This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single draft of the speech, in the form of a reading copy, exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Senator Kennedy: Dante Fascell, Senator Smathers, Congressman Rogers, Fred Dickinson, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming out here this morning. I think the reason that you are here is the same reason that I run for the Presidency of the United States this year in 1960, and that is because all of us are devoted to our country, wish to serve it, wish the best for it, wish it to be secure, wish it to live in peace, wish it to move forward. And that is the service which we hope to render to this country this year. (Applause)
On different occasions in our history the American people have selected one party or the other, depending on their judgment of the times and on the program and viewpoint of the party and its leaders. Now let me make it very clear that Mr. Nixon and I disagree very basically on the position of the United States, on what must be done to increase our security, and what must be done to maintain the peace.
This a serious dispute, which involved the lives and the fortune of everyone here. When you make your judgment on November 8 as to which candidate and which party you want to lead, you should, I think, bear the following things in mind. Mr. Nixon and I disagree on the position of the United States in the world today. He says our prestige is never higher, that we have never been stronger, that the tide in world history is moving in our direction, and that if we continue our present policies, by 1965 and 1970, the United States will be secure and the world will begin to move in the direction of freedom.
I could not disagree more. I could not believe that that is the world doctrine at this time - (response from the audience) (applause) The fact of the matter is that in the last eight years not a single Soviet soldier has crossed the frontiers of Russia or their present territory, and yet Cuba, Laos, in part Iraq, their influence in Ghana and Guinea, their influence in Latin America, their influence in Africa, their influence in Asia, their influence at the United Nations, their military position, their scientific position, their production of scientists and engineers have all steadily increased in relation to ours, and the judgment that you must make as you sit here in Florida, 90 miles from Cuba, eight minutes by jet - you have to determine whether you can support the leadership of a candidate and a party which runs on a slogan of "We've never had it so good."
I don't run on that slogan. (applause) I don't run on that slogan. I have the greatest confidence in this country. In my judgment the United States can meet any burden, can meet any challenge, can meet any responsibility, but it cannot possibly do so unless the President of the United States and the country move to finish the unfinished business of our society, recognize the perils that we are in, recognize the challenges, determine that this country shall move again, determine that we shall work in the Sixties, determine that we shall be in this country an inspiration to all those who wish to be free and to hold out a helping hand to all those who desire to follow our example. (Applause)
Mr. Castro in Cuba is not alone in the threat. Why was the candidate for the Presidency of Brazil in the recent election - why did he feel compelled in the middle of his election to pay a journey to Havana and call on Mr. Castro? It was because he knew in his own country there was sufficient support for Castro, there was sufficient advantage in looking anti-American, that he felt compelled to gain that support. Anyone who sits in this country, who reads the newspaper, who has children, who is concerned about the future, who desires to maintain our peace, who desires to maintain our freedom, who desires to maintain our security, and can choose to stand still in 1961, I believe is wholly wrong and I disagree with it. (Applause)
I come to Florida today where my family has lived for 30 years, where they have already voted for one of the two candidates, and I feel it looks pretty good at least to get two votes in Florida. (Applause and laughter) But I come here to this state which reaches like an arm toward Latin America, which is surrounded by sea, the water which laps Miami, laps Africa and Latin America and Europe. This state here is an advancing, moving and progressive state. Its brightest days are bound to come in the years pf the 1960's and 1970's, and what I feel we have to do, and I say this after 14 years in the Congress, after serving in the Senate for eight years with both of your Senators, in the House of Representatives with your Congressman, in my judgment this great country deserves the best from all of us.
It is a great country, but I believe it must be greater, and it is a powerful country, but I believe it must be more powerful, and I believe that our responsibility in the 1960's is to restore to the world the image of America as a society on the move, a society whose high noon is just ahead, not a society which stands still, which begins to lose its vitality, which begins to lose its image as a moving society, a moving country.
So these are the basic matters which separate us, and it is to your good judgment, your sense of responsibility, your concern for your country, your identification with the cause of freedom, that we entrust this decision on November 8. I can assure you that if we are successful, we will give leadership to this country and Florida, and the United States will move again. Thank you. (Applause)