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 McNamara, Governor Mennen Williams, Mrs. Hardin, the next Governor, John Swainson, ladies and gentlemen: All of us who are in American politics, all of us who take an interest in our country, all of us have heard of this community and heard of a very great American who came from here, who stood for fighting, dynamic leadership, and who was not a member of my party, James Oliver Kerwood. (Applause and laughter)
I appreciate the chance to come here as the Standard Bearer of the Democratic Party and I come here to the state of Michigan on this occasion. Those of you who live in this state, those of you who are citizens of the United States, know that this is a most important election in a most important time in the life of our country. There are 180,000 citizens of this state who are out of work, who want to find a job. But it is not just in Michigan. It is in West Virginia and Kentucky and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Southern Illinois and Southern Ohio, and the reason is that because the United States has a tremendous capacity to produce goods, but it is not able to consume at a decent price all that we are able to put into the market.
The result has been that in 1954 and in 1958, and now in 1960, our economy has stood still. There are going to have to be found in the next ten years 25,000 new jobs every week for the next ten years, if everybody searching for a job is going to find one. 35 per cent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school never see the inside of a college. Here in Michigan, here in the United States, in the next ten years, we are going to have to build more college dormitory and class rooms than we have built all the rest of the time in the history of this country put together, so great is the increase in our population, so great is the increase in the number of boys and girls who will be going to college. And some should go to college who really have not had a chance to go.
So great are the problems facing the United States, so great is the dependence of people all over the globe upon us, that I believe nothing less than our best would be good enough. I come as the Standard Bearer of the oldest political party in the history of the world. I come at a difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country, and I say that while this is a great country, I believe it must be a greater country, and while it is a powerful country, I believe it must be more powerful. Every American who seeks a job should have an opportunity to find one.
I spent a month in West Virginia running in the primary. There are 100,000 families in West Virginia who live on surplus food packages from the government which average for a family of four in the United States, not 500 miles from this state, $6.50 per month per family of four, which comes to 5 cents a day, per individual. (Response from the audience.)
You can boo it, but don’t eat it. (Applause) Let me say that you can’t possibly dispose of problems, of need, of unemployment, of Americans who are experiencing difficulty, by booing. You have to do something about it. That is what this election is all about. The decision is not mine alone. You can decide what you want to do. The decision is yours. Boos, shouts, scream, applause – on November 8 you have to make a judgment as to what kind of a country you want, whether you feel what we are doing now is good enough, whether you feel that the prestige and power of the United States in the world is rising fast enough, whether you are satisfied to see the United States – and Cuba, 90 miles from the shores of the United States, dominated by a Communist satellite, whether you are satisfied to see two countries of Africa independent in the last two years now supporting the Communist Party, whether you are satisfied to see Laos, upon whom the future of all Indochina may rest, now slipping, tonight, not a year ago, tonight, and the next few days, maybe slipping beyond the Iron Curtain.
These are not matters that any American in 1960 can boo about. They can think about them. They can decide what they want to do. They can decide if what we are doing now is good enough. I think it is not. I think the United States, if it is going to maintain its independence, if it is going to maintain the independence of those who look to us, I don’t want to see the United States – or historians say that in 1960 we stood still, that we accepted a second position, that we did not meet our responsibilities as a free citizens, that we did not make a careful judgment in this election. Of what the two alternatives are, and let me make them clear, they are between a party which runs on a slogan “You never had it so good” and a party which I represent which runs on the slogan we must do better. (Applause) And it is on that basis, after serving this country for 18 years, that I come to this community, rain, shine, day or night, and ask your support. Thank you. (Applause)