This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single copy of the speech, which appears to be a verbatim transcript, exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Thank you, Governor, Congressman Burko, Keen Johnson, your next United States Senator, and ladies and gentlemen: I come here today to correct a historical misstatement. Richard M. Nixon stood in this very same spot and claimed Thomas Jefferson as a Republican. Not on his best day. I am going to get him back. Thomas Jefferson is a Democrat.
I give you McKinley, Coolidge, Harding, Hoover, Dewey, and Landon.
(Response from the audience)
I don't blame him for claiming Jefferson. They have very few they can claim. Theodore Roosevelt left the Republican Party.
Abraham Lincoln, his successor, who tried to carry out his policy, was assassinated, but they cannot take Thomas Jefferson and they cannot take the United States in 1960, or the State of Kentucky. (Applause)
Richard Nixon speaking in Boston a few days ago said that I was another Truman. I returned the compliment and said that he was another Dewey.
(Response from the audience)
And I believe that Kentucky, which has looked to the future on all occasions, which has recognized the national interest, which has recognized that without a strong country we cannot be free, I believe Kentucky is coming back to the Democratic Party. (Applause)
This is an important election, and it is for the welfare of this city, this state and this country. I do not run for the Presidency promising that if I am elected life will be easy. But I do run for the country warning that this country cannot continue to think that what was good enough before is good enough for the Sixties, and any party which runs in 1960 with a slogan of "You have never had it so good" is going to be defeated. (Applause)
We believe that this is a great country, but we believe this country can be greater and we believe it is a powerful country, but this country can be more powerful.
We want to tell the fire department there is no fire here; it is just Democrats on fire. (Applause and response.)
Here in 1960, in this old city I come to you and ask for you help. This state must go Democratic and so must the country. The United States must rebuild its strength and prestige. The United States must take a position in this country, and in the world that we will not be second to anyone, that we want to be first, not first but, not first, if, not first, when, but first, and we shall be. (Applause)
Here in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson I salute the city of Louisville, which in 1956, carrying out the Supreme Court decision, set an example to the country and set and example to the world. And I am proud to be in this city tonight and salute you for what you have done and what you are doing and what you will do in the future. (Applause)
This choice that faces the United States is as old as the country. This country has faced it in other years and other occasions.
They are not going to break up this meeting. We are going to go on, sirens or not, rain or not, sunshine or not. (Applause)
It is as the Bible tells us, "It rains upon the just and the unjust," Republicans and well as Democrats. It rains on Richard Nixon tonight in Philadelphia, I heard. (Applause) But the Republicans are all at home and we are out here meeting because we believe in our party. (Applause)
So I ask you to join us in this campaign. I ask Kentucky to join us, Kentucky which has supported in 1948, supported in 1932, supported in 1912, great Democrats, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I stand where they stood. All those people who want to stand still, all those people who believe that things are as good as they can be, that the power of the United States is increasing as fast as it must, who are satisfied to have this country drift at home and abroad, they should join Mr. Nixon. But all those who look to the future, all those who want this country to move again, all those who want this country to get off dead center, I want your support, I want your support for the Democratic Party. (Applause) I want you to reelect Frank Burke and send Keen Johnson to the Senate and join us in a great national effort. I ask your help. (Applause)
Finally, let me say that I do not underrate the difficulty of this election. It will be hard fought in Kentucky and all across the United States. But this is not merely a contest between Mr. Nixon and myself. It is a contest between two parties and their different philosophies between two outlooks, between one party which gives the green light to the Sixties, and the other party which stands still, between a party which moves forward, between a party which looks back, between a party which produced Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman and a party that produced Landon and Dewey and now in 1960 Mr. Nixon. I ask you to join us in this effort. This struggle is the same as the struggle 100 years ago. When Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend during the election of 1860, he said, "I know there is a God, and I know He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, and I know His hand is in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready."
Now, 100 years later, in the election of 1960, 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. Thank you. (Applause)