This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single text of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Madam Chairwoman, may I say that the most cryptic, significant and ambiguous statement that I have heard for many days was the statement of our Chairlady in presenting me, that she dare not introduce me in any partisan way as she would reveal her personal feelings. If I could learn to make rather vague, significant suggestions but still uninformed remarks like that on national television in my debates, I might do well with Mr. Nixon.
I still don't know whether you are Republican or Democratic. (Applause)
I am delighted to be here. There is an old motto in the Party with which I have a connection of "Don't send a boy to do a man's job; send a woman." I am delighted to see the women who are doing the job that all of us are involved in. I congratulate you. (Applause) I was anxious to come today at a time when I am involved heavily in partisan activities, to come to a nonpartisan occasion, because I believe the kind of leadership which you are giving, the kind of participation in which you are engaged, the kind of positions which you take on the great national and international questions, I believe constitute an important public service and, therefore, I am proud to have a chance to speak to you today.
Four hundred sixty eight years ago today, a Genoese mariner watched the sun rise over a Caribbean island, and happily informed his crew that he had found a westward route to India. But Columbus had not reached India. He had reached America. He had not re-discovered an old land. He had discovered a new hemisphere. He had not reopened old ties of commerce and friendship. He had begun to forge the links between Europe and America. But if Columbus discovered one continent, his journey in large measure resulted in the loss of another. For almost a century, the course of European empire had moved southward, along the coast of Africa, and around the Cape of Good Hope. With the discovery of America, the kings, the generals and the traders turned westward, leaving Africa to become the neglected and undeveloped province of a few European nations.
Today, more than four centuries later, the work of Columbus is being reversed. The nations of the west once more look to Africa, and Africa, itself, is struggling for the freedom and economic progress which centuries of neglect have denied it. But if the voyages of Columbus first led to history's retreat from Africa, they also were the first steps toward the emergence of a modern Africa, for it was in the new world of Columbus that man began his first rebellion against the control by European empires.
In 1776, the year of the American Revolution, Tom Paine wrote that a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished. Today, that same flame of freedom burns brightly across the once dark continent, creating new nations, driving old powers from the scene, and kindling in African people a desire to shape their own destinies. In 1953, three nations in Africa south of the Sahara were independent. Today there are 19 free nations, and soon an entire series of free nations will cover Africa from top to bottom. Each of these African nations, varied as they are in geography and in history, share many of the same problems, and in each of them waits the same tireless and implacable agents of Communism, watching for the opportunity to transfer hunger and disappointment and poverty, and perhaps most of all disappointment into Communist domination.
The new nations of Africa are determined to emerge from poverty and hunger which now blankets much of that vast continent. They are determined to build a growing and modern economy, with a constantly rising standard of living. They are determined to educate their people, maintain their independence, and receive the respect of all the world. There can be no question about this determination. The only real question is whether these nations will look east or west, to Moscow or to Washington, for sympathy, help and guidance in their great effort to recapitulate in a few decades the long steady history of Europe. I believe that if we meet our responsibilities, if we extend the hand of friendship, if we live up to the ideals of our own revolution, then the course of African revolution in the next decade will be towards democracy and freedom and not towards communism and what could be a far more serious kind of colonialism. For it was the American Revolution, not the Russian revolution, which began man's struggle in Africa for national independence and national liberty. When the African National Congress in Rhodesia called for reform and justice, it threatened a Boston Tea Party, not a Bolshevik bomb. African Leader Tom Mboya invokes the American dream, not the Communist Manifesto. And in the most remote bush lands of Central Africa, there are children named George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but there are as yet none named Lenin or Trotsky or Stalin. And our ties with Africa are not merely the ties of history and spirit, for our goals for today's Africa are really the goals for America, itself. We want an Africa where the terribly low standard of living of the people begins to rise, year by year, step by step, where malnutrition and ignorance will disappear, and this is what Africa wants. We want an Africa that is made up of a community of stable and independent countries, where the human rights of Negroes and white men alike are valued and protected, where men are given the opportunity to choose their own national destiny, free from dictates and coercion of any country, east or west, and that is what Africa wants.
