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.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, my colleague in the United States Senate, who has spoken for Pennsylvania and the country, your distinguished Congressman, Frank, who I think has been an outstanding representative for the people of this district - the kind of man we want in office. (Applause) And I am delighted and appreciate the fact that he has introduced me today. I want to thank you for the plates. We will try to find a suitable house for them. (Laughter and applause) We are looking now. (Laughter)
Golf clubs - I will be all ready to be President. (Laughter)
Yesterday, in fact this morning, I read in the newspaper that Mr. Nixon, in answer to a question, has defined his political philosophy by saying that he was a "practical progressive". Now, that is interesting, because last May, five months ago, writing to a conservative Republican, Mr. Nixon says "I have consistently and outspokenly, classified myself as an economic conservative." What is Mr. Nixon? (Laughter) (Response from the audience) Is he a practical progressive? What Nixon are we voting for in 1960? The practical progressive? The outspoken conservative? The old Nixon? The New Nixon? The modern Republican? The old fashioned Republican? Or are we voting for a man and a party that stand where they have always stood, for the people? (Response from the audience.)
If Mr. Nixon will make up his mind what he is and say it and live it and think it and vote it, then the American people will know what the are voting for. (Applause) I never used to hear about the old Lincoln and the new Lincoln, the old Woodrow Wilson and the new Woodrow Wilson, the modern Franklin Roosevelt and the old fashioned Franklin Roosevelt.
I am a democrat, without prefix or suffix. (Applause) Rather than all these definitions which Mr. Nixon and Madison Avenue developed, which are market tested and then put forth, I prefer to go by the old words of the Bible, "by their fruits you shall know them." (Applause)
When a political party votes in 1935 98 per cent against the 25 cents minimum wage, I know what the party stands for; and when that same political party in 1960 votes in the House of Representatives 85 per cent against $1.25 minimum wage in 1960, I know the Republican Party stands where it has always stood, against - not for, but against.
Mr. Nixon leads a party which regards $1.25 minimum wage as extreme, which regards medical care for the aged tied to social security as extreme. Mr. Nixon leads a party which Alf Landon once led, from Pennsylvania. I went through his town. I thought I saw him out there cheering for us today. (Laughter and applause)
Even he could not stand the present policy of Mr. Nixon, because nobody knows what it is. He puts out papers on housing and education, and yet his party and he have voted against them for the last 14 years. They vote against the area distress bills, they veto them, and then Mr. Nixon calls for their passage during the campaign. People are not interested in Leap Year Liberalism. Every four years at campaign time we hear the most glowing promises from the Republican Party and their candidates. But the record is written in the Congress, day in and day out. On medical care for the aged tied to social security, which would cost 3 cents a day per person, an average of $12 a year, it would insure any person retiring that they would receive medical care, nursing care, the cost of their medicine.
Now, under the bill which the President signed, if you get sick and you are retired, and you have saved up $500 or $800, you have to first exhaust all of that for medical bills, then you take a pauper's oath that you are medically indigent. Then you receive some assistance.
Which is the American way? Which is the way we stand for? (Response from the audience) The record is written. The record is written. Opposition to all these basic pieces of legislation which means so much to the security of this country.
I said about two weeks ago in Cleveland, Ohio, I could not think of one piece of original progressive legislation suggested by the Republicans in the last 25 years, and the papers said, "You are wrong; what about President Taft's child labor in 1904?" Well, what have they done since then? (Response from the audience.)
All this is important, because if this community which now has 12 per cent of its people out of work, which has never really gotten back on its feet economically with full employment since the recession of 1958, is going to move ahead, then we have to have policy that moves our country ahead, that pays a decent wage, that build homes, that use steel, that use pottery. If you are building 200,000 homes fewer each year than you should be, you are not selling any pottery to those families. If you have an economic recession, people are not going to buy a new car and when they don't buy a new car, in Detroit, the steel mills in Pennsylvania don't work, and the coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia remain idle. The country is tied together, and a rising tide lifts all the boats. If our economy is moving upward, then people are working, but if we stand still, if we have an administration frozen in the ice of its own indifference, if we have an administration which is uninterested - Mr. Nixon spoke at White Sulphur, West Virginia, to a group of businessmen in May. He said, "As long as unemployment is under 4.5 million, it is not" - and I quote him - "a significant issue in the minds of the people." I think it is. If you have 4.5 million people out of work, it is significant to them and their families, and it is significant to the rest of the Americans who are concerned that every American who seeks a job shall find one.
We are committed to that policy. I want to make it clear that this I believe is an important election. We are concerned about the security of the United States. We are concerned about the cause of freedom. But freedom and our security, and the things for which we stand, will never be strong, will never be safe, unless our country is strong. If we are building and moving ahead here in the United States, then we can meet our commitments around the globe. And we will meet those commitments. But if we are standing still, if people are out of work, if we are not moving into the Sixties with the vigor that is required, then the United States stands still, and all those people who look to us as an inspiration wonder whether our high noon has passed, whether our brightest days were in the past, and whether the future belongs perhaps to those who live in the Communist system.
I don't believe it. Mr. Khrushchev says, "Your children will be Communists." He told us that on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a year ago. I believe his children can be free, but it depends on us. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon has said that he wants to spend the next three weeks discussing Quemoy and Matsu. I would be delighted to do so. If Mr. Nixon wants to engage the United States in military action four miles from the mainland of China, if he wants to commit us to the security of those islands which President Eisenhower has never been willing to do, I will talk about it from now on, because war and peace is the great issue. But I also want him to come here to New Castle. (Applause) I want him to talk about Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of the United States. (Applause) I want him to talk about what is happening to this country. I want him to talk about the record of his party. I want him to look at America. I want him to recognize that unless this country is strong, the cause of freedom is not strong. I am not so anxious that he take us into military action on the mainland of China as I am that we maintain our commitments, that we maintain our freedom. I spent long enough in the Pacific Ocean to know the difficulties with which Mr. Nixon is now facing the United States, if he has his way. (Applause) And I do not want any young man in this community involved in a military action on islands that the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Yarnell, said were not worth the bones of a single American soldier. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon will not be in those islands and neither will I, but neither will anybody else if we have our way. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause)