This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One draft of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the speech can be found here.
We meet together on the eve of the great campaign of 1960. Next week the voters of Indiana will participate in the vital national process of selecting a candidate for President - a process which - "after eight gray years" - to use F.D.R.'s phrase - after eight years of drift and indecisions - will restore strong - creative - Democratic leadership to the White House.
Never was this process of selecting a candidate more important - more meaningful - than it is today. For during the coming year we will select not merely a party favorite, but a national leader for the fabulous, demanding sixties. We will not merely reward party service - we will choose a man to be the center of activity and energy in our entire governmental system. Only if the parties choose their candidates well - only then will the American people next November be able to select a man equipped with the qualities which our country, and our age, demand. And I am confident that in their search for such a man the people of this country will turn to the Democratic Party.
For the Democratic Party has three vital assets in this election - assets which will be decisive if we know how to use them - if we bring them to the people. The first is the record of eight years of Republican rule - eight years in which some of America's great strength has been dissipated. The second is the Democratic Party's tradition of a dynamic, progressive leader in the White House - the tradition of faith in America's strength and the will to use that strength in the interests of all the people - the great tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. And the third is the Democratic Party's willingness to submit its choice of candidates to the people.
The Republican Party has not asked the American people for their views on who their candidate should be. Their heir to the throne - the lone surviving heir - Mr. Nixon - has been carefully pre-selected by his party's entrenched interests - pre-digested for the American people's consumption - and pre-packaged for sale to the American voter. And he has entered your primary simply because he believes that a safely Republican Indiana will give him more votes than any Democrat.
But we Democrats realize that the days when Presidential candidates can be nominated in smoke-filled rooms, by political leaders and party bosses, have forever passed from the scene. We realize that for 50 years no Republican or Democrat has reached the White House without entering and winning at least one contested primary - that no man has won a national election who was unwilling to test his candidacy with the people - that no man has ever occupied the position of Chief Executive until he first occupied one of several positions on the primary ballot. It is true that conventions have occasionally chosen a candidate who never ran in a contested primary - but such conventions have not produced Presidents. And it is because of this faith in the people - and because of the great need for Democratic leadership - that I believe that the people of Indiana - next Tuesday - will upset Mr. Nixon's plans and demonstrate their overwhelming support of the Democratic Party.
I am sorry that there are some members of the Democratic Party who regard Presidential primary contests with indifference - who have forgotten these great lessons of history - who, by refusing to enter your primary, have denied you an open choice among the candidates - who have failed to recall the words of Thomas Jefferson that there are always, in effect, "two parties: Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to (take) all power from them - (and) those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, and consider them as the most honest and safe… depositary of the public interest." We Democrats have traditionally been the second party - the party which identifies itself with the people - the party which realizes that only those candidates with faith and confidence in the people and their wisdom can count on receiving that faith and confidence at the polls in November.
It is appropriate that Indiana should take an important part in this vital - democratic - process of primary selection. For the first Presidential Primary law in this state dates all the way back to 1915. And in every one of the five Presidential election years in which Indiana has had a primary law on the books the nation has elected a President who ran in Indiana. The road to the White House has led through Indiana. And the strength of your votes next week - the confidence you show in the Democratic Party - will again lead the way to the White House - and lead the Democratic Party to victory.
Next week the eyes of the entire nation will be on Indiana. Your votes - your actions - will be carefully weighed, and analyzed, and sifted. And rightly so. For you will not merely be selecting a candidate - you will not merely be demonstrating the great and growing strength of the Democratic Party - you will be expressing your judgment on the great issues of our time - you will be demanding strong, creative leadership to meet the great challenges of the decade that lies ahead - a fateful decade of decision - a decade whose course will decide the issues of peace or war - survival or destruction.
Your votes will be the voice of the people of Indiana - a voice that will be heard across the nation - throughout the free world - and in the hidden recesses of the Kremlin. Let there be no note of doubt - or indecision - or hesitation - in that voice. Let Indiana next week - as it has in the past - signal the rebirth of American will - the restoration of American vision - the beginning of America's time for greatness.