This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Mr. Governor, Senator Ed Long, Larry Cox, my friend and colleague in the United States Senate, Senator Stuart Symington, your County Chairman, George Johnson, ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming this morning. I came here this morning from New York and you came here today from your homes because all of us share an interest and concern for our country and all of us want to do the best things for it. I am the Standard Bearer for the Democratic Party and as such I consider it our responsibility to put forward our views of what we would do if our country is going to maintain its position in the world and the people of this country will live a more prosperous life.
During the long history of the United States, the pendulum between the two parties, Republican and Democratic, has swung back and forth, back and forth, depending on the candidates, depending on the parties, depending on the needs of our time. I don't think there is anyone in this country, Republican or Democratic, that would deny that the Republican Party has been and is on the whole a conservative party, and that the Democratic Party is a progressive party. (Applause) And it has depended on which party and which times, for the majority of the people, which way they wished to go. Do they wish to more or less conserve themselves, or build their strength, have they determined that now is the time to move forward again? The decision you have to make as voters on November 8 is which time is this in the life of our country? What are the problems that our country faces? Is it a time when we can stand still more? Is it a time for conserving our resources, looking at ourselves, or is it a time for moving forward again?
I don't think there is any doubt. (Applause) Personally I don't think there is any question. The people of this country elected President Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. That is eight years. Now, in 1960, you cannot be a citizen of this country, you cannot read the papers, you cannot look at outer space, you cannot look across the street, you cannot travel Missouri, you cannot travel the United States, you cannot look at the world around us, without deciding that it is time as Americans for another great movement forward. (Applause)
We are here in this state, in the heartland of the United States, a state which has produced in the last 15 years a great President - (applause) About two weeks ago, Mr. Nixon thought that he would dismiss me by calling me "He is just another Truman." I said I regarded that as a compliment because he was just another Dewey. (Applause) And after we had exchanged those remarks, I never heard that statement from him again. (Laughter)
In any case, in the most serious time in the life of our country, and this is a serious time, because in the next ten years around the world I believe the balance of power in the world may shift in one direction or another, if the Communists should make a decisive break through in India or in Africa, or we should have other Cubas in Latin America, then the balance may turn in their direction. Then they may have the resources and the manpower and the technology and the military strength, the scientific strength, the educational strength, to begin to really surround the United States, to begin to move against us in a more direct way.
Otherwise we will make the decisive breakthrough. Russia and China might split apart; India succeed in its planning. Africa could determine to make itself free. Cuba could change. All these things could move in one direction or another in the next ten years.
I believe in these years of transition, during these years of hazard, during these years of change, we need a new administration in Washington which can bring to Washington, to our administrative positions, to the Congress of the United States, a spirit of movement, a spirit of looking to the future, foresight, judgment, some recognition of the turbulent world in which we live, some desire to maintain our freedom in this country, to develop our resources, to have the best educational system in the world. All these things the President of the United States cannot do. This is a free society, and the kind of country we have, the kind of strength we have, depends on the final analysis upon the people themselves. But the function and responsibility of the President is to set before the American people the unfinished business, the things we must do if we are going to succeed as a nation. My argument with Mr. Nixon, and my disagreement with him in this campaign, and I believe the basic issue of the campaign is the way we look at our country and its problems. He says our prestige has never been higher; he says that of the Communists has never been lower, and he points at the world around us. He points to the world around us. I look at the world around us and at our country, and I say this is a great country but it must be greater. I say it is time we started moving again. (Applause) So I come here today and ask your help in this campaign. This state is a key state in this campaign. Whoever carries Missouri may well carry the United States. (Applause)
You are participating in the election of a President of the United States in the most difficult time in our history and on the President, on his judgment, on his sense of conviction, on his foresight, may well hang the security of the United States and the free world.
With full recognition of the responsibilities of the office, after 14 years in the Congress, after really believing that the President of the United States can strike a blow for freedom, I come here to this shopping center and ask your help. Thank you. (Applause)