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.
Ladies and gentlemen, Warren Ballade, who I hope will be the Congressman from this district, Mrs. Granahan, the present Congresswoman -- can anybody here hear this? (Response from the audience) Congressman Green -- did anybody hear that? (Response from the audience) What did I say? (Response from the audience) All right. I just wanted to make sure you were listening. (Laughter)
Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Clark, Governor Lawrence, what happened to my speech? (Laughter) Ladies and gentlemen, I come here today, rain or shine, to carry on a campaign for the most important office in the United States. It does not make any difference to any of us, I am sure, whether it is raining, shining, night or day, because this is an important election. (Applause) What you have to decide, as voters, a week from Tuesday, you have to make your decision on which candidate, which party, which political philosophy, should lead the United States in the 1960’s, and you have to make a judgment specially as to which candidate -- somebody is pouring water on us -- (laughter) -- which candidate’s judgment, foresight, viewpoint, vigor, should govern, and lead this country in the 1960’s
I have several disagreements with Mr. Nixon that are important to you, I think, in trying to make up your minds. The other day, about two months ago, Mr. Nixon, in disputing my statements that I thought that we had not had sufficient progress in recent years, speaking in Portland, Oregon, said, “if you think the United States has stood still, who built the largest shopping center in the world?”
Well, now, the answer to that question is what we did, but the Soviet Union built the largest dam, the largest missile, the largest army, and it was even suggested by Mr. Nixon in his famous debate with Mr. Khrushchev -- and I wish he would debate me for the fifth time -- (applause) -- but in his famous debate -- I find some difficult[y] understanding why a candidate who is running on a program that he can stand up and debate Mr. Khrushchev is so unwilling to come and debate the American people. (Applause)
I understand that Mr. Nixon issued a statement today saying that he would debate me if I would say I was sorry that I said he would not debate me. (Laughter) First he wanted to discuss just Cuba, and we said, “Well, we thought we ought to discuss some other subjects.” Then he wanted the Vice Presidential candidates in there, and I said that was fine. Then he wanted an hour and a half, and I said that was fine. I said I would go to any city on any date and I said that was fine. Then he said, “You have to say you are sorry you said I would not debate.” Mr. Nixon can debate or not debate, whatever he wants to do. I am not going to drag him up in front of the microphone (Applause)
In this famous debate with Mr. Khrushchev he put his finger in Mr. Khrushchev’s nose and said, “You may be ahead of us in rockets, but we are ahead of you in color television.” (Laughter) I would rather take my television black and white and have the largest rockets in the world. (Applause) Mr. Nixon has also said that it is dangerous and naïve, and all the rest of the adjectives, for us to suggest that we may not be doing as well as we should in the world. But who do you think said this in February of this year, in South Bend, Indiana? “Glossing over weaknesses which we may have, denying that they exist, is not only naïve, but it is really dangerous.” That was Mr. Nixon’s pre-convention. And no more unwarranted attack -- he has been criticizing me for downgrading the United States, I don’t Downgrade the United States. I don’t downgrade the United States. I downgrade the Republican leadership. (Applause) And who do you think says these words, in 1952, in October: “This nation has lost its military superiority, and the people of the world are five to one against us, instead of being nine to one on our side, as was the case when the war ended”
I never made any rash, imprudent statement like that, but Mr. Nixon made them in the campaign of 1952, running against Democrats. (Applause) The fact of the matter is that these are difficult, dangerous times, in which we have great opportunities and great challenges, and the only way that I know that a free society can meet its responsibilities is for those who seek to lead a free society to speak the truth.
What is the possible use in taking a survey of foreign opinion, which we took this summer, and then putting it in the State Department and not letting the people have the country see it. What contribution does that make to the Government of a free society? Mr. Nixon said, “American prestige is at an all time high,” two weeks ago. He denied there was a recent government survey that proved the contrary. Then he said the government survey was taken in 1957, after Sputnik. Now we find out it was taken in July of this summer, and the New York Times has printed some of it in the last two days. And it shows that only 7 per cent of the people of France and England believe the United States is now ahead of the Russians in science. It shows a majority of the people of the world believe the Soviet Union will be ahead of us militarily by 1970. We should know these things. If we seek to lead people, and they begin to feel that the balance of power is turning against us, how many supporters will we have in the world? What good is it to bury it in the State Department until after election? Let us have it now and then the people can make up their minds. (Applause)
No 3, as Mr. Nixon said we are first in space and the strongest power militarily in the world. But the fact of the matter is -- and then he said we put up 28 shots into the space and the Soviets have put up 8. But the question is what is the tonnage of their shots? What was the timing of their shots? The fact is in his recent position paper on space, he said, “The space gap is not yet closed.” If Mr. Nixon would debate, we would really have an interesting discussion. (Applause and laughter)
Then, No. 3, Mr. Nixon said we are enjoying unprecedented prosperity. I would like to have him make that speech in some of the places I was in yesterday, coal mine areas, factories, 50 per cent of capacity in steel, even less than that in coal. But then the White House added, “Unemployment is widely disappearing. We are nearing the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of our land.” This year we built 30 per cent less homes than last year. This year we are only using 50 per cent of the capacity of our steel mills. I believe we will do better than that and I believe we have to do better than that if we are going to meet our responsibilities in the 1960’s. (Applause)
The whole point of his is that this is an important election. You have to make up your judgment yourselves. Nothing that I can say, nothing that Mr. Nixon can say, especially on different days -- nothing that he can say or I can say in the final analysis can make you decide better than you can decide yourselves, what the position of your country, what your view is of the future.
Our greatness is based on the final premise that the people themselves, working among themselves, making their final decision, will make a judgment which fights the best interest of our country. If we did not accept that premise, then the whole concept upon which a democracy is based would be hollow. But we accept that promise, we believe it, that the majority of the people, electing whoever they think best to serve their country, in making that judgment you have to make your own conclusion about where your country is and what it needs. If you feel that what we are now doing is good enough, if you feel that our position in the world is sound enough, and on the rise, then Mr. Nixon is your man. (Response from the audience) I have that same view. (Laughter)
If you feel that Mr. Nixon is your man (laughter) -- but if you have the same view that I do, that this great country of ours has to do better, that we have to maintain and build and develop a strong enough society here, not only to sustain ourselves, but also to sustain all those who look to us for hope, I believe 1960 can be the worst of years or the best of years. I believe it can be the best of years. I believe that the 1960’s can be recorded as years in which the great Republic moved ahead. (Applause)
Therefore, I come to this shopping center, which is not the largest in the world, but it is large enough, to ask your support, I appreciate your coming here in the rain. We are engaged in a most important function. We are engaged in our great responsibility as citizens. My responsibility as leader of the Democratic Party in this campaign is to present our case. Your responsibility on November 8 is to make your own good judgment about what this country must do. Thank you. (Applause)