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Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX - (Advance Release Text)

September 12, 1960

I come to Houston to melt the ice - and I don't mean the ice on that rink. I do mean whatever is cool between Texans and the Democratic Party. For like the ice on that rink, it is artificial.

Luckily, I've been having some help. My sister and sister-in-law came here 2 weeks ago with Lady Bird Johnson. And I want to thank all of you, and especially all you women, for the kind reception they were given here in Houston.

Long before they came here, I was being helped by one of the greatest leaders in all American history. I mean Sam Houston.

When Sam Houston first sat down to draw the boundaries of Texas, he extended them west to the sources of the Rio Grande, and north as far as Wyoming. That may seem a little ambitious. But it symbolizes the tie that links Texas and the Democratic Party. That tie is growth-thrusting, venturesome, forward-looking, ambitious growth.

There was growth in everything that Sam Houston did, and there has been growth in everything about the city that bears his name.

When Spindletop opened up the oil fields and the 20th century - that was growth. When Jesse Jones insisted on the canal to Galveston - that was growth. When your magnificent skyline started building - that was growth. When petro-chemicals came, that was growth. When your great port became one of the busiest in the world, that was growth. When, last year, Houston cracked into the circle of the 10 biggest American cities - that was growth too.

And the future holds out promise of even more growth. There is growth, and maybe a whole new industry, in the water desalination station opened up only the other day in Freeport. There is enormous growth potential in the mammoth project for a coastal canal that will bring new, fresh water supplies to every city along the Golden Crescent.

The initiative for all this growth is local. I give full marks to Texas enterprise and Texas drive and Texas vision and Texas boldness. But enterprise, drive, vision, and boldness thrive only in the night climate - in the climate of growth. And right there lies one of the great issues in this campaign - an issue that divides the parties and the candidates.

The Republicans, in Isaiah's words, are "gone away backward." They're against growth. They have slowed growth by the policy of no new starts on river development projects. They have throttled growth by high interest rates.

Under their regime, this country has grown at a rate that is one-third of the rate of Russian advance. We have lagged behind nearly every other industrial country in the world - Britain, Japan, France, Germany as well as Russia. And still the Vice President makes sport of the whole thing. He calls it "growthmanship."

What's more, the Republicans have always been against growth. There are men in this audience whose daddies and granddaddies told them they'd never fare well under the Republicans. They knew, because they'd heard, year after year, the same tired Republican slogans. Just listen to them:

There was "Stand pat with McKinley." There was "Back to normalcy" with Harding." There was "Keep cool with Coolidge." There was "Had enough?" with Dewey. And this year, it's "Experience." The Republicans are still looking backward.

We Democrats haven't had enough. We don't think the American people had enough. We're not smug and we're not satisfied, and we never have been. Our slogans proclaim our attitude. Listen to them.

There was the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson. There was the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. There was the Fair Deal of Harry Truman. There was the New America of Adlai Stevenson. And now we stand on the New Frontier.

With your help, we will open the way to growth once again. We will flash the green light for river basin development. We will release the brake of high interest. And then we shall once more start down the high road to a strong America and a peaceful world.

I am not satisfied to see Khrushchev daring to affront us on our own soil. I am not satisfied to see communism gaining a foothold in the Congo, and in Cuba. I am not satisfied to see your defense line at Key West instead of across the ocean. I am not satisfied with an America that is first maybe, first perhaps, first if. I want an America that is first, period.

Reaching that goal will not be easy. I do not run for the Presidency because it is an easy job. I do not come among you offering the unbought ease of life- presents, gifts, favors. I come among you asking hard work for the future. I say, give me your vote, give me your hand, and together we will build a better America.

And though the task ahead is not easy, it is exciting. For our cause is a sacred cause. Our fight is the fight of God-fearing men against godless communism. Our business is the unfinished business - not of Houston alone, not of Harris County alone, not of America alone. It is the unfinished business of the world. It is the business of making peace.

For the making of peace is the noblest work of God-fearing man. It is the righteous way. And righteousness exalteth a nation.

Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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