John F. Kennedy photo

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, PA

October 29, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Distinguished guests, Members of the Congress, of the State senate, Governor Lawrence, ladies and gentlemen, Governor Lawrence and I have been seeing the State of Pennsylvania for the last 2 days. I was somewhat discouraged when we started out this morning in Delaware County to be informed that in 1936 Delaware County went for Alf Landon 8 to 1. So I knew we were in for one of those political days. But I must say that it was very good this morning, and in Montgomery County, and maybe we won't do so badly after all. [Applause.]

This campaign is now about to move into its last week, beginning on Tuesday, and with nine more days to go, I believe the issues are clearly developed. The program proposed by the candidates have been frequently stated. I don't think there is any doubt that there are serious and significant differences between Mr. Nixon and myself, which affect our present position and affect the view of the future of our country.

My own judgment is, and I do not believe that I am being unfair, that his message this fall has lacked a certain urgency which I feel the events of this country and the world require. I believe they have been committed in his message more to the present than to the future, and I think as citizens of the United States we in this country have to consider not only our obligations to ourselves, but also our obligations to all those who look to us for leadership. Tonight I speak in a historic spot, a spot which is associated in the minds of all Americans with the American Revolution and our Declaration of Independence. I speak, of course, in this campaign of 1960 of a different revolution, but one which tests our stamina, our perseverance, and our determination to survive, to endure, and ultimately to prevail in the same way that it did at the beginning of this country. I had said on many occasions in this campaign that we stand on the edge of the new frontier, a frontier that will demand of all of us, wherever we may live, in the White House or individual homes, the same qualities of courage and conviction in 1960, for we are going to move, in the next decade, into the most challenging, changing, revolutionary policy, and hazardous decade in the long years of this country, and perhaps in the long history of freedom. [Applause.]

But these years can also be rewarding years as well. The Chinese word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one signifying danger and the other signifying opportunity. Men knew the meaning of danger, but they also preserved the opportunity for the future, and the new frontiers of 1960's will bring us both danger and opportunities. Our task is to overcome the dangers in order to see the opportunities. What are the new frontiers of the 1960's? We can foresee, first, changing revolution abroad, new nations, new weapons, new shifts in the balance of power new members of the nuclear club, but equally earthshaking, equally fraught with danger and opportunity are the revolutionary changes which will take place in the life of all Americans.

First is the new frontier of population; 1960 will conclude the largest 10-year growth in population in the history of the United States, a growth which equals the entire population of Poland or of Spain. By 1970 our population in the United States will number 208 million, and to maintain and advance living standards for that number of people will require a gross national income of three quarters of a trillion dollars. That requires a rate of growth no less than 5 percent a year, and we are not growing at that rate today. Our average for the past 8 years was 2.5 percent. Our average for the last 9 months is -0.2 percent.

To secure full employment for the number of men and women who will come into the labor market in the next decade will require that we secure 25,000 new jobs every week for the next 10 years. We are not finding those jobs today. To adequately house that population, we will have to build double the number of homes we are building today, and it is a somber fact that we are building 30 percent less homes today than we did a year ago. The new frontier of population holds out great promise for this country and also critical problems.

Second is the new frontier of longevity. About 10 percent of our year the percentage of population is over the age of 65, and every year the percentage of our population that is over 65 is increasing, and in addition the average longevity per person is increasing. What is going to happen to those people? Who is going to sustain them? Who is going to help them spend their useful lives with some degree of security, housing, food, and so forth?

Will these extra years that medical experience is adding to their lives be a curse or a blessing? Will they be in poverty or will they be in security? Forcing a retired worker to stop working at 65 years of age and depend on an average social security check of $72 a month does not offer that man or woman much security. I believe we can do better and I believe the way to do better is to provide medical care for the aged which is tied to social security, so that the worker himself during his fruitful years can participate in the sustaining of his security when the time has come to retire. [Applause.]