We want an Africa which is not a pawn in the cold war or a battleground between East and West, for this, too, is what the African people want. And none of these goals is the goal of the Communists, who wish to perpetuate the war and the chaos on which Communism breeds.
Under such circumstances, we would suppose there is no place for Communism in Africa, and that the new nations of Africa would look increasingly to us for succor and support. But the harsh facts of the matter are that freedom has been steadily losing in Africa, and I say that from some experience as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Communism has been steadily gaining. The newly independent country of Guinea has moved towards the Soviet bloc, importing Soviet technicians, borrowing Soviet money, and signing trade agreements with Eastern Europe. The newly independent country of Ghana has moved away from the West and its troops were sent to the Congo in Soviet, not American, planes.
In the strife-torn, newly independent country of the Congo, one of the most powerful factions, that of Premier Lumumba, is pro-Russian and anti-American. This is a defeat for the cause of freedom, a defeat which is the product, I regret to say, of partly eight years of indifference and neglect by the United States, and in all fairness the neglect goes back even further. (Applause)
We have lost ground in Africa because we have neglected and ignored the needs and the aspirations of the African people at the crucial time, because we have failed to foresee the emergence of Africa, an Africa which will possess one fourth of all the votes of the General Assembly in the next two or three years, and ally ourselves with the cause of independence and freedom with which the United States has been traditionally allied. Because we did not help Africa develop a stable economy and the broad educational system which makes growth and freedom possible. And today we are still making the same old mistakes. Although Africa's single greatest need is for educated men and women to man the factories, staff the government, and form the core of the educated electorate upon whom freedom finally depends in any country, we have done almost nothing to help educate the African people. There are only a handful of college graduates in the entire Congo and less than one per cent of all Africans who enter primary grade ever finish high school. Yet today we are aiding less than 200 African students from the entire continent to study in the United States. We are supplying virtually no books or teachers to Africa and less than 5 per cent of all of our foreign technical assistance goes to Africa.
It was this sort of failure which helped contribute to the chaos of the Congo, a country of 8 million people with less than a dozen college graduates, which did not have the education to run a nation, and which as a result has been unable to maintain a stable independence.
The American Revolution would never have taken the course that it took if we had not been led by the best educated citizens not only of their time, but probably in the history of the United States, the Franklins, the Adamses, Governor Morris and all the rest. Although Africa is the poorest and probably the last [sic] productive area in the world, we have done little to provide the development capital which is essential to a growing economy. Through the end of 1957, we had granted Africa less than two tenths of one per cent of all our foreign assistance, and in 1959, Africa received only 2 per cent of all the money spent by the development loan fund, a fund specifically created to help undeveloped countries. Although by 1952 it was obvious that Africa was on the march, we ignored these nations until events forced it upon us.
Our State Department did not establish a Bureau of African Affairs until 1957, and that same year we sent more Foreign Service Officers to Western Germany than to all of Africa. Even today, barely 5 per cent of our Foreign Service people are stationed in Africa, and five newly independent nations have no representation at all. Yet they have a vote at the United Nations. When Guinea became independent it took us two months to recognize the new government and eight months to send an ambassador. Russia's ambassador was there on Independence Day, with offers of trade and aid, and to date we know what has happened in Guinea. These failures represent a steady decline of American prestige and influence in Africa, and a steady growth of Soviet power.
Governor Rockefeller suggested on prestige that we should not spend so much time talking about it. That is not the question. The question is, do they want to duplicate our example. Do they want to follow in the road of freedom? That is the significance of the word "prestige". Does freedom have prestige, not merely America, not whether we are personally loved, but what we stand for, is that loved, is that in mind. That is really the question involved in that issue. (Applause)
If we are to create an atmosphere in Africa where freedom can flourish, then we must embark on a bold program for the development of Africa. First, to meet the need for educated students, and I want to emphasize this is a long run - we do not become college graduates, we do not get experience, we do not become post college graduates overnight. We are now talking about what kind of an African leadership we are going to have in 1970, 1975, and we hope that even in spit of our previous mistakes and neglect we can maintain freedom in Africa until these young men and women who we could bring here would go back to spread the cause of free dom.
