This is a transcript of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single text of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Thank you. Chairman Roberts, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is an honor to be in this city and to be accompanied by distinguished Democrats who have served the interest of North Carolina, and of the United States. I refer to your distinguished Governor who has been kind enough to assist us closely in the organization of our business and professional men's committee, whom I lean on for counsel, and who, if elected, I hope would continue to advise and counsel with me in an administration, Govern Hodges. (Applause)
I am delighted to be here with Senator Ervin, with whom I serve in the Senate and with whom I served on the Rackets Committee for three years, protecting the interests of honest labor and management alike. (Applause) And with Senator Jordan, who runs this year and I would grab his coat tails, who has spoken powerfully for the interest of the textile industry in this state, and also for our country. (Applause) And with your next Governor, I hope, Terry Sanford (Applause) - who seeks to build in this state a new day as we do in the country a New Frontier. (Applause) And Dave Clark - (applause).
Every four years, the Republican candidate or his supporters comes down to North Carolina, Texas, or some other southern state, and warned the Democrats in this section of the United States that they have been abandoned by the national party, and they should put their confidence and hope in the Republicans.
Mr. Nixon suggested the other day in Dallas that Senator Johnson and I were not in the Jefferson and Jackson tradition. This State of North Carolina has contributed three Presidents to the United States. (Applause) One of them was Andrew Jackson, a distinguished President who helped form the modern Democratic Party. The only thing is that the Whig Party, which was the intellectual forefathers of the Republican Party, provided that Andrew Jackson should be the only United States President who was ever officially censured by the United States Senate. Evidently, Andrew Jackson was not of the party of Thomas Jefferson.
Another President from this State was James Polk. The other President was Andrew Johnson, who was a Republican, but because he opposed the attempt to liquidate the South after the Civil War, the radical Republicans impeached him in the House and came within one vote of impeaching him in the United States Senate. In other words, when Jackson ran, he was not of the party of Jefferson; when Wilson ran he was not of the party of Jefferson and Jackson; when Roosevelt ran he was not the party of Jefferson or Jackson or Wilson, and when Harry Truman ran, he certainly was not of the party of Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson or Roosevelt, and now when we run, we are not in the tradition of Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, Roosevelt or Truman, and I suppose and I hope that 20 years from now a Democratic candidate will come down here in 1980, and perhaps - and just perhaps - they might say he is not in the tradition of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and I hope Kennedy. (Applause)
I hope North Carolina, which has put its trust in the Democratic Party in nearly every Presidential election in the last 100 years, will put its trust in us again. (Applause) The Democratic Party is all North Carolina. You elect Democratic Congressmen, you elect two Democratic Senators, you elect a Democratic Governor. What is it that makes anyone think that the Democratic Party nationally is not part of the North Carolina Democratic Party, and the party of Massachusetts, and the party of California? The fact of the matter is that our strength is there, we are a national party, we are not a sectional party. We have farmers from Maine and farmers from North Carolina and textile workers in Massachusetts and textile workers in North Carolina, and peach growers in California, and salmon fishermen in Washington and ranchers in Texas. We are a party of all interests, and therefore we belong to the people and our success has been in the past that we have associated ourselves with progressive programs on behalf of our country, and that is what we seek to do in 1960. (Applause)
The Democratic Party was founded as a national party, when Thomas Jefferson moved north on the expedition up the Hudson River with James Madison to hunt butterflies and fish. Traveling down the river they stopped in New York and formed the alliance between the rural South and the industrial North which has been maintained to this day.
Now, I have not come to North Carolina hunting butterflies, but I have come here asking your support in a difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country. I run as a Senator from Massachusetts, and Lyndon Johnson is a Senator from Texas. But we also run as candidates for a great national party in a trying time in the life of our states and our country. I don't think the Democratic ticket runs - I am sure they don't - promising that if they are elected life will be easy. I think to be an American citizen is going to be a heavy and burdensome task in the 1960's. But I do think that we can move ahead. Can you tell me in this century, let alone the last eight years, one single piece of new progressive legislation on behalf of the people of this state or country which has been initiated by a Republican President or a Republican Congress?
(Response from the audience.)
