This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single copy of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
SENATOR KENNEDY: First of all, I would like to have Congressman Mel Price of this District come up here and wave. (Applause) And then Senator Paul Douglas, who I know you are going to send back to the United States Senate. (Applause) And then we brought over from Missouri to see what a great state you have in Illinois - Senator Stuart Symington. (Applause)
We also have the Secretary of the State here in Illinois. (Applause) And I am running for President. (Applause)
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all for coming here today. I run for the office of the Presidency with full recognition of the tremendous responsibilities which the United States Constitution and events gives the President of the United States. He is not only the Commander in Chief, but he also is the center of our entire constitutional system. I have served in the Congress for 14 years, in the House and in the Senate, and I am sure that Paul Douglas and Mel Price would agree that the office of the President is key. We can take action to provide aid to education. We can take action to provide medical care for our older citizens. We can take action to try to stimulate the American economy. But in the final analysis whatever we may do depends on the President of the United States, depends on his vigor, depends on his concept of what needs to be done to make this a stronger and a better country. The Presidency is key. I can assure you that if I am successful in this campaign, I do not run saying life will be easy, because I think the difficulties of the Sixties will press upon us, but I do run for the office of the Presidency with the greatest possible confidence in this country, with the greatest possible confidence in its ability to fulfill its historic function of being the chief defender of freedom in a difficult and dangerous time. I think one of the chief tasks of the next President of the United States is to set before the American people the things we must do in order to protect ourselves, in order to maintain our freedom, and in order to meet our commitments to freedom around the world.
I am not satisfied as an American to be second in space, to be turning out one half as many scientists and engineers as the Soviet Union, to have our economic growth increasing one third as much as the Soviet Union, and one half as much as Germany, France and Italy. Last year, the United States had the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world, and the result of tat is this year only 50 per cent of our steel mill capacity is being used. We have the highest unemployment in this month of any month except for the two recessions of 1954 and 1958, and the one in 1949, every since 1945. This country is moving into a serious and difficult time in the life of our country, and in our relations around the world. We stand on the razor edge of history. In the next ten years Africa and Asia and Latin America will begin to move in one direction or another, will begin to decide whether the future belongs to us or whether it belongs to the Communists, and I think our responsibility is to make this country move with sufficient vigor and sufficient force so the people around the world can decide the future belongs to us, to solve our problems, to build a better society here, to hold out the hand of friendship to those who look to us for leadership. I am not satisfied with the drift of events today. I am not satisfied to be reading every day that Khrushchev and Castro and the Chinese are on the upward march. I want to read that the United States is once again asserting its leadership as a great and free country, which offers a ray of hope to all those who wish to follow our example.
I think this is the most difficult time of our history, even more difficult than the 1930's. I think the election of Franklin Roosevelt insured the maintenance of freedom in this country. The great task for the United States is to defend the cause of freedom here and around the world in the Sixties, by building a strong and vital country, by maintaining our defenses, by building an educational system second to none, by providing full employment for our people, and demonstrating that Mr. Khrushchev is wrong when he says the United States is a sick and dying and faltering horse. I don't believe it. I think we represent the way of the future. I think the Communist system is as old as Egypt. But I think it is our function as American citizens at this crucial time in our development do demonstrate our vigor and force again, to look to the future, to say we are not satisfied with things as they are, to say this is a great country that can be greater, a powerful country that can be more powerful. That is the responsibility of all of us as citizens of the United States, as believers in freedom, those determined to maintain it.
One hundred years ago, Lincoln wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice. See the storm coming and He has His hand in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready."
Now, 100 years later, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe we are ready.
I ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us in the journey to the New Frontier. I ask you to help build a stronger America. Thank you. (Applause)