This is a transcription of excerpts from this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. Copies of the excerpts from this speech exist as a press release and a reading copy in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. The texts of the release and the reading copy are the same. Page images of the press release and reading copy are available.
THE WISCONSIN PRIMARY
In this important primary process, the state of Wisconsin has played a leading and a vital role. In 1905 - disgusted with the machinations of party chieftains - Wisconsin under Governor LaFollette enacted the first law in our country’s history calling for the direct election of all delegates to national party conventions. Three years later - acting under that law - the people of Wisconsin sent to the Republican national convention a slate of delegates pledged to Robert LaFollette, and dedicated to the liberal principles of the Progressive movement. This group - the first popularly elected delegation - gained national renown and made a lasting contribution to our political history. According to a journal of the time, the Wisconsin delegation "stood in that convention, a little band of fearless men, fighting to the last ditch for platform pledges vital to the public interest. Their contest in the Chicago convention fixed the attention of the country and forced the candidate nominated for President to broaden the platform by declarations--in favor of several of the important Wisconsin proposals which the convention had impatiently rejected." This Wisconsin example initiated a wave of political reform which led to our present primary system.
It was here that Woodrow Wilson won a decisive primary victory over Champ Clark in 1912, and it was Wisconsin primary support which helped both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower along the road to re-election.
It was here - in Wisconsin - in 1944, that Thomas E. Dewey won the encouraging primary victory which led him - a few weeks later - to announce his candidacy. It was here, in 1932, that Franklin Roosevelt won an important victory over Al Smith.
The Wisconsin primary is an important one - in the nation - in our political history - in its recognition of the voters’ rights. No serious Presidential candidate can afford to pass up this primary - and no serious citizen of Wisconsin can pass up his chance to vote on April 5th.
Even if your choice of candidates is limited - even if several candidates for the Presidency have refused to submit their candidacy to your judgment - you do have a clear-cut contest for your support - and you have the chance and the obligation to choose. The primary is important for another reason - for only by taking part in this historic event - by voting in the primary - can the people of Wisconsin express their views on these critical issues of the sixties which so vitally affect the welfare of your state:
1. Whether we can achieve a durable and a safe peace - and an end to nuclear testing - to replace the fantastically expensive and destructive arms race in which we are now engaged and in which we are constantly falling behind.
2. Whether we can spur the nation’s economic growth to provide a more secure life for all Americans, regardless of race, creed or national origin, including a higher minimum wage, better unemployment benefits, adequate social security, and a better break for the mentally ill.
3. Whether your dairy farmers - and all the country’s farmers - are to obtain relief from the ever mounting squeeze of tight credit, high costs and low income.
4. Whether the great resources of Wisconsin’s forests are to be preserved - and new uses for their products explored - instead of being allowed to decay under a program which meets less than half the need.
5. Whether the older citizens of Wisconsin - and of the entire country - are to be provided with adequate medical care, and retirement compensation sufficient to allow them to live in the face of today’s inflationary spiral.
6. Whether we are to build the better roads and provide the adequate rail and air transportation which Wisconsin needs if she is to survive and grow.
7. Whether we are to let huge agricultural surpluses rot in our warehouses while people go hungry all over the world.