This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. Two copies each of the press release and reading text of the speech exist in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. All four texts are essentially the same.
This rally marks the official beginning of the 1960 Presidential Campaign.
From now until November 8 we are taking our case to the forum in which it belongs - where there is no threat of veto - where there is no parliamentary obstruction - and where we will be successful - and that is the forum of the American people.
Until a Democrat is in the White House, the Republicans can block action on an adequate minimum wage - they can water down medical care for the aged - they can play politics with civil rights - they can block action on a decent housing bill and a good school bill. But they cannot block the American people on November 8th
The theme of this campaign is going to be action - action at home to keep the pace with our growing needs, to help the unfortunate, to build a still greater nation - and action abroad, to match the rise in Communist power, to meet the turbulent revolutions reshaping our globe.
I believe the American people elect a President to act. I believe the crises of the 1960’s require him to act. And I believe the voters all across the country in November 1960 are going to call for action.
There are times in the life of a nation - as in the life of any family - when we simply want to get away from it all. We want to relax, to forget about our problems, to shut out the noise and the confusion, and simply count our blessings. Perhaps we have been going through such a time in the life of our nation. Perhaps in 1952 we needed such a time. But the 1960’s are not going to be that kind of time.
For this is not the same nation it was in 1952. Automation was little more than a word then - now it means unemployment and hardship for untold thousands of workers. The pressure on our schools - the plight of our elderly - the cost-price squeeze on our farmers - the decline of our cities -the high cost of medical care - these are all newer and greater problems and pressures which in 1960 are still growing and changing and demanding new leadership.
The world is changing, too. The old era has ended. The old ways will not do. In 1952 most of us had not even heard of Nasser, Lumumba, Castro or even Khrushchev. We did not know of any serious Communist problems in the Middle East, in Africa or in Latin America.
But now there are new leaders, new nations, new weapons of destruction. The balance of power is shifting. The gap between rich and poor is growing. And the world in which we are only a tiny minority is restless, watching and on the move.
We must move, too. This nation is ready to start moving again. Our vacation is over. Our relaxation is at an end. We are ready to face the facts - to shoulder our burdens - to tackle the job of building a new and better world beyond the New Frontier.
But [if] we are going to undertake that job, a stand-still philosophy will not do. A do-nothing party will not do. Four more years of a Republican President blocking action by a Democratic Congress will not do. What we need - what we seek - what this campaign is intended to bring - is action, instead of drift - leadership, not salesmanship - and dedication, in place of mediocrity.
We are not talking simply about a political contest. I am in this campaign as your candidate for President of the United States. That is the greatest office in the world. That is the office which historically, constitutionally and logically always must be the fountain-head of our leadership. The Congress cannot do the job alone - that ought to be clear to everyone by now. If this nation is to reassert the initiative in foreign affairs, it must be Presidential initiative. If we are to rebuild our prestige in the eyes of the world, it must be Presidential prestige. And if we are to regain progressive leadership on our domestic problems, it must be Presidential leadership.
But this is not a one-man crusade. The New Frontier is not to be won by one man - or two or even the leaders of one political party. It is a challenge to all Americans - to all who are willing to commit themselves to the future instead of the past - to all who find their duty in the harsh realities of our times.
For these are harsh times. The future will not be easier. Our burdens will not lessen. Our enemies will not weaken. But I cannot believe that history will say of our time: "They were the greatest, richest, strongest nation on earth - but they stood still too long."
I believe that history will write a different story. I believe that history will mark this as a turning-point in the life of our nation and in the pursuit of peace. I believe that with your help - with your efforts, joining the efforts of millions like you all over America - we can make this a time of greatness - a time of which history will truly say, when reciting our perils, that we lived by the Scriptural injunction: "Every one shall help his neighbor, and shall say to his Brother: Be of good courage."
I call upon you - not as Democrats, not as Californians, but as neighbors and brothers - to help make that prophecy a reality.