No Democratic President ever ran in this section on a slogan of "Stand Pat with McKinley", or "Keep Cool with Coolidge", or "Return to Normalcy with Harding", "Had Enough" or "Time for a Change" or "You never had it so good". The Democratic Presidents in this century have looked to the future, the New Freedom, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New America, and now I hope the New Frontier. (Applause)
There is only one great issue before the American people in 1960, and wrapped up in that one issue are all the other issues, and that is which party and which candidates can in this trying time build a stronger country, build a country which is more firmly associated with the cause of freedom, maintain the peace and exist in a world with dangerous adversaries who are spreading their influence all over the globe. Which party, which candidates can best revitalize the great American Republic? That is the great issue before us, not the traditional ones over which the parties have argued in the past years. I think that the Democratic Party which looks to the future, which has during the administrations of three Democratic Presidents in this century built a strong country here, is best able to build a strong country around the world. (Applause)
The reason that Woodrow Wilson was able to be the great defender of freedom in Europe after the end of World War I, the reason that his 14 points had such impact, was because Wilson in his domestic policy has been associated with the great program of the New Freedom. The reason that Franklin Roosevelt was accepted as a friend of freedom and a spokesman for freedom in Africa, in Asia, and in Latin America, was because he stood for progress and freedom here in the United States. And the reason that Harry Truman had such powerful influence in Europe at the end of the war, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and all the rest, was because they flowed from his domestic policy of progress.
You cannot be, as the Vice President said some time ago, a liberal in foreign policy and a conservative in the United States, if by being a conservative means you stand still. I think that this country needs to look forward. I think we want to build a better life for our people. In the last eight years, the United States has had an annual increase in growth of about 2.5 per cent. Under the last eight years of Harry Truman, this country had an economic growth of 4.5 per cent. Last year the United States had the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world. If the United States, which is the productive power of the world, is not able to use that power in an affirmative way, then our influence drops, our prestige goes down, and Communist leaders and Nationalist leaders and young men of ambition in Latin America, Africa and Asia, begin to look to Peking and Moscow for the future. I think this is going to be a difficult time because to be the defender of freedom is a hazardous occupation but it has been thrust upon us. Because only the United States stands between the Communists and world domination. Therefore, we must be prepared to bear our burdens.
I am not satisfied to see the United States second in space. I am not satisfied to see the United Sates turning out one half as many scientists and engineers as the Soviet Union. I am not satisfied to see the United States annual rate of economic growth increasing at only one third the rate of the Soviet Union, and lower than Western Germany or France or England. I am not satisfied to see us stand still. I want us to move. (Applause)
I ask your help in this campaign. I think it is a crucial election. In many ways, it is the most crucial election of this century, even more crucial than the election of 1932 - for in that year, or the election of Roosevelt, the great issue was the preservation of freedom here in the United States. Now I think the great issue that faces us is the preservation of freedom all over the globe. I see no reason why men of brains and talent, young students who live in Latin America or Africa or Asia, who will be leaders of the future, why they should possible feel that we are a society that is standing still, and the Communist society is moving ahead. Why should we be connected with indifference? Why should the Communist system give the appearance of vitality? I think the reason is because we do not have a sense of national purpose in the United States.
I think that only the President of the United States can set before the American people the unfinished business of our society, the goals that we must attempt to achieve over the next ten years, militarily, economically, scientifically, educationally, and then a free people can do the job. We have the best economic system, the best structure of government, the most vitality in our system. I think what we need is a sense of purpose, a sense of leadership. (Applause)
It is for that great cause that the Democratic Party has traditionally been connected. I hope North Carolina this year will stay with the Democratic Party as we look forward, both in this state and around the country. (Applause) We do not seek election in order to preside over the liquidation of the free world. We seek election in order to build this country, stimulate its economy, provide employment for our people, and cause people all over the world to wake up in the morning and wonder not what Mr. Khrushchev has done, or not what Peking has done, but wonder what the United States is doing each day. (Applause)
During the American Constitutional Convention, just before the Convention, there was in Hartford, Connecticut, one day a storm which overcast the United States, and in that religious day men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session and many of the members clamored for immediate adjournment. The Speaker of the House, one Col. Davenport, came to his feet and he silenced the din with these words. "The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought."
