John F. Kennedy photo

The President's News Conference

January 15, 1962

THE PRESIDENT. [1] I have just one announcement. I am sure you are all familiar with the story in this morning's paper of the documentation on the study of comparisons of those in our schools and universities and the kind of subjects which they study which was published by the National Science Foundation. This has been a matter of some concern to me for some time because one of the most critical problems facing this Nation is the inadequacy of the supply of scientific and technical manpower, to satisfy the expanding requirements of this country's research and development efforts in the near future. In 1951 our universities graduated 19,600 students in the physical sciences. In 1960 in spite of the substantial increase in our population, during the last 10 years, and in spite of the fact that the demand for people of skill in this field has tremendously increased with our efforts in defense and space, industrial research, and all of the rest, in 1960 the number had fallen from 19,600 to 17,100. In 1951 there were 22,500 studying in the biological sciences; in 1960 there were only 16,700. In the field of engineering, enrollment rose from 232,000 to 269,000 in the period 1951 to 1957. Since 1957 there has been a continual decline in enrollment. Last year the figure was down to 240,000.

This is a matter of growing concern. It is more than a matching of numerical supply to anticipate a demand, though this alone would be difficult. Because of the seriousness of this problem for the long-range future of the United States, I have asked my Science Advisory Committee, in cooperation with the Federal Council for Science and Technology, to review available studies and other pertinent information, and to report to me as quickly as possible on the specific measures that can be taken within and without the Government to develop the necessary and well qualified scientists and engineers and technicians to meet our society's complex needs--governmental, educational, and industrial.

In undertaking this task, the committee will draw on the advice and assistance of individuals and agencies, including the National Academy of Sciences, which will shortly begin at my request a new study of scientific and technical manpower utilization.

To all those who may be within the sound of my voice or who may follow your stories in the papers, I want to emphasize the great new and exciting field of the sciences and while we wish to emphasize always the liberal arts, I do believe that these figures indicate a need on the national level and also a great opportunity for talented young men and women. And I hope that their teachers, their school boards, and they themselves and their families will give this matter consideration in developing their careers.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, as you are aware, there has been nothing official on this, but there have been some unofficial reports stemming .from Ambassador Thompson's first two exploratory conferences in Moscow. These reports are to the effect that the situation with Russia has not changed.

Could you tell us, sir, whether as a result of Mr. Thompson's two meetings in Moscow that you detect any evidence, new evidence, of a possible solution of our differences with Russia over Berlin?

THE PRESIDENT. I think--it's my hope that these talks will continue, so that this, matter will be subjected to the most thorough scrutiny and examination, to see whether such an arrangement is possible. Ambassador Thompson, I am hopeful, therefore, will meet with the Foreign Minister again and after these meetings have gone on for a reasonable period, we can make a much more concise judgment in answer to your question. But I think it would be premature today.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, could you give us any idea of the length of a reasonable period of time?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think it would really depend upon what was happening during the negotiations. In other words, if progress were being made, or if there were evidence that progress could be made, of course, then the time would be different than it would be if there was no evidence of any meeting of minds. So I think the important thing now is to continue and I'm--Ambassador Thompson will.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, the United States has made informal but strenuous efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the Indonesian-Dutch dispute. Could you say, sir, if your hopes are in any way possible of fulfillment now, and if our efforts should fail, would we then turn to the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT, We do not have any more precise information than the news story with which you are familiar in regard to the statement of the Dutch. We have been extremely anxious that a peaceful accommodation be reached in this matter and have used our influence to bring that about. I am particularly glad that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. U Thant, has been occupying himself with a good deal of energy to try to see if there is a possibility for a peaceful settlement.

I am hopeful that both parties will respond to his efforts, and that we can prevent an outbreak of hostilities between Indonesia and the Dutch. Great responsibility rests on both of these countries, and I am hopeful that they will give Mr. U Thant every cooperation because the alternative would not be happy for the world, nor, really, I think, in the long run, for the parties involved. A peaceful solution, of course, would be the best thing and that's what we're working for.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, this is a question about your trade liberalization program. Some members of Congress from industrial areas are reporting privately that they are worried about the problems of their support of the program because some of their manufacturing constituents say that unless they are able to get things, for example, like wool and cotton, at world market prices instead of artificial prices, that they can't afford to go along with the idea of reducing trade barters. Can you give us your assessment of how serious you think this problem is and do you see any possible encouragement to them on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, there are two different--one is cotton, which is in surplus here in the United States, and the other is wool, which we import. In the case of cotton, as you know, we send out, export, about 6 million bales of cotton a year, and we import about 600,000 manufactured bales, textiles. In fact, we export almost as much cotton, manufactured textiles, as we import. So the export of cotton is a very important ingredient in our balance of payments.

