This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One draft of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Calvin Coolidge was not a man of many words. Once when his wife pressed him to tell her what the minister had talked about in church, Mr. Coolidge said, "Sin." When she insisted he tell her what the minister had said about sin, Mr. Coolidge finally replied, "He was against it."
We Democrats know what we are against - we are against complacency in regard to the needs of the nation - against indifference to the suffering of the people in economic distress - against insensitivity to the great changes underway in the world.
But we also know what we are for. We are for a new period of action and progress in building a strong and healthy America. We are for government dedicated to the proposition that the promises of equal opportunity for all Americans - regardless of race or creed or age - must be achieved in all parts of our public life. We are for American world leadership designed to meet the Communist challenge and to create the conditions for peace and freedom. This means we are for the election in November of a new Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress to provide the kind of leadership the nation needs - and this means we are for the election of John Healey to Congress. The success of the next Democratic administration will depend on the strong and vigorous support of men like John Healey in the Congress. His experience in business and local government will serve him in good stead in the Congress - and he will serve you and the nation by helping to bring about a new era of progressive government.
As we look around the world, as we read the newspaper accounts of one crisis after another, we need to remember that there are certain principles which run through all our political problems whether on a local, national or international level. One of these principles - the essential principle of the Democratic Party from the days of Thomas Jefferson - is that people count. Power may take the form of atomic bombs or missiles or military bases, but the final source of power is the people. To know what to do on a local level, a political leader must first of all be in tune with the people - must understand their problems and their thinking - and must be responsive to the needs of people. The same is true on a national or world level.
I am convinced the source of most of our trouble in these last years of dwindling American prestige has been an Administration which is out of touch with the American people and with the people of the world.
Certainly the Soviet Union has been and will continue to be a potent trouble maker - the Communists played an active leading role in stirring up the violent reaction in Japan to the United States-Japanese Military Treaty and to President Eisenhower's good will visit. A fact of our life now and in the future is the clear and ever present danger of a militant world Communism - which will take advantage of every mistake we make, of every weakness we allow to develop.
And let me also express my respect and sympathy for President Eisenhower whose restraint and dignity in the face of the insults he has suffered in the last two months is in the best American tradition. His good will is unquestioned.
What I question is the operating practice - the obsolete and outmoded approach of the Republican Administration to the critical issues at home and abroad.
Secretary Herter has stated that a misjudgment was made in going ahead with the trip to Japan. He said that we thought that the Japanese government had the situation well in hand. But obviously powerful forces in Japanese public opinion are at work against the military pact with the United States - opinions and emotions and fears on which the Communists were able to play, forces which we ignored or seriously miscalculated.
And this incident has shown that unfortunately candor is not enough - a confession of error is not enough. This is just the last of a long series of miscalculations about the State of the World and the State of the Nation - of misunderstanding of the minds and hearts of people throughout the world. Our next government must begin to calculate correctly before a disaster occurs. For this, we must have an understanding of the forces at work in the world so that we can act before a crisis comes to a head, so that we can act affirmatively, creatively, and effectively before there is nothing left but to retreat.
We have seen how public opinion and forces have exploded in one form or another, in South Korea and in Turkey the last month, and before that in South Africa, in South America, in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Lebanon, and in Cuba. As Prime Minister Macmillan told the South African Parliament, the wind of change is blowing. It can wreck havoc - but it can also be a source of new vigor and progress.
To meet this world of change, we can no longer afford a Party wedded to the status quo and an Administration alien to change. We need a changing, growing ever stronger America which has no fear of a changing world - which can lead the people of the world in the peaceful changes necessary to achieve human rights and justice everywhere. We need a government which first of all has faith in the American people - faith that the people are ready to take on the great new assignments, to meet the new challenge of this new age.
We need a government which will lead the North Atlantic community to a partnership with the developing nations of Asia, Africa and South America. We need a government which will put us again in tune with the world - with the hopes and aspirations of the rest of mankind.
"The soul of our country" as Franklin Roosevelt said after two terms of Harding and Coolidge, "in the previous conservative era of Republican complacency the soul of our country lulled by material prosperity has passed through eight grey years." We must put these dull grey years behind us. We must put an end to this depression of our national spirit. We must inaugurate a new era of Democratic progress.
It is time for our holiday from history to end - for this nation to accept its destiny of world leadership, for us to take the step at home and abroad to increase our strength and the strength of all free nations, for us to join the human race.