This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single 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.
SENATOR KENNEDY: My friend, your County Chairman, Jack English, Mr. Nickerson, your Congressman-to-be John Drewry, Julius Rosen and Otis Pike, your Assemblyman, and fellow Democrats:
You know, Mr. Nixon never begins his speeches "Fellow Republicans" and I don't blame him. (Laughter) He says party labels are not significant. Friday night he said in the debate what really counts is the man, not the party. I think what counts is the man the party puts forward, because the party tells us what the man stands for. (Applause)
And I must say that on the great issues which separate our country, the great issues which face the United States, the great issues which face the next generation of Americans, there are very sharp differences between Mr. Nixon and myself, and very sharp differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. And I think those who live in this country and who live in New York State and those who live in the United States, should ponder carefully these issues, because I believe on the solution to the challenges which face the United States, the vigor and vitality with which we attack them, our ability to recognize them, lies the future not only of this country but of the cause of freedom.
This is an important election. This election does matter and there isn't anyone today standing in this park, regardless of their age, regardless of their circumstances, whose life will not be affected one way or the other by the judgment, the vision, the good sense, the sense of progress of the next President of the United States. This is an important election. (Applause)
I say that party labels have significance because at campaign time candidates make many speeches and talk about many things. But if those programs are going to become reality, if those matters to which we now address ourselves are going to be accomplished, it will be by the day to day work of a Congress and the Executive branch working closely together. I must say that I come as a candidate for this ancient party in the most dangerous and promising and significant and ominous time in the long life of the great Republic. 1960, 1965 and 1970 will be the most changing for good or bad years in the life of our country.
I talk about American prestige dropping, and your distinguished Governor said that while he did not agree wholly with Mr. Nixon, he thinks perhaps we talk too much about whether people love us. That is not the issue, whether they love us. The question is whether people around the world want to follow the same system of freedom that has so benefited us. That is the great issue, not whether we are loved. (Applause)
I am not so interested so much in whether they like Americans personally. What I want is whether they are interested in loving freedom, whether they like the same kind of system that has been so generous to us, and whether we meet our obligations, whether we move forward. On that great issue will hang the future of freedom in this country and around the world. (Applause)
The reason that Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in the United States, and the reason he was a good neighbor around the world, was because of what he did here, because he was moving this country, because he had a compassionate understanding of the needs of our time, and the foresight and energy to push forward. He became a symbol to people all around the globe whose life was not as happy as they wished it to be.
Now in 1960, people all over the globe are determined to better their lives, and the great question of the 1960's, the great question of our time, is whether they will follow our example and our road, or whether they will move to the east, whether they will determine that Mr. Khrushchev and the Chinese communists have the system and the secret of organizing society so that it benefits all people. That is why what we do here and the kind of society we build here and the vitality and force of our national life really will affect the cause of freedom all around the globe. That is why I disagree with Mr. Nixon, when he says that everything we are now doing is as good as we can do, when he runs on the slogan "You've never had it so good."
I run on the slogan we must do better and I run with the full knowledge that we can do better. (Applause)
This is a rich country and we have been treated generously by nature. But can we afford to waste 35 percent of our brightest boys and girls who never go to college? Can we afford to have a Negro baby and a white baby born side by side and merely because of his skin, not because of his talent and motivation, can we afford the prospect that 60 to 70 percent of those Negroes will drop out of school before they finish high school? They have one-third as much chance, that Negro baby, of getting through college, as the white baby has, or one-fourth as much chance of being a professional man, owning his own house, four times as much chance that he will be out of work, much more chance that he will spend his life in manual labor. Can we afford to waste a talent?
All men are created equal. They may not be equal in talent, the may not be equal in motivation, they may not be equal in their ability to accomplish things, but they should be equal in their chance and that is what we stand for. (Applause)
As long as there are 15 million American homes sub-standard, as long as there are 5 million Americans who live on a surplus food package from the government which amounts to five cents a day, as long as there are millions of Americans who are denied the protection of even $1 minimum wage, as long as there are Americans who do not enjoy their full Constitutional rights in every sense, as long as America has ceased to be a source of inspiration to all those who wish to be free, as long as in the United Nations and elsewhere there are serious indications that we have lost the imagination of the world, as long as there is unfinished business for our generation, so long is there need for the Democratic Party and so long is there need for us to win this election. (Applause)
I come here to this county, which is not known as the strongest Democratic county in the United States (laughter) and I come here and ask your help. We have one month from yesterday to this election. We will win or lose depending on what happens on your street, in your county, in your state. The next President of the United States will carry New York because the next President of the United States cannot b elected unless he wins New York's 45 votes.
This is not a contest merely between Mr. Nixon and myself. It is not really a contest between, in a great sense, just the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It is a contest between the contented and those who wish to move ahead, between those who are satisfied and those who want to do better, between those who look back and those who say "It is time America moved again."
Thank you. (Applause)