I think the Japanese alone buy, I think, almost $240 or $250 million of cotton. I believe, as I said before, that while some industries may not get the same benefit out of this proposal as others will, that generally, it will be very helpful to industry and very helpful to agriculture and most helpful to the United States.

And I think that if the members of Congress begin to examine the figures in their districts and in their States, and these figures are being prepared which show where the balance of trade runs, then I think that we can get a majority support for the legislation. A good deal of concern is expressed about Japan, but we ran a half billion dollar balance of trade in our favor. We sold Japan last year a half billion dollars more than they bought from us. So that I believe the United States can compete.

As I said the other day, the fact is that the Common Market countries have had an extraordinary economic growth, full employment and all the rest, and it is to increase our employment and our opportunities that we are recommending this. So in answer to your question, I believe that when the members of the House and Senate have examined our proposal, examined its safeguards, examined what it can do for employment, I am hopeful, in fact, I feel it very possible, that we can secure a majority, even though it's a sophisticated matter and it is difficult to explain quickly. But I think that when the educational job is done, I think the country will understand that it is in our best interest.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, are American troops now in combat in Viet-Nam?


[6.] Q. Mr. President, Secretary Freeman has said that it's impossible to expand the food-for-peace program and Mr. McGovern says it should be expanded. Have you been able to resolve this difference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it should be expanded as we can. I think that Mr. Freeman's concern is with, first, the regular markets of trade, that the food for peace should complement it and not cut across it, the obligations we have to others who are also exporters of agricultural commodities, the question of funds and finances, of how much--if we're talking about the $2 billion a year, which we are now. I am hopeful that we can use our productive power well in this field, but I think that the question of the balance, and I think that Mr. McGovern and Mr. Freeman in my judgment will be in balance by the time they go before the Congress, because I think they both have the same basic interests in using our food well and not having it wasted--in storage.

[7.] Q. What can you tell us about the administration's efforts to speed up the bargaining timetable in the steel industry, and what do you hope to accomplish by this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I was hopeful, of course, from the beginning that an agreement would be reached in the steel industry, which would be, as I said in my letter to Mr. McDonald, which would be within the range of productivity and price stability, and which would come at a time, though I have not said this before, would come at a time which would prevent a repetition of what we saw in 1958 where there was a tremendous increase in inventory, in the first 6 months of the year which adversely affected the economy in the last half of the year, and also adversely affected employment in the steel mills themselves. So while they worked at high capacity for the first 6 months, there were a good many layoffs after the strike.

Now, if an agreement can be reached between the steel companies and the steel union, of course it would be well to have it come early, so that the country and the consumers of steel would be able to make their plans for the future without stockpiling.

Now this is a judgment for them. This is a free economy, and the Federal Government has no power unless there was a strike which affects the national emergency, but Secretary Goldberg is available for whatever good offices he may perform.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, after 1 year in the office of the Presidency, would you care to give us any of your comments about the first year and perhaps in particular the most rewarding and disappointing events that have come across your desk?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say the most disappointing event was our failure to get an agreement on the cessation of nuclear testing, because I think that that might have been a very important step in easing the tension and preventing a proliferation of the weapons, and also in making it more possible for us to have progress on disarmament and some of the other matters that divide us. The thing that I think is the most heartening is the fact that first I think there's a greater surge for unity in the Western nations, and in our relations with Latin America, and also I think it has become more obvious that people do desire to be free and independent. And while they may organize their societies in different ways, they do want to maintain a national sovereignty, which I would regard as a great source of strength to us. I've had other disappointments but those are important.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in the past it would seem that coalition governments lean toward Communist control. Are we then taking a chance in supporting a coalition type government in southeast Asia?

