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Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Zembo Mosque Temple, Harrisburg, PA - (Advance Release Text)

September 15, 1960

The challenge that faces this generation of Americans is as great as any generation has ever faced.

Across half the globe, freedom and communism are locked in struggle for the future of the world.

At this moment, communism is on the advance - dynamic, militant, and hostile to everything that we believe in. We see it beginning to penetrate Asia. We see it in the chaos in Africa. And we have seen communism come to within 90 miles of our own shores, in Cuba.

It is up to our generation to meet this challenge - to check the advance of communism, and to renew the advance of freedom.

My campaign for the Presidency is a campaign to mobilize the great strength and resources of America for that purpose.

There is only one thing in the world that will impress the Russians and the Chinese - and that is a strong America

We must be strong militarily. We must be strong economically. We must be strong in our purpose and in our leadership.

And if we are to be strong abroad, we must pursue policies that build our strength at home.

The Republican candidate for President said recently that he is a liberal in foreign policy but a conservative in domestic policy.

That, my friends, is impossible. It cannot work.

We cannot be strong abroad if we are weak at home.

The new, emerging nations of the world are looking to us to show them what freedom means - they want to know if freedom can also bring the good life.

We must show them that our free system, our free economy, works and works for people.

We must show them that it means opportunity for the young - and dignity and comfort for the old.

We must show them that it means an opportunity for a job, at decent wages, for all who want to work.

We will never convince Africans or Asians that we are concerned with their welfare if we fail to show concern for Americans who are out of work, or living in poverty, or in need of medical care.

The reason that the people of the world believed in the good neighbor policy of Franklin Roosevelt was that Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor here at home.

A liberal foreign policy must be supported by a liberal domestic policy. Otherwise it will fail.

That is one reason I have been talking - and will continue to talk - about the crucial importance of economic growth.

We will not win the greatest contest in our history if our economy limps along at far less than full capacity. The resources we need for that contest are being lost today through idle manpower, idle factories, and lack of economic growth.

But even if there were not Communists - no competition in world affairs - we should still see to it that everybody who wants to work in America has the opportunity to work, and at decent wages. We should still see to it that people are able to eat well - and live in decent houses - and are able to send their children to good schools and on to college. That is reason enough for our Democratic Party to be devoted to a national goal of full employment, Communist threat or no Communist threat.

Full employment was conceived by Democrats.

Full employment was written into law by Democrats.

Full employment was the cornerstone of our economic policy under a Democratic President - under Harry Truman.

And full employment has become a dead letter under the Republicans.

In this State alone, 335,000 men and women were unemployed last month - 1 out of every 14 persons actively seeking a job. Almost 400,000 people were receiving surplus food.

Steel in the Pittsburgh district is now at 44 percent of capacity.

Two-day weeks, three-day weeks, furloughs - these are the common story.

And behind the statistics are people. I have seen in West Virginia and Pennsylvania what unemployment means. It means hungry children - families unable to afford decent clothes or a decent home to live in.

Let us face facts: We will not have full employment and rapid economic growth in America without positive policies to get it.

The Republicans deny the need for positive action by the Federal Government. They like to say, "Keep the Government out of it."

That is a fallacy. The Government is never out of it. It never can be out of it.

The Government - for better or worse - always has a monetary policy. It always has a fiscal policy. It always has a public investment and public works policy. It always has a tax policy. And these policies always have a determining influence on the growth and prosperity of our private economy.

We Democrats say, "Let's admit that what the Government does - or does not do - has a decisive effect on whether we have prosperity or recession, inflation or stability. And that being so, let's choose the right policies, which will bring us an economy of stable prices, full employment, and rapid economic growth."

In this Commonwealth alone, in the next 10 years, we must create more than a million new jobs if we are to put to work the young people who will he getting out of school.

To provide these jobs, our economy must grow much more rapidly - for today under Republican policies which stop growth we are growing more slowly than every other industrial nation.

And it is significant that our prestige all over the world has been declining at the same time that the American economy has been almost stagnant with industries operating at half capacity and unemployment going up and up.

Now, how can Government policy help create the jobs we need and provide full employment?

First, we must reverse the tight-money and high-interest-rate policies which have choked off investment and kept the small businessman and farmer from getting the capital they need to survive and expand.

Second, we must make the public investments which provide a sound foundation for the private investment which is the key to our free enterprise system. American business cannot survive unless it has power and water to drive the factories, adequate transportation to take goods to distant markets, and decent homes for its workers. Yet the Republicans have vetoed program after program designed to meet the basic public needs which would allow our private industry to grow and expand, providing new wealth for America and new jobs for our workers.

Third, we need to provide special assistance to areas hard hit by automation of declining markets - areas like the coal regions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia or the textile towns of Massachusetts where large numbers of men cannot find work and where thousands of families struggle for survival on a health-destroying diet of Government surplus foods. We Democrats have such a bill - the Area Redevelopment Act, which provides long-term loans and technical assistance to depressed areas. Yet this bill has twice been vetoed by a Republican administration indifferent to the urgent needs of the poor and the jobless and to the growth of our economy. In 1961 a Democratic President will sign this bill into law and help will be on its way.

Fourth, we must act immediately to meet the crisis in our education. All over the country children are going to study in overcrowded and obsolete classrooms under ill-paid and inexperienced teachers. Yet we must depend on our schools for the constant flow of skills and thought which keeps our economy going and provides the ideas and invention essential to future progress. Yet the Republicans have opposed every Democratic effort to aid our hard-pressed schools, and it was Mr. Nixon himself who cast the deciding vote against a program to help raise the salaries of our underpaid teachers. The Russians are putting twice the proportion of their national income into education as we are. In 1961 the Democratic Party will make sure that America has an educational system second to none.

Fifth, we must make sure that every American - of every race, religion, and age - has equal opportunity to find a job. Discrimination is not only contrary to the ideals of American democracy but it is a senseless and cruel waste of badly needed human skill to deny a man a job because his hair is gray or because his skin is black. And by denying opportunity to our colored minorities we incur the distrust of the world's colored majority.

This is a program for economic growth - a program which can start our economy moving again and put men back to work. But this program alone will not be enough without a change in attitude - unless we realize that unemployment, poverty, slums, hunger, and rundown schools are all man made, and they can be eliminated by man. It has been that attitude which has made this country great and we will restore it to the conduct of Government in 1961.

With this spirit we can spread our faith in freedom and its opportunities to all people of the globe. With this spirit we can build a stronger America, an America which can meet all its commitments abroad and serve as a beacon of hope to all the nations of the world. With this spirit we can build an America with the resources necessary to move toward a secure and lasting peace.

John F. Kennedy, Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Zembo Mosque Temple, Harrisburg, PA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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