This is a transcription of this press conference made for the convenience of readers and researchers. Two copies of a single version of the text exist in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. The version in the Pre-Presidential papers is apparently a verbatim transcript from a contemporary recording.
SENATOR KENNEDY: My friend and colleague, Senator Burdick, State Chairman Abner Lawson, Mrs. Knudsen, the next Congresswoman from Minnesota, Mr. Anderson, the next Congressman from this district, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my appreciation to all of you for being kind enough to wait at the airport for my sister and myself, and also my regret for being so late. In case any of you wanted to run for the Presidency, I would say we started this morning in Iowa, we spoke in South Dakota, we speak now in North Dakota, we speak at a dinner meeting in Montana and end up in Wyoming tonight. I think that my election chief thinks that the election is October 8 rather than November 8. (Laughter)
In any case, we are delighted to be here. I am glad to be here, but there is no doubt also that I would probably not be here if it were not for the support that the Democrats gave me at the National Convention. I doubt very much that I would be nominated. (Applause) So I come here tonight with the hope that having gotten me so far that North Dakota would be willing to help me along the rest of the way. (Applause)
The sun is setting and I understand there are no lights - the lights are going out for the Republican Party all over the United States. (Laughter) But I want to say one or two things. I spoke this afternoon at the plowing contest on what I consider to be the No. 1 domestic problem which the United States faces, and that is the sharp decline in agricultural income. I think the farmers of North Dakota and the farmers of South Dakota and of Minnesota and Montana have a very clear choice. The question is which party and which candidate can meet their problems in this state, and meet their problems in this country. They have heard from this Democratic Party and they have heard from the Republican Party. I remember when President Truman used to say that the farmers had themselves to blame for their difficulties because they voted Republican in 1952. But I don’t hold that view wholly, because in 1952, the farmers were informed that the Republican Party stood for 100 per cent parity not once but at least three times.
In this general geographical area, the Republican candidate for the Presidency, joined by the Republican candidate for the Vice Presidency, assured the farmers that they were in favor of 100 per cent parity in the market place. Now it is eight years later. Now when the Republican candidate for the Presidency comes out with campaign assurances and campaign promises, you have the right to make a judgment, based on the experience of the last eight years, as to which candidate and which party, and members of which ground stand strongest for agricultural income in the United States at this time. I think the Democrats do, in this state, in Minnesota, in South Dakota and in Montana. (Applause)
I described the type of agricultural program which we wanted and I applied to wheat, and I would like to have you listen to it exactly. It is very short. And that is here is the way we would handle the problem facing the wheat growers, and I think comparable programs could be worked out for other commodities.
Under this wheat program, the Secretary of Agriculture would determine the amount of wheat that would be consumed here and abroad at parity income prices. This quota would be distributed among farmers on the basis of their historical record of production, and they would be issued marketing certificates, permitting them to market their share of the national quota. All wheat sold for primary use must be accompanied by marketing certificates. As a condition of receiving a certificate, each farmer would be required to retire a small fixed percentage of his wheat acreage. This is not a production control program. It does not tell any farmer how much he can produce or in what manner, but it does limit his marketing for primary use. This is the kind of program which has been endorsed and originally worked out by the National Association of Wheat Growers, and I have endorsed it fully.
I think your distinguished Senators from this area of the United States have supported it, and I think it offers far more sense than the programs which this administration has worked out and offered the American framer during the past eight years, 100 per cent of parity in the market place in 1952 and corn at 65 per cent of parity in 1960.
I think the record is clear. I would like your support in this campaign. I ask your help, not just as farmers, and not just as citizens of North Dakota. I ask your help as fellow Americans in a difficult time in the life of our country. I don't think any candidate for the office of the Presidency can possibly run in 1960 saying that the problems are easy, or that the solutions are easy. The problems are difficult, the solutions are difficult, and the burden that will be placed on the shoulders of the Americans in the Sixties will be heavier than they have been for 100 years. But I do think it is possible to move in this country. I don't say what we are doing now is as good as we can do. This is a great country, but I think it must be a greater country. We occupy a position of leadership in the world, but I think we can do far better, than our record of the past two or three or four years.
Can you tell me anywhere in a crisis, from Cuba to the Congo to Laos, where the United States has been ahead of events? We have held out our hands of friendship to the people of Latin America before we had to, where we did it at our own free will rather than at the point of Castro's pistol? We go now and offer a program of Africa to the United Nations. We offer a program of aid. We offer scholarships to the Congo. Did anyone in this administration talk about Africa before six months ago? I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I can tell you they did not.
Next January or February India will face a major financial crisis unless she receives some financial assistance. Does anyone in the administration talk about India today? Does anyone look to the future? Does anyone make a judgment that such and such a thing will happen in six months and let's do something about it now? Is it necessary for a country to go Communist, or an area, before the United States begins to look at it? That isn't the way foreign policy was conducted under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. We looked ahead, whether it was in agriculture here in this state, or in foreign policy around the world.
We must not react; we must show some leadership, some judgment of events, before they hit us. That is what leadership is; not a response but a judgment of the future, and an indication of what policies will bring the most secure future.
The Democratic Party is the oldest party on earth that is still functioning, but I think in many ways its common denominator has been its willingness to break new ground, to look to the future. The problems we face now are entirely new. Nothing that has happened in the last two or three decades gives us any assurances for the future. Therefore, I put my confidence in those who are ready and who have shown their willingness to face the future and to seed it and to make it ours.
I ask your help in this campaign, not merely as citizens of North Dakota, or citizens of the central United States, but as citizens concerned about the future of freedom in the United States, and the future of freedom around the world. We can do better. That is the issue. Those who feel we can do better, those who feel we can make a better life in this country, those who feel that the United States can re-establish its leadership, as a strong and vital country, who can stand for strong image in a world in doubt, I would like their help. I would like them to join Senator Johnson and myself, and Senator Burdick and others, in trying to fight for a stronger and freer country. Thank you very much. (Applause)