THE PRESIDENT. We are taking a chance in all of southeast Asia, and we're taking a chance in other areas. Nobody can make any predictions for the future, really, on any matter in which there are powerful interests at stake. I think, however, that we have to consider what our alternatives are, and what the prospects for war are in that area if we fail in our present efforts and the geographic problems which have to be surmounted in such a military engagement, where there is no easy entrance by sea and where the geographic location is extremely a long way from us and very dose to those who might become involved. So that there's no easy, sure answer for Laos, but it is my judgment that it is in the best interests of our country to work for a neutral and independent Laos. We are attempting to do that. And I can assure you that I recognize the risks that are involved. But I also think that we should consider the risks if we fail, and particularly of the possibility of escalation of a military struggle in a place of danger. So we're going to attempt to work out this matter in a way which permits us to try.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, the Inter-American foreign ministers are due to meet at Punta del Este next Monday. In advance of that meeting, could you tell us what kind of action you hope the meeting will take to check Castroism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is the consensus of the hemisphere that communism is a threat; that it's sustained and supported by alien forces; that it has no place in the Inter-American system; and that we are against dictatorships of the right and left. And now that the Dominican Republic is moving from a dictatorship of the right, we are hopeful that there will be--the voice of the hemisphere will speak against dictatorships of the left which are sustained and supported from outside the hemisphere. I think that we will get that consensus.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, the agricultural proposals now under preparation appear to involve a good deal of control of production and marketing by the Government. Following your long conference with Secretary Freeman, do you now hold the view that if the Government is to continue farm price support programs, there must be control or management of production?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, management--I think what we are attempting to do is to prevent the surpluses which we are able to produce because of the extraordinary productivity of our farms. I said the other day m the State of the Union Address that our per capita production has increased nearly 100 percent in the last 10 years, which is faster than our consumption is increasing, and as we have somewhat more difficulty maintaining some of our markets abroad, in my judgment we should attempt to provide with the support of the farmers and the Congress a reasonable balance which will protect their income. Otherwise, these surpluses will break the farmers' income, or they will be piled up so high in the sheds of the United States in storage that the whole program of trying to assist farmers will fall into discredit, and the farmer himself will be damaged. So what we are attempting to do--and this is extremely difficult because of the variety of opinions that are involved--is to try to work with the farmer and the Congress to try to bring about a balance between production for our domestic use, for our world use, for food for peace, and at the same time insure that the farmer's income will not be broken by surpluses, as it was to a substantial extent in the twenties. And that's our effort, and I think it's essential that we succeed if the public interest and the farmers are going to be protected.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, this has to do with the conduct of our judicial system. In the last several years at least two Federal judges have resigned from the bench to go back to practice law. Since Federal judges are appointed for life, would you care to comment on the possible impact of this type of resignation on the judicial system, and its effect upon the ethical standards of the community?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that the reason that they are appointed for life is so that there cannot only be no actual improprieties, but no appearance of improprieties. And while I would not make any judgment in the two cases you mentioned, I don't think that anyone should accept a Federal judgeship unless they're prepared to fill it for life, because I think the maintenance of the integrity of the judiciary is so important. So I hope that all judges will stay to the end of their terms.

[13.] Q. Sir, last April, during the generals' revolt in Algeria, you made an offer, but it was not clear from here whether it was of support or offer of aid to General de Gaulle. If a similar instance should occur in the near future, would you make a similar offer to President de Gaulle of either support or aid?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that you've described completely, precisely, the kind of message which I sent to General de Gaulle. And I think that probably proffer of assistance would not be a precise description of it. If we felt that--I would think it would be unwise to speculate about the future. But this was a matter which was handled by the French, and no request was made for assistance, and none was offered.

[14-] Q. Mr. President, in the case of Kashmir, India has failed to keep its promise to hold free elections and has resorted with impunity in attacking Goa on December 17th. Could you tell us what the United States could do to assure that a double standard of action does not arise in the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are several different questions. We are against a double standard of action in the United Nations, and I think we have attempted to make that clear, and that double standard goes to a whole variety of different things, not just the matters that you mentioned in your question.

Now, on the matter of Kashmir, we have been and are concerned that an accommodation or a solution be reached because both countries have numerous external and internal problems. And we have been assisting both countries to build a more viable economy and quite obviously everything that is put to arms as a result of their friction's, of course, takes it from the general effort, and we're going to continue our efforts.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, there are two appeals pending in the Office of Emergency Planning that relate to foreign trade. One seeks protection for the textile industry and the other seeks a reduction in import restrictions on residual oil. Could you tell us what progress is being made on these appeals and, in particular, if any recommendation has come to you?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we did make a recommendation about a month ago on residual oil which provided for some increase in the amount that could be imported in, I think most of it from Venezuela. In the matter of textiles, that is one of the subjects which was part of our seven-point proposal to the textile industry, that we would consider.