I hope in a dark and uncertain period in our own country that we, too, may bring candles to help light our country's way. Thank you. (Applause)
(A Question and Answer session immediately followed these remarks.)
MR. SANFORD: Earlier this evening, as the audience in the Coliseum knows, question blanks were given out to anyone who wanted to ask a question of Senator Kennedy. In the limited time we have available left for television, you can understand that Senator Kennedy cannot answer all of these questions. As a result, we are going to start asking those questions which were asked most frequently by the audience. In a moment, we will get those questions directly from the audience.
But first, Jack, I would like to ask a question: I have traveled all over North Carolina since the Los Angeles Convention, and I am convinced of all the things on the people's minds today in North Carolina, that foremost, the dominant issue, the dominant question, is the sinking prestige of America in the world. I would like to ask you as a national view what is your opinion of the dominant issue of your campaign.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I would say, as I suggested in the speech, that I think the basic problem facing the United States is to maintain the peace, maintain our vital interest in our national security, serve as the leader of the cause of freedom around the globe, and attempt to develop in this country sufficient forward motion so that we catch again the imagination of the world as a power and a system of government that represents the kind of government which all people want to endorse, the kind of government under which all people want to live. In other words, if we do well here, we enhance the prestige and power and influence of the cause of freedom around the world. If we fail, the cause of freedom fails. If we succeed, the cause of freedom succeeds. Our responsibility is to throw light and luster around that great cause, around the globe. (Applause)
QUESTION: My question is, do you think Russia will ever act peaceably toward the United States regarding nuclear warfare?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Will act peaceably?
QUESTION: Yes, Sir.
SENATOR KENNEDY: I hope that the United States maintains its military position which would include the ability after the Soviet Union might have initiated its first attack to retaliate and, therefore, destroy the Soviet Union. If we have that kind of force which requires, as at the present time, both SAC and I think an increased production of missiles, then I think the Soviet Union would be extremely slow to resort to nuclear weapons. I think they will continue their struggle against us, but it will take the form of economic competition, subversion, and perhaps brush fire wars. For that reason, I think we should maintain our conventional forces. I think we should strengthen the kind of forces that you have at SAC here in North Carolina, increase our air lift and be prepared to fight a kind of limited war. If we are prepared to fight, we may not have to. Winston Churchill said ten years ago "We arm to parley." If we are strong, then I think we can maintain the peace. (Applause)
QUESTION: I am Don Gilmore, a young Democrat for Kennedy. Senator, do you think your religion will be a handicap in this campaign?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I don't think - I would hope that it would not be a factor in the campaign. It seems to me that in 1960 the issues which I tried to discuss tonight, the future of this state, the future of the country, the security of the United States, the peace of the world, I would think that they would be of far greater interest to the people of North Carolina than where I am going to go to church tomorrow morning. (Applause)
QUESTION: I am Barbara Wright from Raleigh, North Carolina. Senator Kennedy, what is your policy for labor unions?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I served on the Labor Committees for 14 years in the House and Senate. I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor as well as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I feel that labor unions honestly led, and I think the great majority are, serve a useful function in protecting the interests of their members and building their wage level. Unless we have a strong wage level in the United States, who is going to buy all the goods we produce? We can't sell them abroad. (Applause)
My own feeling is that the Jimmy Hoffas and the others and the Bridges who we investigated at some length during the Rackets Committee hearings, are a minority. My own feeling is that I will not be satisfied as long as Jimmy Hoffa remains at the head of the Teamsters Union. (Applause) And I think it would be extremely helpful to have a Department of Justice which pursued and administered present laws with vigor involving Mr. Hoffa. (Applause)
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Bill Gear, Democratic Chairman of the Fifth Precinct of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You must know, after this day of warm welcome in North Carolina, how much we like you in the South. (Applause) I want you to tell this audience, I want you to tell us, what do you like about the South. (Applause)
