This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Judge Otto Kerner, the next Governor of Illinois, Senator Paul Douglas, my colleague in the United States Senate and a distinguished spokesman for the United States; Hayes Bell, the next Congressman, ladies and gentlemen: We have a baby back there. I want to thank all of you who came out today. This is a strong area in the state of Illinois. It is not a county that has been known for its Democratic majorities, but I do appreciate your coming out today. I think your presence here, whether you are Republican or Democrat, whether you wish to click with Dick or whether you wish to move this country forward (Applause) -- that is really a strong slogan, “Click with Dick” -- whatever your feeling may be of the United States and the state of Illinois, I appreciate your coming here, and I think you come here because you recognize that this is an important election, that the office of the Presidency is key, and whoever may be the next President, whether it is Mr. Nixon or myself, will be faced with greater responsibilities and greater burdens because we all are, than we have ever been in the long history of our country. When the United States – when the President has difficulties, the United States has, and I want to make it very clear that the United States is moving into a period which will feature great opportunities for us as well as great responsibilities and great burdens.
Now, what is my disagreement with Mr. Nixon? What is my disagreement with the Republicans? It is a very clear one. My belief is that Mr. Nixon runs for the office of the Presidency without emphasizing in his campaign, either because he is not informed or because he does not believe that this is the most serious time in the life of this country. I do not detect any note of urgency in the speeches of the Vice President. You have to decide yourselves as citizens whether you believe that is what you want for the future of the country. Is it your judgment – I will say this, to those of you who are Republicans – is it your judgment that this country can afford to continue as it now is going? Do you really believe that the tide of history is moving in our favor? Do you really accept the word of Mr. Nixon that our prestige – (response from the audience) – do you really accept his judgment that our prestige has never been higher, that our influence has never been greater? Do you really believe that the balance of power in the world is shifting with us, and that historians will write ten years from now that these were the great years of the American Republic? If you do, you should click with Dick. But if you hold the view which I hold, that this is a dangerous time, that this is a time of challenge and opportunity, that this is a time that requires the best of us, that the United States has failed to recognize in its leadership that these are changing and different times, in Latin America, Africa and Asia, in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, in outer space, in our own country – I note no sense of vitality. I do not hear the President of the United States setting before the American people our national goals.
I read an article in Life Magazine, “What Is Our National Purpose?” In this challenging time when the survival of freedom is at stake, we have to wonder what our national purpose is. The President of the United States is the voice of America; he sets the national purpose and in my judgment, the issue in this campaign is between the concerned and the comfortable, those who believe what we are now doing is good enough and those who want to start out again. Here at home in the development of our economic growth, in our relations with Latin America, in our relations with Africa, in outer space, do you really believe this administration has come to grips with change? The reason we have difficulty with Mr. Castro is because we do not any longer influence the countries of Latin America to join with us in any concerted plan of action. The reason that countries of Africa no longer support the United States and look to it is because we have been indifferent to the problems of that vital continent. In 1957 we had more foreign service people stationed in West Germany that we did in all of Africa.
I want to make it very clear, because you must make the final judgment, I want to make it very clear that I am not a bit satisfied as a citizen of this country, with our present rate of growth, with our present image in the world, with our present sense of national purpose. I have unlimited faith in this country but I believe we have to decide, and right up there on that plaque are the words, we have to decide whether our generation of Americans is going to make a sacrifice and a service to our country that the times require, or are they going to put a plaque up here ten years from now that this generation of Americans failed its responsibility? That is the decision you make on November 8. What kind of a country and world do you want, what you see as your responsibility as a citizen of this country. I believe that issue sharply divides Mr. Nixon and myself, and on the basis that I want this country to resume its forward march, I want us to look to the future and not the present or the past. I want you to join me in serving this country and moving this country forward. (Applause)