We have made some progress with the textile industry--the voluntary agreement, which was made by the Under Secretary, Mr. Ball, which is trying to bring about a happier distribution of textile production in a way that doesn't cause dumping. I think that that's been a help to the textile industry-the change we made in depreciation allowances. There are other matters we're now looking into, and this is one of them. But it is a fact that the importation of textiles this year, which had gone from about 4 to 7 percent from '58 to '60, was down for various reasons to 6 percent, so that the import situation was somewhat eased for the textile industry. But to answer your question, both of these matters are before us.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, criticism that we did not tear down the Berlin wall seems to be increasing rather than declining. Just about a week ago the Chairman of the Republican National Committee criticized your administration very strenuously. I don't recall that you've ever publicly discussed this particular phase of the question. Do you think it would be helpful for you to do so now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have discussed it. I stated that no one at that time in any position of responsibility--and I would use that term-either in the West Berlin-American contingent, in West Germany, France, or Great Britain, suggested that the United States or the other countries go in and tear down the wall.

The Soviet Union had had a de facto control for many years, really stretching back to the late forties in East Berlin. It had been turned over as a capital for East Germany a long time ago. And the United States has a very limited force surrounded by a great many divisions. We are going to find ourselves severely challenged to maintain what we have considered to be our basic rights--which is our presence in West Berlin and the right of access to West Berlin, and the freedom of the people of West Berlin.

But in my judgment, I think that you could have had a very violent reaction which might have taken us down a very rocky road, and I think it was for that reason and because it was recognized by those people in positions of responsibility that no recommendation was made along the lines you've suggested at that time. Hindsight is--

[17.] Q. It's been more than 4 months since the Soviets began their series of nuclear tests in the atmosphere, and I think you'd agree it would only be imprudent not to assume--to assume that they're not preparing further tests. Can you discuss what the overriding considerations are to cause us to give this potential enemy a gift of that length of time, and can you also tell us when we may expect a decision on your part in this matter of testing in the atmosphere?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, we have tested underground, so that in talking about the gift of time, that matter should be taken into consideration. Secondly, of course, we were negotiating at the table in Geneva when the Soviet Union, after many months of preparation, began its tests.

I have announced that we are making our preparations to conduct atmospheric testing if it's considered to be in the public interest when those preparations are completed. So that it's wholly impossible for a free country like the United States, with a free press, to prepare in secret the extensive--make extensive preparations which would be necessary, at the same time we are conducting a very important and vital negotiation. So that the Soviet Union has that advantage. They have advantages as a dictatorship in this cold war struggle. But they have very serious disadvantages, and I think that we have to balance them one against the other.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, during the election campaign you pledged that if elected you would issue an executive order prohibiting racial segregation in federally assisted housing. It's recently been reported that you have decided to postpone the issuance of such an order for some time. I wondered if you could give us your thinking on this timing question--why you want to put it off?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think--I have stated that I would issue that order when I considered it to be in the public interest, and when I considered it to make an important contribution to advancing the rights of our citizens. I will point out that this administration in the last 12 months made more progress in the field of civil rights on a whole variety of fronts than were made in the last 8 years. We have, for example, carried out a great many more suits in voting rights, the appointment of Federal employees, and judges, and their employees, and ending segregation in interstate travel and terminal facilities, the ICC's work, and the work being done in railroad and airports, and we have had--at least the communities involved made important progress in integrating in this field.

So we are proceeding ahead in a way which will maintain a consensus, and which will advance this cause. And I think a proper judgment can be made on this and all other matters relating to equality of rights at the end of this year, and at the end of our term. In my judgment we are going to make significant progress and I am fully conscious of the wording of the statement to which you refer, and plan to meet my responsibilities in regard to this matter.

[19-] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on how the bond issue of the United Nations can tip the scale in favor of the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Can do what?

