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.
Senator Kennedy: Distinguished guests, Mr. Ed Mills, Governor Meyner, Thorn Lord, who I hope will be the next representative from the State of New Jersey, who will be a good and responsible and progressive one (applause), my colleagues in Congress with whom I have served for nearly 14 years, Pete Rodino (applause), that aging fullback from Brown, Hugh Addonizio (applause), both men have stood for the interests of the people of their districts and the people of the United States, and I know you are going to return them by overwhelming odds. (Applause) And we have a chance to elect a Democratic Congressman, and they are very important. Any one of you who followed the session in August knows that we lost vote after vote and we have in the past by 10 or 12 votes in the House of Representatives, minimum wage, the labor bill, all the rest. We need about 10 new Democratic Congressmen, and one of them can be Bob Peacock from the State of New Jersey. (Applause)
Mayor Carline – and now I want to say a word for Kennedy. I want you to get out there and show (applause) – if there is any group in the United States that should know the importance of this election, it is the men and women who are here today. It is your people – it is your people. (Applause) It is your people who are thrown out of work when there is a recession. It is your people who retire without medical care when they are older. It is your children and the children of your people who do not get to college if we don’t pass a loan program or if we don’t build enough buildings. It is your people who are affected by the problems before this election. It is your people who are denied equal opportunity and a fair chance to develop their talents. You know the issues of this campaign. You have lived with them for 25 years, and you know how important it is, with a Democratic House coming up, a Democratic Senate coming up, you know how important it is that we have a President of the United States who believes in progress. (Applause)
I don’t care what promises, commitments, position papers or speeches the Vice President of the United States makes in this campaign. His record is written on the statute books of this country. (Response from the audience) I have served in the Congress from the day that he came there, and I know that record pretty well. He makes a speech in New York three weeks ago saying that he believes in a progressive housing bill, and in the course of that position paper states the Housing Act of 1949 works well. He forgets that I remember that he voted against it. (Applause)
When he talks, though he has not been talking much this way since his trip to South Carolina, when he talks about civil rights and about equality of opportunity for all Americans, and how he fought for it in the Government Contracts Committee, I happen to remember seven times in the House of Representatives in the late forties he voted against the Fair Employment Practices Commission that came to the floor of the Congress, that your Congressman voted for. (Applause)
I do not believe in leap year progressivism, every 4 years at election time. I believe that day in and day out the record is written, and Mr. Nixon leads a political party that in the mid-thirties voted 95 percent against a 25-cent minimum wage, and he leads that same party that in August of this year voted 90 percent in the House of Representatives against $1.25 minimum wage. (Applause)
Now let me make it clear: You, Addonizio, and Pete Rodino and the others would agree, a House and Senate which is Democratic does not provide any assurance at all, any action on any legislation, unless you have a President working with that House and Senate all the time. (Applause) Twice we passed an area-depressed bill; twice the President vetoed it. Both parties have been promising aid to education for 8 years, and it has not been done. If I ever saw assurance for inaction at the time when action is essential in this country’s history, it is to divide the responsibility of our National Government.
I come here today and ask your support. (Applause) That isn’t enough. This is a close election. It will be decided by 1 or 2 percent very probably in most of the major States. Now, when Mr. Gallup took his poll a week or 10 days ago, among all those who answered he gave the Democrats 49 to 45, and then he threw out, scientifically threw out that 4 percent who he predicted would not vote, based on previous history, their economic condition, and all the rest. Do you know what the final figures then were? 49-49. Do you know what the 4 percent came out of? Us, out of the Democratic Party. Can you tell me, any one of you, that we can throw away 4 percent of the vote in New Jersey and still carry it? (Response from the audience.) We can’t. We have to go get that 4 percent this year. We have to encourage them to vote. We have to go and do the work which is necessary on Tuesday. This State will be won or lost by a narrow margin and so will the country, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts – in Massachusetts we might do better than that, but in the other States (laughter) if we don’t, we might as well stay home. (Laughter.)
But 4 percent, four out of every hundred, they are people that you are in touch with, they are people that the members of your union are in touch with. We have to get them out to vote. There is not 1 day’s work that you will do, whether you are a citizen or whatever you may be in your occupation, that will have as much importance on your life as the selection of a President of the United States in the next 4 years. On his judgment, on his foresight, on his sense of responsibility, on his vigor, on his willingness to work with the Congress, depends in great measure the welfare of this country, its progress, the welfare of its citizens. It may be a hard, cold winter in 1961. Those of you who work in the UAW know that we are building more cars than we have built for 5 or 6 years and we are not selling them, and we are going to have a million unsold cars by the middle of November at the present rate, and then they will begin to lay off when the election is over. Steel is 55 percent, houses are down 30 percent, budget estimates down $4 billion, $1 billion of gold flowed out of the country since June. We have a lot of problems coming across the horizon and they are bigger than a man’s hand.
Tuesday is one day where you can do something about it, and I come here tonight and ask not just for your support, but I ask you to help us move New Jersey and the United States forward again. (Applause)