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.
Mr. Chairman, the next Congressman, Henry Dooley, Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, Congressmen Green and Connor, ladies and gentlemen: It is nine in the morning and this will be a quiet, dignified speech. (Laughter) The interesting thing about campaigning in Pennsylvania is that we gave a speech at some banquet at two o’clock in the morning and now we are starting at the o’clock of two in the morning. But whether it is two o’clock in the morning or 9 o’clock in the morning, I believe that the morning, I believe that the message in a real sense, is the same. That is that this election on next Tuesday, November 8, a week from Tuesday, involves the selection of a President not only in the traditional sense, but also involves the selection of a President of the United States which is the leader of the free world. Back in President Truman’s Library in Missouri, which I visited a month ago, he has five hats which the President of the United States wears, the legislative leader, the employment leader, the leader of the nation, the leader of the free world, the commander in chief, the President of the United States.
After 14 years in the Congress without any way downgrading the Congress, there isn’t any doubt that the center of action in the American Constitutional System is the President of the United States. The Constitution places the greatest responsibility for the conduct of our foreign affairs, particularly upon the President, and unless the President of the United States speaks for the nation, unless the President of the United States is able to personify the force of the nation, then the nation does not move ahead, does not move to accomplish its unfinished business, does not give an image of vitality and strength throughout the world.
One of the issues which has been discussed with the greatest frequency in this campaign, and one of the issues on which Mr. Nixon and I have differed, has been the position of the United States in the world, all summed up in the word “prestige”. By prestige I do not mean popularity. I do not think it makes so much difference whether we are loved personally or be loved around the world. What does make a difference, however, is that the people of the world who desire to be free, Africa, Latin America, Western Europe, Asia, the Middle East, I want them to look at the United States, not only as a powerful leading nation, but also a nation which personifies the ideal of what freedom can accomplish. Prestige is important, but if these people upon whom we depend for our security, our support, and ultimately the peace, ever begin to get the idea that we are tired, uncertain, not sure where we are going, without purpose, how can we lead a free alliance? As the Bible says, who prepares for battle when the trumpet gives an uncertain sound.
No matter how many speeches Mr. Nixon may make about how high our prestige is today, the fact of the matter is that the State Department’s own survey taken this summer shows such a loss in our influence throughout the world that this administration has been unwilling to release it. The New York Times carried one this morning which shows – this week, which shows that only seven per cent of the people of England and France thought we were now ahead of the Soviet Union in science, that a majority of people in all the ten countries polled, with the exception of one, thought that by 1970 the Soviet Union would be ahead of us, militarily and scientifically.
If the people of the world ever begin to get the idea that our high noon was in the past, that the balance of power and the flow of history is moving in the direction of our adversaries, we have lost then a decisive battle. We depend upon the free support of people, but they also depend upon a leadership which is certain, which has power, which has strength. What you have to decide on November 8 is do you believe that Mr. Nixon with the campaign that he has conducted, with the statements which he has made, which have been so far removed from reality, can move this nation in 1961 as it must be moved if we are going to maintain our position in the free world? (Comment from the audience)
I must say I feel the same as you do. I have been trying to get that opinion over.
I think it is important what kind of campaign a candidate runs. I spent some time in England before World War II and I recall very clearly the election of 1935, when Winston Churchill was warning of the danger of a rearmed Germany, Stanley Baldwin, the head of the Conservative Party of England at that time, chose to go to the people in that election telling them that all was well, that their future was peaceful, and, as a result, the British lost two years which could have been devoted to preparing for action. And they had a narrow escape.
I don’t want to play with thin margins. I don’t think that any candidate for the Office of Presidency in 1960 should go to the people with anything but the truth, and then the people can decide what they want. The decision you must make is, what kind of a country do you want? What kind of a position do you believe we should occupy in the world? I believe the position that we occupy in the world and our chance for peace is directly related to the kind of society that we have here in the United States. If we have a country which is on the move, if we have an educational system second to none, if we can attract people to our government, both in this country and throughout the world, who are motivated by intellectual curiosity, concern for the future foresight, responsibility, then quite obviously the United States begin to go forward again.
Do you know that ten years ago we brought more foreign students to the United States then we do today under the governmental program? Do you know the Soviet Union broadcasts ten times as many programs in Spanish to Latin America as we do? Do you know we had more people stationed in West Germany in 1957 than throughout all of Africa? I don’t believe that this administration has been foresighted. I don’t believe that they have understood the kind of revolutionary world in which we live. If they had, we would not be second in space. We would not find ourselves today with six new countries of Africa, all members of the United Nations, that do not have a single United States diplomat in residence in any of the countries.
One of the results of this indifference to the whole change of circumstance in one continent has been on the question of the admission of Red China not one of the new nations voted with us. All this, our position through the world, our influence in space and on the globe, is all tied to the kind of society that we run here. With me move forward with vigor in the United States, if we develop our economy here in the country, if we provide a strong and fruitful existence for our people here, if we, the President of the United States and the people, set before ourselves the goals which we must accomplish in the next ten years, then I believe the United States can speak with vigor, determination and decisiveness throughout the world. So I come here today and ask your support. This is not merely a contest between Mr. Nixon and myself, and in a very real sense it is not a contest just between the two parties. It is a contest between the comfortable and the concerned, those who are satisfied with things as they are, and those on the other hand who wish to move forward. So I come here today and ask your support in this campaign, support for the candidate for the Congress in this district, but most of all your support for our country in a difficult time, one which can be, in Mr. Dickens’ phrase, the worst of times or the best of times. In the final analysis it depends on us and what we want for our country, for myself, what I want, is for the United States to meet its responsibilities at home and abroad and for the United States to move again. Thank you. (Applause)