Q. Can tip the scale in favor of the United States.

THE PRESIDENT. I think it can help us strengthen the United Nations, which I think is in the interest of the United States, and I think that if we do not have a bond issue, or a satisfactory substitute, and I have not heard of one, in my judgment the U.N. will go, sail, into very difficult weather in regard to its financing, and could be on the verge of bankruptcy. And I think this is a way, along with the decision which will be rendered by the Court in regard to the payment of their obligations--this is a way to spread the burden more equitably and insure the United Nations has adequate funds. Now, I look at what is happening in the Congo, where progress is being made towards the establishment of an independent Congo, and if Mr. Tshombe and the Prime Minister, based on their agreement at Kitona, can continue to make progress, we may have a real hope there.

So in my opinion, the United Nations justifies the effort we put into it substantially. We rely very heavily, as I said earlier today, on the Secretary General in regard to what is happening now in western New Guinea and Indonesia. So that I believe in it strongly, and I think that this is a way to strengthen it which tips the scale, I think, in the interest of peace, and those nations that wish to be free.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, this afternoon 2,000 American women, many of them from distant places, demonstrated in a downpour in front of the White House in behalf of disarmament and peace. Do you consider this sort of demonstration useful and does it have an influence on you and other world leaders who are responsible for peace?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think these women are extremely earnest and that they are as concerned as we all are at the possibility of a nuclear war. They talked this morning to Mr. Fisher, who is the Deputy Director of our disarmament agency. We stressed the effort we were going to put into the disarmament conference coming up in March. I saw the ladies myself. I recognized why they were there. There were a great number of them. It was in the rain. I understood what they were attempting to say, and therefore I considered that their message was received.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, almost precisely a year ago, President Eisenhower in his farewell address discussed the influence of the military-industrial alliance in the defense spending program. I wonder, sir, if, in your first year in office, you have developed similar concern for this problem.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that President Eisenhower commented on a matter which deserves continuing attention by the President and also by the Secretary of Defense. There gets to be a great vested interest in expenditures because of the employment that is involved, and all the rest, and that's one of the struggles which he had and which we have, and I think his warning or his words were well taken.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on the recent negotiations in the Common Market moving into the second phase, their negotiations with us on agricultural products?

THE PRESIDENT. We have had a long negotiation, stretching back over 18 months, on the matter with the Common Market. We sent over Mr. Petersen and the Under Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Murphy, in December. We sent them back again this week. The arrangement which has been developed in the last few days has improved our position. We always will have--and I believe that this is one of the arguments for the powers which I requested from the Congress--a difficult struggle with agricultural productivity rising in Europe, with the balance of agricultural trade. We are sending to the Common Market about a billion one hundred million and taking back about two hundred million from them--it's quite obvious that it's impossible for us to trade evenly with them on agriculture.

So, therefore, we have to trade across the board. Given the difficulties which the Common Market is now running into with agriculture, and which we will see more of when the British negotiations get advanced, I would think that this looks like, from all the information I have, this looks like the best arrangement that we could make and seems to be in the public interest and is, I think, on the whole, satisfactory.

[23.] Q. Sir, there has been much to-do in the papers recently about memberships in various clubs affecting the members of your administration, having to do with the Cosmos Club and the Metropolitan Club, with which you are familiar.

Sir, do you have any particular standards of your own which you apply in your own case as to memberships in various clubs, as to whether they should be coeducational or biracial?

THE PRESIDENT. I have said from the beginning that I thought this was a personal matter which involved not only the members of this Government, but involves everyone in the city and everyone in the country, and every individual must make his judgment in the way that he believes to be right. And I've stated that my application for the Cosmos Club was not being renewed.

[24.] Q. Mr. President, you did not specifically mention doctors in your opening statement. If you get Medicare legislation, where would you get the doctors, nurses, and hospitals to furnish the old people's needs?

THE PRESIDENT. I was talking about scientists on this occasion, but as you know we have asked in the State of the Union Address for some assistance to medical schools and nursing schools. The fact of the matter is that our doctors are falling far behind the rate of increase in our population, and we are going to find it increasingly difficult to serve our people well. I don't think the solution should be to deny medical care to people, however. I think we can do much better than that, and I would suggest that the best remedy would be to assist us in the program we recommended to strengthen our medical schools so we can get the doctors we need.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Kennedy's twentieth news conference was held in the State Department Auditorium at 4 o'clock on Monday afternoon, January 15, 1962.

John F. Kennedy, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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