John F. Kennedy photo

Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy in Seattle, WA, at the Civic Auditorium - (Advance Release Text)

September 06, 1960

I have carried my call to the New Frontier into seven different States - Maine, New Hampshire, California, Alaska, Michigan, Idaho, and now Washington. From Aroostook County to Anchorage, the oldest part of the Nation to the newest, I have met the American people - I have listened to them and I have found them ready for one basic change: Action.

They want action at home to keep pace with needs, to help the unfortunate, to build a still greater nation. And they want action abroad, to match the rise in Communist power, to meet the turbulent revolutions reshaping our globe.

I believe the American people elect a President to act. I believe the crises of the 1960's require him to act. And I believe the voters all across the country in November 1960 are going to call for action.

I am in this campaign as your candidate for President of the United States. That is the greatest office in the world - the only office that speaks for all the people. The Congress cannot do the job alone - that ought to be clear to everyone by now. If this Nation is to reassert the initiative in foreign affairs, it must be presidential initiative. If we are to rebuild our prestige in the eyes of the world, it must be presidential prestige. And if we are to regain progressive leadership on our domestic problems, it must be presidential leadership.

If the President does not move, if his party is opposed to progress, then the Nation does not move - and there is no progress. But this country cannot afford to stand still in the 1960's - for the whole wide world is moving around us.

The next President of the United States will face problems unlike those any President ever faced before. Here at home we are only beginning to sense the impact of automation, machines replacing men, we are only beginning to feel the pressures on our schools and colleges - on the cost of medical care for the aged - on farms caught in a cost-price squeeze - in cities caught in a downward spiral of slums, high taxes, and the flight to outlying areas.

The world is changing, too. The old era has ended. The old ways will not do. A few years ago, most Americans had never heard of Nasser, Lumumba, Castro, or even Khrushchev. We did not know of any serious Communist problems in the Middle East, in Africa or in Latin America.

But now there are new leaders, new nations, new weapons of destruction. The balance of power is shifting. The gap between rich and poor is growing. And the world in which we are only a tiny minority is restless, watching and on the move.

There is only one area of change which this State knows better than any other - and that is the change in the military balance of power. This State knows firsthand about seapower. You know firsthand the changes in our relative power - and I mean relative to that of the Soviet Union.

For we are no longer assured of protection by our oceans, in an age when an ICBM can reach our shores in less than 20 minutes. We are no longer assured of time to mobilize in an age when one enemy warhead contains more explosive than all the bombs dropped in World War II put together. And we are no longer assured of being first in the world in every phase now and in the foreseeable future.

The people of Washington are proud of their contribution to national defense - and you are aware of its contribution to your economy. But I cannot believe that there is one person in this State or Nation who would not like to see the arms race ended - the threat of war recede - and the billions now spent on weapons of destruction turned to schools and hospitals and homes and dams. With careful planning for reconversion, this State would enjoy a greater boom under disarmament than it ever enjoyed in the cold war.

For peace is our deepest aspiration. And when peace comes, we will gladly convert, not our swords into plowshares, but our bombs into reactors and our missiles into space vehicles. "Pursue peace," the Bible tells us - and we shall pursue it with every effort and energy we possess.

But it is an unfortunate fact that we can prepare for peace only by preparing for war. We can convince Mr. Khrushchev to bargain seriously for peace only when our strength makes clear to him that no war will ever be to his advantage - and that the balance of power is not moving his way. We cannot do that by arguing with him - and we can't do that by smiling at him. The only way we can get his agreement to disarmament is by our strength of armaments, enough to stop the next war before it starts.

That requires only one kind of defense policy - a policy summed up in one word - first. I do not mean first when. I do not mean first if. I do not mean first but. I mean first in military power across the land - and first in diplomacy, prestige, science, education.

The next President of the United States - whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, and whether he likes it or not - must be prepared to submit to the new Congress a whole new set of defense goals. It will require a reevaluation of our commitments around the world - a reevaluation of our base system - a reevaluation policy.

For we are moving into a new era - and the old concepts will not do. The old plans of organization will not do. The old leadership will not do. And I believe that the Democratic Party is prepared to offer the new leadership and the new ideas our Nation will need.

I do not say that all these decisions will be easy. They will not be popular.

They would not all be guaranteed to work.

But I would remind you that 340 years ago today a little band of men and women set out to find a new life on a new frontier. They sailed from Plymouth, England, and they called their ship the Mayflower.

Their course was risky and uncertain - they knew hardship and sacrifice lay ahead. But they sailed on because they were moved by man's deepest aspiration - the eternal desire to be free.

Now, 340 years later, the freedom those hardy Pilgrims won on a small Massachusetts beachhead is in danger again. Once again we must commit ourselves to great ends. Once again we must take uncertain risks - sail uncharted sea - explore unconquered territory.

I have called this challenge the New Frontier. I have made it the theme of my campaign. I do not run for the Presidency to emphasize what services this country will offer the American people under a new administration - I run emphasizing the service which the American people must offer their country. My call is not to those who believe they belong to the past - my call is to those who believe in the future.

Will you join me in this endeavor: Will you be pilgrims and pioneers on the New Frontier? I cannot promise you safety - I cannot even promise success. But I pledge you an administration that will get this Nation moving again, toward a new and better world where freedom is secure.

John F. Kennedy, Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy in Seattle, WA, at the Civic Auditorium - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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