This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single copy, which appears to be a verbatim transcript of the speech, exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. Because of ambiguity, some apparent typographical errors have been left in place.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Mayor Daley, Congressman Dawson, members of the Assembly, Representatives, ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my thanks to all of your [sic] for coming over and giving me a warm hand of friendship. I think this is an important election. Mr. Nixon has said that party labels don't make so much difference; what we want is the man. I think we want the man who is a Democrat, because the Democratic Party stands for the people. (Applause)
Every program which we now put forward and which both parties now endorse were written into the statute books over the opposition of a substantial group of the Republican Party; things which make life decent for all Americans, a chance for social security, for minimum wage, for unemployment compensation, for public housing. I have stood for those things in 14 years in the Congress. Mr. Nixon now says he stands for them. But I was in the Congress when he was. I remember when he [sic] made effort after effort to get better housing for our people, to get a better minimum wage. I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor. We tried to put through a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour. The average wage to laundry women in five large cities in the United States, and most of them are Negro women, is 65 cents an hour for a 48 hour week. Every time that we failed to build better homes and public housing, we fail our people. There are 5 million homes in the United States in the cities of this country that lack plumbing of any kind. 15 million American families live in inadequate housing. The average social security benefit is less than $78 a month for someone who is retired, and out of that he has to pay food, and housing and medical care. Anyone who says that there is nothing left to do, that all the things that had to be done were done by Truman or Roosevelt, I think is wrong. I think we in our time still have responsibilities left if we are going to build a stronger society here in the United States. I gave some figures on television which are true, which is if a white baby and a Negro baby are born in the houses next to each other, that the Negro baby has one half as much chance of finishing high schools, one third as much chance of getting to college. There are four times as many chances that he will be out of a job. Why should it be so? And he will live on the average 7 years less. Why? It is because they do not have a fair chance to develop their talents. That is what we want in this country. (Applause)
You cannot possibly maintain your families unless you get a decent education. You cannot possibly live in decent homes unless you are treated fairly and secure a decent job. As it is now, the first to be fired at the time a recession comes are mostly those who are Negroes, because they have not had a chance to finish school and because they have not had a chance to learn skills. Everyone says we should do these things because the Communists are talking about them. I think we ought to do them because that is the way we build a better country, that is the way we build a better country. (Applause)
This is not just a problem for one section. I read a story in the New York Herald Tribune yesterday morning that 14 of the delegates who had come from Africa to this country for the first time wanted the United Nations moved from the United States to another country because they had not been treated with courtesy here in this country. I want to build a strong society here, not merely because we sit in a goldfish bowl, but because by building a stronger society we show we really believe in the cause of freedom.
I am speaking today to the Polish Congress, which is meeting downtown. The great Polish hero who helped free the United States was Kosciuszko. When Kosciuszko died, he was given a good deal of money by Congress, and he left his money to Thomas Jefferson to free the American slaves. He was a Pole. He fought here for freedom and he wanted everyone to be free. That is the spirit in which we move in the United States today. (Applause) What we want for ourselves, we want for others. We want freedom and a decent standard of living, which is what people want around the world. Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor around the world because he was a good neighbor in the United States. (Applause)
I come here today and I ask you help. I support the Democratic platform, which stands for equality in the rights of man, and I stand for it as the Democratic candidate. Whether I am President or Senator, we will continue this fight until every American, regardless of their religion, regardless of their race or creed, steps forward and stands in the sun. Thank you. (Applause)