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.
Dave Dubinsky, Alex Rose, Mr. Hayes, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I come here to this district as the Standard Bearer for the Democratic Party and ask your support in this campaign. (Applause) I ask your support in moving this country forward. I ask your support in defeating Mr. Nixon and the Republican Party. (Applause) I believe that this is an important election. It involves the future of this state, it involves the future of this country, it involves the future of the cause of freedom. I cannot believe in 1960, as we enter the most difficult and turbulent and revolutionary times in the history of our country that we are going to elect a candidate and a party that looks to the past. I think the American people, as in 1932, as in 1948, as in 1912, are going to say "Yes" to the future, are going to choose to pick this country up and move it ahead, and I come here and ask your help in doing that. (Applause)
I believe the issues which separate Mr. Nixon and myself are very clear, and they go to the future of every man and woman here, and they go to the future of our country. He has chosen in this difficult time to run on a slogan "We've never had it so good." I don't run on that slogan. I run on the slogan we are going to have to do much better. We are going to have to meet our responsibilities, not only to ourselves, but to all those who look to us with confidence and hope. As an American, not as a Democratic Standard Bearer, but as an American I believe that this race is between the concerned and the comfortable, between those who sit still and those who want to pick themselves up and push forward. I run against a candidate and a party which has opposed in the last 25 years every piece of progressive legislation put forward. Minimum wage - Mr. Nixon's Republican Party voted 90 per cent against a 25 cent minimum wage in the mid-Thirties, and they voted 90 per cent against the $1.25 in 1960. They voted 90 per cent against social security in the mid-Thirties, and they voted 90 per cent against the medical care for the aged tied to social security in 1960. This is the party which has stood still, and I don't believe in 1960 any American can stand still.
These are difficult times and I do not run for the Presidency promising that if I am elected life will be easy. But I do say that if I am elected, the President of the United States must - as Franklin Roosevelt did - set before the American people the unfinished business of our society, full employment for our people, better housing, the use of our natural resources, a better standard of living, building a more vigorous society which can serve as an inspiration to freedom all over the globe. I believe the choice is clear, and I come to this garment district and ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join in meeting our responsibilities as citizens of this great Republic, as the chief defenders of freedom, at a time when freedom is under attack all over the globe.
I believe the choice is between those who wish to stand still and those who wish to move, between those who believe in progress and those who look to the past. I believe the choice is between our moving this country, as Franklin Roosevelt and Truman and Wilson did it, or between those who believe, with Warren G. Harding and Landon and Dewey and Coolidge and all the rest that back in the old days were the good days. I believe that we have to do in our generation what Franklin Roosevelt did in his generation. In 1936, Franklin Roosevelt said, "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." I believe in 1960 that this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny, to demonstrate that we can build in this country the kind of society which gives opportunity to all Americans, regardless of their race or their creed or their color, a chance to develop their talents, to educate their children, to live in security, to work, to strengthen the United States. And in so doing strengthen the cause of freedom.
I ask your help on that basis. I ask you to support us. I ask you to elect Congressman Bill Vanden Heuvel in this district. I ask you to choose, as Americans have chosen in other great crises in our times, between those who wish to rest on their oars and between those who wish to break through again into the area of New Frontiers. Give us your hand, your voice, your support. Give us this State of New York which is essential to the election of a Democratic President. Give us your help, and I believe we can move this country forward. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon has chosen in 1960 to run on a platform that our prestige and influence in the world has never been higher, and that we are enjoying here in the United States great prosperity. Well, I want to make it clear that I am not satisfied. I think this is a great country, but I think it can be a greater country. This is a powerful country, but I think it can be a more powerful country. I believe that we have a responsibility as the chief defenders of freedom to build the kind of society here which will cause people all around the globe to say, "There is the direction that I wish to go; there is the way of the future. Their high noon is yet to come."
I want Mr. Khrushchev and those on the other side of the Iron Curtain to know that freedom, strength, vitality and energy are once more the qualities for which the United States is noted, and on that basis we ask you to move forward with us. I ask your help. I ask you to join us in sweeping the Republicans all the way back to California and putting in the place of leadership the (Applause) - (comment from the platform) - Somebody told that to President Truman and that is what started all the trouble. (Laughter)
Let me say finally that in this election which comes a week from Tuesday, November 8, you have to make your decision. It is the responsibility of Mr. Nixon and myself to present the viewpoints for our two parties. He has presented his, and I have presented mine. This is not merely a contest between Mr. Nixon and myself. In a very real sense it is not just a contest between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. It is a contest between all citizens of this country who believe that progress is our most notable product, who believe it incumbent upon us as the chief example of freedom to build a strong and vital society, and between those who wish to stand still. I ask your help. I ask you to join us. I ask you to help us move this country forward. (Applause)
One hundred years ago, in the campaign of 1860, Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God, and I know He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, but if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready." Now, one hundred years later, with the same great issue of freedom or slavery as one hundred years ago, 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 that we are ready.
Help us in the next ten days. Help us win this election. Help us move this country forward. Thank you. (Applause)