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Text of Telephone Address by Senator John F. Kennedy to Amvet Convention, Miami Beach, FL

August 26, 1960

I want to express my appreciation to you and the members of the AMVET for their courtesy to me in permitting me to address this convention by telephone: I would have been there myself had it not been for a special session of Congress.

I should inform you that we are running a small convention of the AMVETS in Detroit this morning, because sitting next to me is the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, John Swainson, who is an AMVET. Sitting beside me is Pete Koubra who is a former national committeeman of the AMVETS from Michigan, and also Carol Kay who is the president and senior vice commander of the AMVETS. So we've got a convention going ourselves.

I am delighted to speak here this morning. My service with the AMVETS, particularly in the field of housing, was a most valuable one. And there has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the AMVET organization is devoted not only to the interests of the veteran but also to the interests of our country.

The AMVETS have organized at this convention a symposium on "National Purpose." Our national purpose is not merely to survive but to prevail. Our national purpose is not only to preserve a free society here in the United States but we also realize that there cannot be a free society here unless there is a free world.

We recognize that the cause of freedom, the cause of free men and women everywhere, is tied up with the future of a free country, and therefore we are ready to assume our burdens of being the leaders of the free world in a time of great danger, in a time of great peril.

Every man in the convention hall today was willing in the time of danger for his country to bear arms and risk his life for the defense of the United States. Today, at least at present, we are not called upon to bear arms, but in a very real sense we still serve the United States.

The struggle today is less obvious, less immediate, than it was in World War II or in the days of the Korean war. But, nevertheless, the struggle goes on - a great worldwide battle as to whether the Communist or the free world is ultimately going to prevail, whether we are going to succeed or whether our enemy is going to succeed. Now in this struggle, all elements of our national life are brought to hear. If we can demonstrate to a watching world that we are on the march, that we have not passed our peak but our peak is still ahead of us, that our best days are yet to come, that the Communist system is old and tired, that the Communist system is on its way down, and that here in the United States we are still experiencing high noon, then we shall be successful.

But, if the Communist system is able, through scientific or economic or subversion, to demonstrate that it is on the advance, that we are standing still, that it holds the initiative and we merely respond, then all those people around the world who stand today poised on the razoredge of decision will make a determination that perhaps the future belongs not to us but to our adversaries. Therefore, our response must be clear. We must be willing to devote our national energies to demonstrating in every form of human endeavor we are second to none, that we are first and will continue to be first regardless of what challenges may be hurled against us.

The harsh facts of the matter are that our security and leadership have both been slipping away from us, that the balance of world power has been shifting slowly to the Soviet - Red Chinese bloc and that our own shores have been, for the first time since 1812, imperiled by chinks in our defensive armor.

You sit in Miami, today, 90 miles from the shore of Cuba. For the first time in the history of the United States an enemy stands poised at the throat of the United States. There is no doubt of the Communist orientation of the Castro government. They are our enemy and will do anything to contribute to our downfall. Not only as a satellite of the Soviet Union in the future but also they attempt to spread their revolution through all of Latin America.

The Congo, Cuba, Latin America, Africa, Asia - these are the great areas of the struggle, not Western Europe, not just North Africa, not the Pacific, not Korea, as it has been for the 20 years. Everywhere is the battlefield and in every activity. So I say to the members of the AMVET that we would like nothing better than to reaffirm the fact that we are willing to bear any burden on behalf of our country; that we want a defense second to none; that we want an economic growth second to none; that we want a scientific effort second to none, an educational system that turns out the brightest of hard-working boys and girls in the world. In every way. in other words, to demonstrate that a free society is also a vital society and that the future belongs to us. I believe it does. I believe that our country is willing to assume any burdens in order to maintain its freedom. The AMVETS have always believed it. Therefore, I call to you as fellow members of a great organization, as fellow veterans of the past wars, for us to associate together in a rededication to the welfare of our country and that our motto shall be not only "Always Ready" but "Always First."

John F. Kennedy, Text of Telephone Address by Senator John F. Kennedy to Amvet Convention, Miami Beach, FL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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