John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, NY

October 27, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. First, let me say that you are my type of Democrat. [Applause.] My friend, Bob Wagner, General Farley, Frank O'Connor, Pat Clancy - the Irish are very big out here. [Applause.] Jimmy Delaney - they really run a balanced ticket [laughter], Lester Holtzman, and Bernard Helfat, who is running for Congress, and Joe Addabbo, who is running for the Congress [applause], and our campaign manager in Queens, Any Moray [applause], assemblymen, and others who wish to run but on another occasion, ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my thanks to all of you for staying so late. We have not been playing golf. We have been campaigning. [Applause.] We have been traveling through Brooklyn, and now tonight we are here. Just so you will know if you decide to run for the Presidency, what it is like, we will go to Bethlehem, Pa., to carry the message. But you were nice to come here tonight. I appreciate your staying. I think you come here because you feel like I do, that after 24 years, it is time Queens went Democratic in a presidential election. [Applause.] We have three or four rallies going here. You are here tonight for the same reason that I am and that is that you agree and I agree that when we make a decision on November 8, we want to make the best decision possible for the United States. We want the best for our country. Anyone who votes this year I think probably more than ever before in our history will make their judgment on what they believe to be in the best interest of our country.

Mr. Nixon and I disagree on what is the best interest of our country, and you have to make your judgment on November 8 of what you feel, what you believe, the kind of country that you want in the future, the kind of responsibilities that you want to meet as a citizen, because he and I do disagree and these disagreements are important. Mr. Nixon has run on a slogan that we have never had it so good. It indicates his belief that we are moving in a period now, to quote him, of "unparalleled prosperity," that the United States is moving in a position of strength and vitality, and that everything that must be done is being done in good measure. He looks around the world and he sees the United States with our prestige at an alltime high, and that of the Communists at an alltime low. I look at the world and I look at the United States, and I don't see his picture at all, and I am not, as the Democratic candidate for office, going to run for the Presidency in 1960, with any belief or any view that it is worthwhile getting elected President if we have to run on a platform which is totally unrealistic. This country is not moving ahead like it is going to have to move ahead if we are going to meet our responsibilities to ourselves, to those who come after us, to those who look to us around the world for leadership. And our position in the world is not unparalleled, our prestige has been higher. Our strength relative to that of the Communists has been greater. If Mr. Nixon hopes to be President of the United States and present the United States to the world in the same image that he now presents it in this campaign, I could not disagree with him more. I hope you share the view with me that we want the truth with the bark off. The people of the United States want to face the facts. You share the same view that I do, that this country's potential is unlimited. There is no responsibility, no burden, no hazard that the United States cannot meet, but it certainly cannot meet those hazards unless the leadership is prepared to tell the truth. [Applause.]

What possible use is it for Mr. Nixon to say in a television debate with me a week ago or 2 weeks ago that our prestige is at an all time high, when at the very time in the State Department there are polls taken in 10 countries this summer, all over the world, from England to Indonesia, which show a different result. Mr. Nixon either does not know about the polls, or he has read the polls and he cannot draw a conclusion from them, or another decision must be forthcoming.

The point of the matter is that this great country of ours deserves the best in leadership. It deserves, I believe, a President of the United States that will set before the American people the unfinished business of this society, a President and an administration that believes in America moving ahead in the 1960's, that believes that the best service that we can render to the cause of freedom is to build a strong and vital society here that spreads its influence around the world and demonstrates to the Communists that we represent the way of the future, that their system is doomed to die, but it will die only when we meet our responsibilities. [Applause, response from the audience, laughter from the audience.]

The man in the audience said that I should tell Mr. Nixon that experience is what he will have left after this campaign is over. [Laughter and applause.]

I don't know why we never think of those things. [Laughter.] But, of course, Casey Stengel's experience showed that experience is not enough. [Laughter.] What we have to do, in my opinion, in 1960 is pick this country up, pick this country up, pick this free society up and move it forward, and I believe we can do it. This is a great country, but it can be greater. It is a powerful country, but it can be more powerful, and as long as we are the chief hope of freedom, as long as we represent the great resistance to the expansion of the Communist movement, I run for the Presidency wanting to see us meet our obligations, speak the facts, tell the truth, and then let the American people make their judgment. [Applause.]

My judgment is that there is not an American in Queens County that is not thinking of the best interest of this country, and my judgment is on November 8 the best interests of our country are served by those of us who are willing to say let us make one more great effort on behalf of the United States, let us move forward again, let us demonstrate to a watching world that we represent the way of the future. I want people to wake up all over the world in the next years and wonder not what Mr. Khrushchev is doing or what Mr. Castro is doing. I want them to wonder what the United States is doing. [Applause.]

Ladies and gentlemen of Queens, we leave it to you. We put this campaign in your good hands. Let us take this country, let us take this State, let us demonstrate in the United States, to Mr. Khrushchev and everyone else that a new generation of Americans is taking over and that this country is going to move again.

I will close, as we leave for Bethlehem, Pa., by quoting from Mr. Robert Frost, who said, "I will hitch my wagon to a mule, for I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep." Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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