This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One draft of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the press release can be found here.
We meet here in a period of great peril for the world. At no time since the Korean War have the voices been as angry or as menacing. The hysterical tirade of Premier Khrushchev against President Eisenhower is but one of the signs of an uneasiness which grips us and the rest of the world.
We also meet here at a time when our nation is again going through the process of picking a new President. You are here today as part of that great purpose.
No one can have lived through the events of the last six weeks without realizing the tremendous power and responsibility of the office of the Presidency. It is the center of action - in a time when action is needed.
The cobwebs of inaction over a period of seven long years which have lead us to a position when the head of a foreign power can insult the President of the United States must be swept away by a dynamic, tough and vigorous Democratic administration which dares to do the things which are needed to restore the lost power and prestige of the United States.
It is well to look at the record of this administration over the past seven years. The basic problems which confront us go back seven years - not seven weeks when the current crisis began. And their correction will be many years in coming.
But at the same time I hope we do not concentrate our efforts on investigating the past - or belaboring what cannot now be undone. There are too many crises in the future to blind our eyes weeping over the crises of the past. There are too many things that can be done to waste our efforts on events we can no longer affect.
There will be more meetings - there must be, when either side can destroy the world - meetings at the Summit, at the UN and at a lower level. But let us never meet again under the illusion that platitudes are a substitute for strength - or that personal goodwill can overcome irreconcilable conflicts of interest.
If the next Summit Meeting is to be more than a showcase - if its purpose is to prove to the Soviets that negotiation is preferable to aggression - then the road back to the Summit is a long, hard road indeed.
For whatever questions may be raised about our own mistakes, the basic question is: Why did the USSR, or some force within it - encouraged no doubt by the Communist Chinese - believe it to be to their advantage to break up the Summit and resume the Cold War? There can be only one answer: They apparently believed that the balance of world power was shifting their way - that the pressures and threats of the Cold War could thus gain them more than bargaining as equals at the Summit.
Our task, therefore, is one of rebuilding our strength, and the strength of the Free World. The hour is late - but the agenda is long:
-- We must make invulnerable a nuclear retaliatory power second to none.
-- We must regain the ability to intervene effective and swiftly in any limited war anywhere in the world.
-- We must rebuild NATO into a viable and consolidated force capable of deterring any type of attack.
-- We must strengthen the Free World's economy, in terms of both greater Western unity, and greater joint efforts to frustrate Communist hopes for chaos in the underdeveloped world.
-- We must encourage, not hamper, the tidal waves of nationalism sweeping Africa and Asia, so that each emerging nation knows that America, not Russia or China, is the home of the Declaration of Independence.
-- And finally, here at home, we must strengthen our own resources - expand our economy at a faster rate - improve our education and research - enlarge our horizons with equal opportunity for all Americans - and give our people a sense of National purpose and National determination.
All this must be done - and more - before we return to the Summit.