SENATOR KENNEDY: What I like about the South is first its sense of history and its identification with the history of the United States. Second, I think it has had in its history a strong internationalist viewpoint. It has stood for the defense of our country, its strength and prestige around the world. It has been willing to bear arms in war, and it has had a strong sense of public service in time of peace. Thirdly, or fourthly, I guess, it is a growing section. I think the Franklin Roosevelt Administration probably meant more to the development of the South than it did to any other section of the United States. (Applause) I hope that in the 1960's the South will continue to move ahead, and let me say what I would like, perhaps to say first, the fact that the South has maintained in good times and bad the Democratic Party. (Applause)
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Mr. McDonald of Raleigh, North Carolina, and I have a pressing question. In 1956 the American people were told by the present administration in Washington that the cost of living had leveled off, and that the situation was well under control. However, we are faced today with the highest cost per necessity in the history of this country. This is a pressing problem to families and to all of us. What is your approach to the present high cost of living?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I don't think that the high interest rate policy followed by this administration as an anti-inflationary policy has been particularly successful. We had a recession in 1954, we had the worst peacetime recession since the 1930's that we ever had in 1958. We ended up the year with a $12 billion deficit, which is the largest peacetime deficit in the history of the United States, and now we are moving into another area where we are certainly on the plateau and not on the rise. I said in my speech we were only using 44 per cent of the steel capacity of the United States. I think with a lot of people out of work, with a good deal of unused capacity in the United States, that a more progressive economic policy, more flexible use of our fiscal and monetary tools which we have available, I think would provide a greater stimulation for our economy and therefore a greater production, and if we maintain vigorously the antitrust laws, sufficient competition to keep our wage level and our income level abreast or ahead of the rise in the price level. Historically since the beginning of time you have had a gradual increase in your price level, but I think what we are concerned about is that we maintain a purchasing power which stays at least equal and maybe ahead, we hope ahead.
Secondly, I would protect those who are on fixed incomes. I am thinking particularly of those on social security. That is why I think medical care for the aged is a matter which should be on the conscience of the United States - and others who are dependent upon a fixed source of income. (Applause)
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Bill Connor from Durham, North Carolina. I would like to know how your proposed policies for national growth are going to benefit the Southern sector of the United States.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, because the Southern sector of the United States need economic growth - the South lost 3 million people in the last ten years by out-migration. On the other hand, you had great areas of great prosperity in the South. I believe that a rising tide lifts all the boats. If the economy of the United States is moving ahead, the economy of the South moves ahead. You are a great agricultural section in this State of North Carolina; you are also a great textile center. So are we in Massachusetts. When the economy is at a low level, marginal industries, of which textiles is almost one, particularly suffer. So if the economy of the country is moving ahead, with the resources, with more effective transportation, the South will move ahead, too. If the country is slowing down, then the South will slow down. So may I say that the fate of the North and the South and the east and the west are inextricably bound together. If one moves ahead, they all will move ahead. (Applause)
QUESTION: My name is Miriam Bloch. I live in Raleigh. The newspapers say that both parties are moving toward a similar foreign policy. Would you explain whether this is true and what the major differences are?
SENATOR KENNEDY: A similar foreign policy?
SENATOR KENNEDY: I would say that these criticisms of the present administration's foreign policy therefore would suggest alternatives. In the first place, the United States almost ignored completely the problems that we have now in Latin America. The United States gave more aid to Yugoslavia since the end of World War II than we have to all of Latin America altogether.
No. 2, until our relations with Cuba became so sour that we broke off the sugar quota, the United States almost ignored the needs of Latin America for long term capital. The authorization which Congress passed in August for the benefit of Latin America was directly tied, unfortunately, in the minds of many Latin Americans as well as in the minds of many Americans, to our troubles with Cuba. Therefore, you have people in Latin America as I said earlier today, running for office, as they are in Brazil, and their platforms are un-American. One of the candidates running in Brazil runs on the platform of making legal the Communist Party and re-establishing the relations with the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists.
So, you quarantine Mr. Castro in Manhattan but you don't quarantine the influence of Castroism all through Latin America, which has caught the attention of the young, ambitious students, intelligentsia. I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. I can tell you that Africa has been known as the dark continent in the United States until the difficulties beginning in the Cogo. We are bringing very few students from there. We have shown very little interest in their health, welfare and economic problems.
