John F. Kennedy photo

Transcript of Remarks During an Interview for British Television.

April 19, 1961

THE PRESIDENT [answering question on the meaning of the phrase "The New Frontier"]: Well, the phrase expressed our feeling that the 1960's--this coming decade-was going to be a period of entirely new material changes, that science had brought the means of a much better life for people, not only in the United States, but all around the world and, therefore, we were crossing that frontier. In addition, we were crossing frontiers which involve the struggle for freedom here in the United States and around the world. So that, although the United States is an old country--at least its Government is old as governments now go today--nevertheless I thought we were moving into a new period, and the new frontier phrase expressed that hope.

Q. Sir, I believe that the American Government probably centers more on its leader than any other democratic government in the world. How are you trying to bring it into more manageable proportions? I believe you've reorganized your staff?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I think sometimes we overstate the administerial difficulties of the Presidency. I think really, in many ways, it's a judicial function, where alternatives are suggested which involve great matters, and finally the President must make a decision. That is really the most onerous and important part of the burdens of being President. President Truman used to have a sign on this desk which said: "The buck stops here"--these matters which involve national security and our national strength finally come to rest here--but the matter of our staff, therefore, should serve only to make sure that these important matters are brought here in a way which permits a clear decision after alternatives have been presented. Occasionally, in the past, I think the staff has been used to get a pre-arranged agreement which is only confirmed at the President's desk, and that I don't agree with.

Q. I believe your biggest domestic problem, sir, is the recession. How do you see this going?

THE PRESIDENT. It is. We have about 7 percent unemployed. We have the highest number of people working that have ever worked, but we do have this serious economic situation which our friends in Canada also have had, but in a more intensive way. Part of that has come because of the tremendous productive capacity of the United States which is able to quickly produce and catch up with demand. We also have a serious problem because of technological and structural changes in coal, steel, basically, and, even if we have a recovery this summer, we're still going to have serious problems in some of our coal fields where the demand has been lessened and where the new machinery has produced extraordinary productive feats with very few people working. We're producing more coal than we've ever produced before with far less men, and it's difficult for a coal miner who's spent 20 years underground, who's lived around the coal fields, to move and train. So I would say that that's going to be a serious problem for us, and I'm sure you're going to have it.

Q. Your social welfare plans are running into a certain amount of opposition here. How do you hope to get around that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, any time you try to do anything, there's a lot of people like it the way it used to be. And I just think that the United States has to continue to make it possible for everyone to realize their talents. We have to provide greater emphasis on education. The first people thrown out of work today are those with the least education, so we have to provide the best education. Secondly, we have to provide greater security for our older people. You do much more than we do here in the United States. What we are trying to do conservative governments did--well, at least Lloyd George as a liberal started it before World War I, and conservative governments endorsed it. What we propose to do, which is to provide medical care for the aged on social security, would be regarded as hopelessly reactionary in England, but nevertheless it's new here. We are also attempting to provide equality of opportunity so that all citizens, regardless of their race, have a chance to participate fully in our life. But change is always pleasant to some people and unpleasant to others, and we will make progress, not as much as we would hope, but we're going to move.

Note: The remarks were recorded on March 17 during an interview between the President and Ian Trethowen of the Associated Television Limited of London. The program was broadcast in London on April 19.

John F. Kennedy, Transcript of Remarks During an Interview for British Television. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives