This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the 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.
One week from tonight the 1960 primary trail will be at an end. The voters in Maryland and Oregon -- the only two remaining contested Presidential primaries -- will add their voices to those of New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Indiana, Nebraska and West Virginia.
Whatever their outcome, it is already clear that two basic facts will emerge from the 1960 primary picture:
First, it is clear that primaries are a valuable essential part of the nominating process. Some candidates may stay out -- some delegates may ignore them -- some leaders or writers may consider them unimportant -- but it is clear now that they help educate the nation, the party and the candidates.
No candidate -- who has never been down a West Virginia coal mine -- who has never talked to a family living on surplus food -- or who has never seen first-hand the conditions which grip some parts of that state-- can appreciate fully the action which the next President must take, and take promptly. A primary tests the candidates -- tests their records, their appeal, their approach -- it highlights issues for the campaign -- it even brings problems to the attention of the incumbent President.
The primary is the ordinary voter’s chance -- to speak his own mind, to cast his own vote -- regardless of what he may be told to do by some other self-appointed spokesman for his Party, city, church, union or other organization. These primaries have not been mere hand-shaking contests. They have interested the voters in their Party and in the issues -- and they have shown once again why, for the past 50 years, no President has been elected from either party without entering and winning at least one contested primary. No convention has ever nominated a man who avoided the primaries and elected that man President. And the 1960 Democratic Convention at Los Angeles is going to be no exception.
Secondly, it is clear from these primaries that the people want a change. In New Hampshire more Democratic votes were cast than ever before in the history of that state’s primary. In Wisconsin the Democratic vote more than doubled the Republican total. In Massachusetts it was nearly double. In Pennsylvania more Democrats took the trouble to write in a candidate’s name than ever before in history. In Nebraska more Democrats voted in the Presidential Primary than at any time since 1940 and F.D.R. In Indiana we broke the all-time record for a Democratic vote, reducing the Republicans to the lowest proportion they have ever had in that state. And in West Virginia, the Democrats went to the polls in record numbers.
These records are not the work of any one man or the result of any one issue. Nor are they merely a tribute to our Party. They reflect instead a growing dissatisfaction with things as they are -- they reflect a cry for leadership in Washington. They reflect the dismay of Wisconsin farmers whose income has declined 20% under the Eisenhower-Nixon Administration. They reflect the plea of one-quarter of a million West Virginians who are dependent on government food hand-outs -- $20 a year worth of surplus flour, rice and cornmeal, with some dried eggs, milk and lard for special occasions. The steelworker in Indiana, the coal miner in Pennsylvania, the rancher in Nebraska, voters all over the nation have demonstrated in one primary after another their desire for a change -- and that change is to a Democratic Administration.