Thirdly, I think the United States should put greater emphasis on disarmament.
Fourthly, I think it has been the greatest blow we have had in the 1950's or since World War II, when the United States was second in space. Because the Soviet Union was regarded as a backward country and we were a forward country, when they beat us into the newest kind of scientific accomplishment, it made it appear that time was running out for us. So I would say stronger defenses, a more concentrated interest in the problems of newly emerging countries, and expanding economy here at home which carries out its influence around the world - I would say that they could begin to move us forward in a very difficult time. I would think the 1960's would be more difficult than the 1950's. But to carry on the same administration whose experience has been, in my opinion, deteriorating the United States, to reward that record I think is a great mistake. So that is why we are running. (Applause)
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Maude Kaplan, of Raleigh. I feel the question I am asking concerns the people of my age the most. I would like to know how you expect to improve our educational - what our educational policies are doing today. I would like to know how you expect to improve our school system mainly in the sciences and maths.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Let me say that I would say the improvement of the school system, the training of the teachers, he quality of the teachers, your ability to study and your desire to study depends upon the people of North Carolina and the people of this city and town. There is nothing that the President of the United States or the government can do in the final analysis to provide good schools and good teachers except play a marginal role. I think the Federal Government ought to aid over a four year period during this particular hump with a tremendous increase in our population, the number of children, we should provide federal aid for school construction.
Second, we have to recognize, and this is a problem for you in North Carolina as well as in the country, that in the next decade we are going to have to build more college buildings than have ever been built since the beginning of this country in 1775. In a ten year period we are going to have to do as much as we have done in 175 years. One of the programs that the government could help with I think is loans for college dormitories and college rooms. It was in the housing bill last year, and the President vetoed it. I think loans at a 2 per cent rate of interest are the most satisfactory kind of assistance to colleges and universities.
Thirdly, I think we should continue the Defense Education Act, which provides scholarships and loans, particularly loans, which have not been used nearly as generally as I think they could be used to help bright young boys and girls to go to college. (Applause)
In the final analysis, as far as studying sciences and mathematics, I don't think we want to overstress it, but I think that is up to your mother and father, but I do hope that in the final analysis you will study. I think John Adams once said, "I study mathematics and war so that my son may study English and history, so that his son may study poetry and literature." I don't think we all want to be scientists and mathematicians. (Applause)
QUESTION: My name is Tim Tuttler, from the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill.
(Response from the Floor.
I would like to ask what your attitude to Mr. Khrushchev's breaking of diplomatic formalities by coming to the United States with apparent propaganda motives only, and would you meet him on equal ground at the UN?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, let me say that in the first place I think his purpose in coming here could be many fold. One, he may have some new proposals on disarmament which he hopes to capture the attention of the world with.
Secondly, I think he thinks that the General Assembly of the United Nations is going to be increasingly influential and powerful. One quarter of all of the nations of the General Assembly by 1965 will be newly independent nations of Africa. Therefore, I think he hopes to extend his influence through Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the General Assembly to see if the day can come when he can gain a majority.
Thirdly, he hopes to embarrass the United States by bringing all of his satellite leaders with him, by bringing Nasser and Castro and others, and hopes to demonstrate that he is the aggressive figure, that he is the world leader, that we respond to his initiative rather than our - rather than his responding to our initiative. So I would think that he feels that this will spotlight once again the attention of the world on the Soviet Union.
The second question, would I meet him on equal ground - I said before that if he requested to see Mr. Nixon and myself, both of us, separately or whatever way, that I would certainly be willing to attempt to meet him. I don't think that either one of us should meet him unless we both do. This is really a matter for the President of the United States. President Eisenhower has been entrusted with the conduct of foreign policy in this country until the end of his term, and, therefore, I think that this decision and the reaction of the United States to Mr. Khrushchev's visit should be guided by the good judgment of the President, and he is the President of all of us. So I will stick with his opinion on that matter. (Applause)
I want to again express my thanks to all of you. I must say I thought the questions were very helpful and I hope - I want you to know that we have had a great day in North Carolina. I came to North Carolina with some concern, but I should have known that they grow Democrats deep down here. Thank you very much. (Standing ovation.)