The third opportunity is on the new frontier of education. Pouring into our schools in the next 10 years will be 51 million children who were born in this country between 1946 and 1956, a number greater than the entire population of the United States in 1880. They have already created the most critical classroom shortage in the history of our country. In the 1960's, as the problem becomes more acute, as the group grows, they are going to be pouring into our colleges. There will be twice as many young boys and girls applying for admission in 1970 than today. We are going to have to build more college classrooms and dormitories in the next 10 years than we built in the history of our country. [Applause.]

There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race. [Applause.]

Fourth is the new frontier of suburbia, the fastest growing portion of the United States. Most suburban areas have gained more residents in the past 10 years than in the previous century. That will be increased in the sixties. Most suburban areas, as you know yourself, from your own experience, are ill prepared to sustain that growth. The property tax in most urban communities has reached the point of diminishing returns. It has reached in some communities the point of a capital levy, and we cannot expect that the property tax will furnish, in the 1960's, the same income for the sustenance of the public sector that it has sustained in the 1940's and the 1950's. I come from a city where the property tax is about $103 or $104 per thousand dollars, and the assessments reasonably high, and at that point I say it becomes confiscatory. The next administration is going to have the problem of at tempting to provide the necessary revenues to be secured for the local and State and National Governments in such a way that these communities can meet their problems.

Fifth are the new frontiers of science and in space. The wonders of atomic energy which lay such a curse upon mankind today can also be a blessing, for medicine, communications and power. The conversion of salt water to fresh water - all the credit that the Soviet Union gained when it launched sputnik, a credit which they still have in great quantities, according to Mr. George Allen of the USIA, that one scientific breakthrough caused a world change in the opinion of scientific advances relative to the Soviet Union and the United States. Imagine the credit that will go to the first country that is able to secure fresh water from salt water at a competitive rate, and all those deserts that border the oceans of the world can then be made to produce food. And this administration has starved that program, treated it as a step-child, even though it could mean so much to the United States. [Applause.]

Sixth is the problem which is undiscussed today but which may be one of the most difficult problems that the next President of the United States and the United States faces, and that, of course, is the problem of automation. I spent enough time in West Virginia, which shares a comparable problem with Pennsylvania, which is the present increase in production being far greater per man in coal. What has happened in coal will happen in other industries in the United States. We have to have 25,000 jobs per week, as I stated, but what is going to happen to the men and women that will be displaced by these machines? Unless the next administration is able to stimulate and develop an atmosphere which will develop economic growth, provide for replacement of our present machinery in such a way to stimulate the economy, by taxation, fiscal and monetary policy, then, of course, our hope to maintain full employment will remain a hope. But the problem of automation cannot be considered a local problem but a national problem in the 1960's. [Applause.]

Seventh, and finally, is the problem of what we are all going to do with our leisure time. With the coming of automation, the expansion of the labor force, the extension of the lifelines of each individual, the speed of modern communication and transportation, all contribute to the amount of time that each American will have for himself and his family. If we continue to ignore the polluting of our streams, the littering of our national forests, we will be denying to ourselves and to our children a heritage which we were the beneficiaries of. With more and more cars on more and more highways, requiring more and more of our space, if we permit our lives individually to decline so that leisure time becomes a burden rather than an opportunity, quite obviously we have lost more than we have gained.

Twenty-four years ago, Franklin Roosevelt told the Nation: "I for one do not believe that the era of the pioneer is at an end. I only believe that the area of pioneering has changed." [Applause.] The new frontiers of which I speak call out for pioneers from every walk of life, from the White House in Washington and in the country at large. Their challenge can be concealed for a little while, but it cannot be ignored, it cannot be met by an easy complacency, a satisfaction with things as they are, a commitment of things done and not to be done, for as the Old Testament tells us, "This challenge is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. Who shall go over the sea for us and bring it on to us that we may do it, for the world is very near onto thee in thy mind and in thy heart." The new frontier of which I speak is very near to you and to me. It is upon us. The only question is if the United States is ready for it. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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