29, 1960

Tonight I want to talk about experience in foreign policy - not my experience, not my opponent's but America's experience.

I would discuss specifically the question of our experience over the last 12 months.

That question is highlighted by one dramatic fact: The head of the Soviet U.N. delegation, Mr. Khrushchev, who is being confined to Manhattan Island, is the same Mr. Khrushchev who 1 year ago was invited to visit the Nation and Camp David.

It is certainly the same Mr. Khrushchev. He represents the same Communist system - still dedicated to achieving world domination. He maintains the same objectives, the same views and essentially the same tactics.

It is we who have changed our tactics. We tried arguing with Mr. Khrushchev in a kitchen. We tried impressing him on a good will tour. We tried smiling at him in the spirit of Camp David. Now we are trying confining him to the island of Manhattan. But Mr. Khrushchev has not been impressed, deterred, or confined in his efforts to build a Communist empire.

The reason is that Mr. Khrushchev is not the enemy. He may personify it. His antics may dramatize it. But the real enemy is the Communist system itself, unyielding, uncompromising, and unchanging in its drive for world domination.

Standing up to Khrushchev in debate is not enough. What we must do is stand by and summon the strength of this Nation and the free world to advance the cause of peace.

Instead we have concentrated on standing up to Khrushchev - of answering his argument - or reacting to every crisis he creates. We have concentrated on his objectives - and forgotten our own. When he grins we invite him to Camp David. When he growls we restrict him to Manhattan. But our responsibility, whether he grins or growls, is to pay more attention to our objectives and those of other free nations.

I am tired of reading every morning what Mr. Khrushchev is doing, or what Mr. Castro is doing. I want to read what the President of the United States is doing.

We have great political and economic assets in this country, and the Communists know it. We are the original champions of independence. We initiated the Marshall plan and Point Four. We are the strongest Nation on earth today. And, because the Communists know it, they have succeeded in tying us up in one trouble spot after another - on their own terms, and in areas of their own choosing - and in this way preventing us from using our strength to advance freedom throughout the world.

We have been hypnotized by the glare of the headlights from the oncoming car instead of looking at the road ahead.

While we are busy in our backyard, we can do nothing in theirs. While we talk to the underdeveloped countries about the evils of communism, the Soviets talk to them about the evils of hunger and poverty and disease. I think we can do better.

Consider, for example, the year that has passed since Mr. Khrushchev's last visit - the year between the spirit of Camp David and the spirit of Manhattan Island. One year ago this week - when I warned at Rochester that his visit was "cause for redoubled efforts, not relaxation."

When I said that "the real test of Mr. Khrushchev's (intentions) * * * will be his deeds, not his words" - some resented by dampening of their hopes. Mr. Nixon had hailed the prospects for peace developing from this "mutual respect" between leaders. Others had envisioned the cold war actually ending - as we all wished it would.

But now 1 year has come and gone. The spirit of Camp David has gone. The mutual respect has gone. Our hopes for an end to the cold war have gone.

And what of the six areas of hope and potential agreement that featured the Camp David talks? - the summit meeting was a fiasco, and our President was insulted in a manner every American resented.

The President's trip to Russia was abruptly canceled by his hosts, who have no hesitation in coming here, uninvited and unwanted, to carry the cold war to the U.N. meeting in New York.

The Berlin crisis is worse instead of better.

The negotiations on nuclear testing are as far apart as ever.

The talks on disarmament have been called off.

And, finally, instead of the hoped-for general relaxation of world tension, the Soviets have stepped up their efforts to create disorder, danger and division. They have established an Iron Curtain outpost only 90 miles from our shores in the once friendly nation of Cuba. They have, for the first time, extended their sphere of influence into Africa. They have threatened the stability of the free but tiny Nation of Laos in southeast Asia-infiltrated the extremist movement in Nigeria, making a solution of that difficult problem even more difficult - and stepped up their use of funds, arms, technicians, and propaganda in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

They have exploited anti-American sentiments in Japan so successfully that the President's visit had to be canceled. They have made a world spectacle over the U-2 flight and their trial of our pilot - they have treated this Nation with open hostility and contempt in seizing the crew of the RB-47. And finally, they have sought to increase their prestige and influence in the U.N.; and, failing that, to make it impotent and ineffective.

All this they have done in a year - in the year of the Camp David spirit. And what has the United States been doing in the same year?

We have frustrated congressional attempts to develop more missiles, to harden our missile bases, to increase our defenses against Russia's powerful submarine fleet. We have failed to propose a consistent, comprehensive, and workable plan for disarmament, based on careful preparation and technical studies. And we have been repeatedly reassured by Mr. Nixon - in glowing, sugar-coated terms - that we have nothing to worry about in arms, science, or space - that we have achieved peace without surrender - that statistics showing the Russian economy expanding faster than ours can be dismissed as mere "growthmanship" - and that the anti-American riots in Latin America and Japan were actually indications that the Communists were afraid to face us.

