John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Southern Illinois University Stadium, Carbondale, IL

October 03, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Powell, many thanks; Governor, Congressman Gray, Senator Douglas, Otto Kerner, the next Governor, ladies and gentlemen, I am very grateful to the president and the trustees of Southern Illinois University for their generosity in having us here today, and I am glad to see so many students who are also participating in the profession of politics. Prince Bismarck once said that one-third of the students of German universities broke down from overwork, another third broke down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany. I do not know which third of the student body we have here today at Southern Illinois university, but I am confident I am talking to the future rulers of America in the sense that all future men and women have an opportunity and an obligation to participate in the discipline of self-government. I come here as the Democratic candidate for the office of the President, and it is my hope that this campaign will serve a useful national function. My responsibility and the responsibility of the Democratic candidates is to present alternative courses of action to our present policy so that the people can make a clear choice, can make a judgment as to what they want their country to be, as to which direction they want their country to go.

I believe that there is a clear choice in 1960, as there was in 1948, as there was in 1932, as there was in 1912. I believe that the Democratic Party has once again an opportunity to be of service because I believe that the problems which the United States will face in the 1960's are entirely new, entirely different, and require new people and new solutions. [Applause.]

The hard tough question for the next decade and for this or any other group of Americans is whether this country, with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives, whether that country and that system can successfully, over a long period of time, compete with a totalitarian state, where the total resources of the state, both human and material, are harnessed to the service of the state. How can we, over a long period of time, maintain our position, our strength, our leadership, relative to that of the Communist world? That is the question which faces both parties, and which faces America and which faces all who believe in the cause of freedom. It is for that reason, among others, that I find it particularly distressing that this country, after a recession in 1954, and a recession in 1958, is now moving a short time later, less than 3 years, into a period of plateau, of standstill, with nearly 5 million Americans out of work and nearly 3 million Americans working only part time.

Last year, 1959, not a recession year, our economic growth was about one-third that of the Soviet Union and one-half that of Germany, Italy, and France. We are going to have to have double the economic growth we had last year if every student here and their successors in the next 10 years is going to find a useful job. We are going to have to find in the 1960's 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years if we are going to maintain full employment in the United States. And even when we have done that, there are still those eddies, still those islands of unemployment, because of technological changes, because of many conditions. And you have seen it in southern Illinois, and I saw it in the textile towns of Massachusetts, and I spent a month in it with West Virginia and in Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania.

The Federal Government is going to have to devise a better use of its monetary and fiscal powers if it is going to stimulate the growth of our economy. It cannot rely on a high interest rate policy which I believe stifles our expansion, and we have to pass once again and have a President who will sign the area redevelopment bill. [Applause.]

I was the floor manager in 1956 for the first Douglas area redevelopment bill. I was a cosponsor of it the second time and a cosponsor the third time. Twice it has been vetoed and there is no indication in 1960 that if we elect a Republican President that he will sign a bill which I think will serve the general need. You cannot possibly agree that it is in the public interest to have communities which have 15, 18, and 20 percent - in my own city of Lawrence 30 percent unemployed for 3 years. What do those Americans do I saw them in West Virginia, over 100,000 families getting surplus food packages and no hope for the future. Unless the Federal Government is willing to devote its energies, unless it is willing to cooperate with local groups in this area, in the field of education, in the field of health, in the field of minimum wages, unless the Federal Government is able to use its powers affirmatively, I don't think then that we can look to the future with the confidence and hope that must be ours if we are not only going to endure but prevail.

I believe that the assignments facing the next President of the United States are more difficult than any since the administration of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. In many ways, they are more difficult than any president has faced since the time of Lincoln. And in the time of Lincoln the issue was just the same as the issue that we face now. In his speech in his last debate he repeated his house divided theme, and in that speech he said, "The question is whether this Nation can exist half slave and half free."

Now the question is whether the world can, and I want to make it clear that I am not satisfied as an American with the drift of events, with a Gallup poll which showed that a majority of people in 10 countries in February believed that the Soviet Union would be ahead of us in science and military power in 1970. You cannot stand still against an adversary who is devoting all of his energies to a movement forward. Mr. Khrushchev spends a month at the United Nations and he is a busy man. He does it in order to further his cause. He knows that in the next decade people in Latin America and Africa and Asia are going to begin to make a judgment as to which side they are going to take, which side represents the best hope for them, which system travels better, communism or freedom. Can our system help them solve their problems, or must they turn to the East? If you think American policy toward these areas has demonstrated any lack of understanding of the serious problems we face, I will name only one incident. We gave last summer at the time of the uprising in the Congo we offered 300 scholarships to the Congo. That was more than the U.S. Government had given to all of Africa in 1959. There are 7 students from that 300 here in the United States today from the Congo, even though over 800 applied. Two years ago, Guinea became free. Three years ago Ghana became free. Guinea and Ghana have both moved in the direction of associating themselves with Soviet policy. Cuba is not the only example.

What I am concerned about is in 1970 I don't want to see independent country after independent country begin to move where Guinea and Ghana have gone, where the Congo almost went and may still go, where Cuba has already gone, because for a simple reason they feel that the Communists represent the future, they feel that we are identified with the past, they feel that we are identified with colonialism, they feel that we are identified with the kind of future which they do not want. Why? After all, what we want is their independence. I think it is because the United States in recent years has not demonstrated the vitality here in the United States. I believe that Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson and Truman were successful in their foreign policy because they were moving here at home. Because Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in the United States, he was a good neighbor in Latin America. And what is true of Latin America is true of Africa and true of Asia.

Next spring India may have a financial crisis. But I don't hear anybody in this administration concerning themselves with the problems of India which may be the most serious postwar crisis that this country has faced. There is no use offering scholarships to the Congo in 1960. It takes years to educate a man or a woman and prepare them for self-government. There is no use suddenly coming at the point of Castro's pistol and offering economic aid to Latin America, which we did this summer when our relations with Castro became soured. These people know what is going on. Where have we been the last 8 years? What new original concepts of government, what has been associated with American foreign policy to cause people around the world to believe that the Communist system and Communist countries which, 40 years ago, in the case of Russia, the sickest country in Europe, 10 years ago in the case of China was regarded as a country with no future, and now they move, and the question is whether they move fast enough? I believe that this is a great country, but I believe it can be a greater country, and I believe it must be if it is going to maintain its freedom, and is going to maintain its position as the leader of the free world. No one is coming to our assistance if we fail. Only ourselves, and, therefore, I believe that the unfinished business of this society is to begin this country on the upward go, for every citizen to be willing to devote his time and his energy to the service of this country.

I do not run for the Presidency saying life will be easy in the 1960's, but I do run for the Presidency with the strong feeling that the United States manifest destiny in 1960 is to serve ourselves and serve the cause of freedom. [Applause.]

Thomas Paine in the American Revolution said, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." I believe in 1960 that the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. And I believe that once again the Democratic Party, with stretches back in history longer than any active party now in the world, stretching all the way back to Jefferson - I believe that once again it is going to be called upon for great public service and once again it is going to be given the opportunity to lead this country and start this country moving again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Southern Illinois University Stadium, Carbondale, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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