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.
Abraham Lincoln -- the President who welcomed West Virginia into the Union -- said that “The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort …. do so well for themselves.” This was the guiding philosophy of the first Republican Administration -- the Administration of Lincoln.
This was the creed of the greatest Democratic Administration -- the Administration of Franklin Roosevelt. And this is the lesson which has been ignored and forgotten by the latest Republican Administration -- the Administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
For today’s government is not doing for the people of West Virginia -- and the people of our other depressed areas -- the things that must be done, the things your people cannot do for themselves. West Virginians do not lack courage or determination or the will to work -- they are not looking for charity or handouts or government doles -- rather they ask -- as Edwin Markham has written -- “They ask but the right to labor and to live by the strength of their hands.” But the people of West Virginia -- like so much of America -- have been denied that right. They have been caught in the iron grip of economic circumstances which they did not cause and which they cannot control -- the advance of technology and the replacement of men by machines, the expansion of world trade, unpredictable economic shifts and dislocation. To deal with these harsh and impersonal circumstances -- circumstances which affect an entire nation and the whole world -- individual effort alone is not enough -- the efforts of your cities are not enough. Only the help, the understanding and the leadership of national government can do the job.
And we have not had this leadership. Instead of focusing its attention on the problems of America’s depressed areas -- instead of exerting every effort of government to relieve your economic distress -- this Administration has ignored your pockets of poverty, forgotten your unemployed and your hungry, and neglected the development of your economy. Instead of making West Virginia -- the hardest hit of all American states -- into a showcase of American ability to restore prosperity and decent living to all its people -- it has transformed your state into a living symbol of Republican neglect, Republican indifference, and Republican inability to meet the challenges of a growing, changing America. This Administration has not only failed to help those who need help, but it has blindly pursued policies which aggravate your distress and destroy your hope.
First, although we have thousands of people in government working to help the underdeveloped nations of the world -- we have less than 125 full-time employees, scattered through 18 government agencies, whose job it is to help the underdeveloped, the distressed, areas of America.
There are more government employees concerned with hoof-and-mouth disease than devoted to your problems. And even in the Department of Commerce -- the one agency whose duties include the industrial development of depressed areas -- not one of the 33 field offices of the Business and Defense Services Administration is located in West Virginia, and fewer Commerce employees are stationed in West Virginia than in any other state. I promise you that with a Democrat in the White House -- we will have a fully staffed and centralized government organization to deal with your problems -- and West Virginia will get its fair share of that Department’s attention.
Second, although West Virginia proportionately sent more men to fight in Korea than did any other state -- and although your state has ample resources, a large and able labor force, and a great need for new industry -- the government has been steadily closing down your military installations and plants until today West Virginia is dead last among the states on lists showing defense spending, number of defense installations, and defense payrolls. The government spends twice as much money in Nevada -- whose population roughly equals that of Kanawha County -- than it does in the entire state of West Virginia. I have sponsored a program to change this -- to give hard-hit areas of our country a fair share of defense spending -- and in 1961 you will begin to get that fair share.
Third, although West Virginia has the most urgent need in the nation for new small businesses -- you rank 45th among the 50 states in participation in the loan program of the Small Business Administration. When Congress set up this Administration, we intended it to stimulate and encourage the development of small business in areas where such help was most needed. But under Republican leadership this goal has been forgotten. In 1961 we will make sure that West Virginia’s small businesses get their fair share of government help.
These are only some of the many examples of government neglect and government discrimination. Everywhere you look the story is the same -- whether it is resource development, forestry programs, aviation or even in the Weather Bureau -- West Virginia is at the bottom of the list. The only lists which you lead under a Republican Administration are the unemployment and food surplus lists.
And these statistics do not tell the whole story. For behind these compilations -- behind the harsh, impersonal, cold figures -- the unemployment and the spending tables -- can be seen the stark, tragic human story of this failure of leadership -- the physical impoverishment of men out of work -- the despair of men caught in the grip of economic circumstances beyond their control -- the destroyed health of children -- and the shattered hopes of their parents. And what has been done to West Virginia is the living example of Republican neglect of all America’s distressed areas -- the neglect of America itself.
That is why -- on May 10th -- the people of West Virginia must make their votes count -- must cast them for a man who they can put on the road to the White House. A man who wants to act -- who will have a real chance to act -- and who will act -- to make sure that West Virginians can get an even break from their government.