If you are satisfied with those assurances - if you feel that we are doing all we can do to advance the cause of freedom, by building long-term strength instead of moving from crisis to crisis - then Mr. Nixon's experience is what you should send to the White House. But if you are concerned with the Republican tendency to react instead of act - to become preoccupied with only responding to communism instead of also advancing freedom - then I suggest you consider more closely the foreign policy experience of their presidential nominee.

He has, as he frequently points out, had an opportunity to travel widely. He has had an opportunity to study the long-range needs of each area - to recommend new policies for the administration - and to see that those recommendations are properly carried out. What has been the result?

Today, in six key areas around the world, we are reacting too late to a cold war crisis where the cause of freedom is in serious trouble; in Cuba, where Communists openly plot the disruption of hemispheric security - in Ghana, whose President was assailed by Mr. Herter last week as "very definitely leaning toward the Soviet bloc" - in Japan, where the anti-American demonstrations have already been mentioned - in the area once known as Indochina, where the tiny nation of Laos is struggling to keep its head above a Communist tide - in Poland, where the once hopeful cracks in the Iron Curtain seem to be gradually disappearing - and in India, where the one nation capable of surpassing China for the economic leadership of the Asian continent is meeting one setback after another.

These six areas are far apart in their geography, their history, their devotion to freedom and the kind of threat their situations now pose. But they all share two features in common:

(1) First in each case, early action by this Nation or the West - before the Communist threat reached its present state - might well have gone a long way toward strengthening the forces of freedom within that country.

(2) Secondly, also before the threat reaches that stage, each of these areas had been visited by Mr. Richard Nixon.

Why was not our Latin American capital investment program strengthened in 1958, after Mr. Nixon was there, instead of now at the point of Mr. Castro's gun?

Why did we not encourage free elections in Cuba after Mr. Nixon was there in 1955, in order to stave off a revolt against what he called in a Havana news conference "the competence and stability" of the Batista dictatorship?

Why are we suddenly embarking now on a crash program for African diplomatic posts and scholarships? Last year we allocated no scholarships at all to the Congo and practically none to other French and Belgian colonies which have since reached independence. But now, when the situation becomes desperate, we are taking a new interest in the education of their future leaders - an education, however, which takes time and should have been started in 1957, following Mr. Nixon's trip to Ghana.

Why did we fail to realize the situation in Laos - in India - in Japan - in Poland and other areas of the world - before the crisis developed? Mr. Nixon was there - presumably he saw what was going on - presumably he made recommendations. But it is apparently an unfortunate fact that for all these years a trip by Mr. Khrushchev or Mr. Mikoyan has had a far greater effect on our foreign policy than a trip by Mr. Nixon.

The facts of the matter are that trips and tours are not enough. Words and debates are not enough. Slogans about peace are not enough.

For peace takes more than talk, more than experience, more even than effort. It also requires foresight.

The next administration - in addition to meeting our present commitments and facing up to the crises already mentioned - must look ahead to all the new problems just over the horizon:

The spread of nuclear weapons to several nations, drastically altering the world balance of power and sharply increasing the chances of accidental war;

The emergency of Red China as a nuclear power, dedicated to the proposition of victory through war, and differing with the Soviets as to the pursuit of their ambitions;

The possibilities of new cracks in the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe, new Communist moves in Africa, new East German pressure on Berlin, and new voting blocs in the U.N.;

The possibilities of a new step to integrate the economy of Europe or the markets of Latin America.

We need to plan for such developments before they happen. We need to foresee that they are going to happen. We need to recognize the revolutionary tempo of the world in which we live - if we are to strengthen this country - our arms, our diplomacy, our economy and our sense of purpose - and strengthen the cause of freedom around the world. We cannot be complacent with things as they are. We cannot be satisfied to drift, to rest our oars, to glide over our shortcomings.

In 1939, I saw in Europe what happened to those lulled into a complacent sleep by leaders who talked of peace instead of building for it. And when France fell to the Nazis, one of its most illustrious leaders declared:

Our spirit of enjoyment was greater than our spirit of sacrifice. We wanted to have * * * more than we wanted to give. We spared effort, and we met disaster.

I run for the Presidency in 1960 in the conviction that the people of this country are willing to sacrifice - to give - to spare no effort. And it is in that conviction that I ask your help tonight.

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Democratic Fund-Raising Dinner, Syracuse, NY - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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