Speech source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960. Box 912, Folder: "Alton, Illinois, 3 October 1960".
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Mr. Kerner, who I am confident is going to be the next Governor of Illinois - (applause) - Senator Douglas, who is the Senator - (applause) - and who I must say speaks for this state and the public interest - I hope Illinois not only for its own interest, but for the sake of the United States, which needs all the courageous and able and dedicated figures that we can secure in public life, will send Paul Douglas back to the United States Senate - (applause) and your own distinguished Congressman, Mel Price - (applause).
Will Rogers once said it is not the original investment in the Congressman that counts; it is the upkeep. I don't know what the original investment is in Mel Price or the upkeep, but it is worth it. (Applause)
In this town, in the Square, the last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was held, and in this debate here in this town, Abraham Lincoln repeated a speech which he had made earlier, and in that speech he used the same lines, "A house divided against itself cannot prevail," that this nation cannot exist half slave and half free. I think 100 years later the issue is still the same, but this time it is written on a wider horizon. The question of whether the world will exist half slave and half free, and what contribution we in the United States can make to maintain the world in a state of freedom. That is the issue before the American people in 1960, how the United States can be strong, how we can fulfill our historic destiny to contribute to the cause of freedom around the globe.
I think we can best do so by maintaining in this country a strong and vital economy, by meeting our problems here at home, by building a stronger industry, by providing for full employment, by providing the best educational system in the world, by in 1960 returning the leadership of this country to the Democratic Party. (Applause)
I stand in this election where Wilson stood in 1912, and Roosevelt stood in 1932, and Harry Truman in 1948. (Applause) Mr. Nixon stands in this election where McKinley stood and Harding stood and Coolidge stood and Hoover stood and Dewey stood and Landon stood. I think in 1960 that the people of the United States after eight years have decided that they want to move forward again, have decided that they want to regain their national purpose, have decided that what we are doing now is not as good as we can do, that this is a strong country that must be stronger, a more powerful country that must be more powerful. I think the issue is clearly joined.
Mr. Nixon says we have never had it so good, and I say we can do better, and I say we must do better. (Applause) The issue is still the same. The world does not change. One hundred years has brought us face to face in this very same square with the issue that was put to the people of Illinois by Lincoln on that occasion. Can this nation exist half slave and half free; can the world? As the United States met its responsibilities in the 1860s, so must the United States meet its responsibilities to the same issue, the cause of freedom. I ask your help in this election. I ask you to strike a blow once more for this country. I ask you to join with us in moving this country forward, in reestablishing its image as a strong and vital society. I ask your help in this election. Thank you. (Applause)