But training is not sufficient. We must help the African nations mount a large scale attack on the mass ignorance and illiteracy through the establishment of a multi-nation African educational development fund. The African nations must be full partners in this fund, which will plan for the long range needs of Africa, and help build the schools and universities in Africa which will make it possible to take care of their people.
Secondly, we must use our surpluses and our farm technology - I emphasize specially the latter - to let the critical African needs for food, three quarters of the African people spend their day struggling barely on farms in order to maintain themselves on almost a substandard level. We must be able to train those people to use more modern methods, water, fertilizers and all the rest.
Third, we must provide the development capital which can help transform the limited productive capacity of Africa into a gradually increasing standard of living for the people, an increase which is not only national but per capita, by establishing a multi-lateral development fund, directed by both western and African nations which would make long term capital loans to provide the sinews for industrial growth.
Fourth, we must make the United Nations the central instrument of our effort in Africa. To the African nations the UN is their great hope. By centering many of our activities in the United Nations we demonstrate our principal desires to build not an Africa and an America associated as a pawn in the cold war, but as free and independent countries, which is the object of our foreign policy. Thus we must cooperate fully in UN economic aid and technical assistance programs, and send capable and dedicated Americans to man the secretariat and to staff our own UN mission.
Fifth, we must ally ourselves with the rising tide of freedom in Africa. If there is any great asset which the United States built up in the years before World War II, it was our constant identification throughout most of our history with the cause of independence; Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and I feel that since World War II, because of our close ties with Europe, because of the difficulties that Europe has faced, because of our NATO alliance, and because also, in fairness, because of the progress that Europe, itself, was making in providing independent countries, and this has been an extraordinary record, and even though I have felt on occasions that we have not moved fast enough and that they have not moved fast enough, I do also recognize that it has been an extraordinary experience in the last fifteen years, when country after country in Europe has cut the ties that bound them with their colonies, and I must say has contrasted sharply with the record of the Soviet Union which speaks on colonialism, and yet is the worst colonial master in the world today -- (Applause).
Sixth, we must wipe out discrimination here in the United States. (Applause) A great tide linking us to Europe has been all the people that came here from Italy, from Ireland, from Poland and elsewhere. They have come to the United States. Everyone has a cousin, a brother, a father who came from Europe. We are all made up of Europeans, most of us, but we are also made up of Africa. This is an important link.
Try and nourish here in the United States, try and build on the tremendous number of people of African origin, who live in the United States, who bind us closely to Africa; it is a valuable tie. But if that tie is going to be used, we must make sure that the African descendants in this country are enjoying full participation in the life of our country. (Applause)
Will you tell me why the New York Times has to report that there are more than 600 African and Asian students who cannot find decent housing here in New York because of their color? And African diplomats who have difficulty getting a home in Washington? What picture of America will they bring back? If we carry out this program for Africa with vigor and imagination, if we show our interest, if we show our interest, I believe we can begin to reverse the neglect and errors of the past seven years.
In a recent American film, the Defiant Ones, two men, a white man and a Negro, chained together, fell into a deep pit. The only way out was for one to stand on the shoulders of the other. But since they were chained, after the first had climbed over the top of the pit, he had to pull the other out, if either one was to be free. Today, Africa and America, black man and white man, new nations and old, are bound together. Our challenges rush to meet us. If we are to achieve our goals, if we are to fulfill man';s eternal quest to be free, the most important asset we have in the world, the asset in my judgment that will finally destroy the Communist empire, if we are going to live with that cause, of peace and freedom, we must do it together. We are chained together by the circumstances of history fortunately. Together we can and will succeed. Thank you. (Applause)