This is a transcript of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech files of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
We meet together on the eve of the great campaign of 1960. Tomorrow the voters of New Hampshire will initiate the national process of selecting a candidate for President - a process which - "after eight grey years" - to use F.D.R.'s phrase - after eight years of drift and indecision - will restore strong - creative - Democratic leadership to the White House.
Never was this process of selecting a candidate more important - more meaningful - than it is today. For during the coming year we will select not merely a party favorite, but a national leader for the fabulous, demanding, sixties. We will not merely reward party service - we will choose a man to be the center of activity and energy in our entire governmental system. Only if the parties choose their candidates well - only then will the American people next November be able to select a man equipped with the qualities which our country, and our age, demand.
We Democrats have every reason to be confident as this great campaign approaches. Less than two years ago we won tremendous victories in the House, in the Senate and Governors' mansions and State legislatures all over the country. In fact, since the Democrats last met in a national convention, 47 out of 50 states - including the new states of Alaska and Hawaii - have elected either a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Senator or a Democratic Congressman-at-large. The potential for an overwhelming landslide victory is there - and it looks as though this state, tomorrow, will begin the great Democratic march to the White House.
But that march will not be an easy one - we cannot take victory for granted. Let us recall some sobering facts on the other side. Let us recall that our national ticket in 1956 carried only seven states and lost 41. Let us recall that our national ticket has not obtained a clear majority of the popular vote since 1944. And let us remember the many advantages which the Republican Party - the party in power - possesses. They control the executive branch - with the power to channel defense contracts - award patronage - purchase surplus commodities - and hold Presidential press conferences. They have all the vast, powerful machinery of government at their command. In addition, they have a great asset and a great campaigner in the current President of the United States. And Mr. Nixon, himself, is an experienced political fighter, a skillful campaigner - and a candidate with tremendous backing by large financial interest and by the press.
But - despite these handicaps - despite the great advantages of the Republican Party - the Democratic Party can - and will - win in 1960. For we have our own advantages - we have 3 important assets - assets which will be decisive if we know how to use them - if we bring them to the people. The first is the record of eight years of Republican rule - eight years in which some of America's great strength has been dissipated. The second is the Democratic Party's tradition of a dynamic, progressive leader in the White House - the tradition of faith in America's strength and the will to use that strength in the interests of all the people - the great tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. And the third is the Democratic Party's willingness to submit its choice of candidates to the people.
The Republican Party had not asked the American people for their views on who their candidate should be. Their heir to the throne - the lone surviving heir - Mr. Nixon - has been carefully pre-selected by his party's entrenched interest - pre-digested for the American people's consumption - and pre-packaged for sale to the American voter.
But we Democrats realize that the days when Presidential candidates can be nominated in smoke-filled rooms, by political leaders and party bosses, have forever passed from the scene. We realize that for 50 years no Republican or Democrat has reached the White House without entering and winning at least one contested primary - that no man has won a national election who was unwilling to test his candidacy with the people - that no man has ever occupied the position of Chief Executive until he first occupied one of several positions on the primary ballot. It is true that conventions have occasionally chosen a candidate who never ran in a contested primary - but such conventions have not produced Presidents. And the Republican convention - in 1960 - will not produce a President either.
I am sorry that there are some members of the Democratic Party who regard Presidential primary contests with indifference - who have forgotten these great lessons of history - who have failed to recall the words of Thomas Jefferson that there are always, in effect, "two parties: Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to (take) all power from them - (and) those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, and consider them as the most honest and safe...depositary of the public interest." We Democrats have traditionally been the second party - the party which identifies itself with the people - the party which realizes that only those candidates with faith and confidence in the people and their wisdom can count on receiving that faith and confidence at the polls in November.
It is appropriate that New Hampshire should lead the nation in this vital - democratic - process of primary selection. For New Hampshire had led the historic fight for the right of the people to nominate. In 1832, disgusted with machinations of party chieftains, your State Legislature issued a call for the first national convention of a major political party. And it was that convention that nominated our first strong, popular President - Andrew Jackson. Again, in the early 1900's, when it became apparent that the conventions themselves were sinking under boss rule, New Hampshire was in the forefront of the wave of reform which led to the Presidential primary system. And - starting tomorrow, in 1960 - it will again be New Hampshire which will lead the fight to restore the Presidency to the people - and lead the Democratic Party to victory.
Tomorrow the eyes of the entire nation will be on New Hampshire. Your votes - your actions - will be carefully weighed, and analyzed, and sifted. And rightly so. For your will not merely be selecting a candidate - you will not merely be demonstrating the growing strength of the Democratic Party - you will be expressing your judgment on the great issues of our time - you will be demanding strong, creative leadership to meet the great challenges of the decade that lies ahead - a fateful decade of decision - a decade whose course will decide the issues of peace of war - survival or destruction.
Your votes will be the voice of the people of New Hampshire - a voice that will be heard across the nation - throughout the free world - and in the hidden recesses of the Kremlin. Let there be no note of doubt - or indecision - or hesitation - in that voice. Let New Hampshire tomorrow - as it has in the past - signal the rebirth of American will - the restoration of American vision - the beginning of America's tome for greatness.