This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. Two identical copies of the speech exist in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. The text appears to be a verbatim transcript of the speech as given.
Ladies and gentlemen, Congressman Foley, Congressman Lankford, Senator, I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming here tonight and also to express my hope that the State of Maryland will send back to the United States Congress Congressman Foley and Congressman Lankford, who have served their districts and have served the United States. (Applause)
I come here tonight as a candidate for the Office of the Presidency of the United States. (Applause)
And I run for that office with full recognition that the United States is moving through a most difficult and dangerous time, but can move through it, I believe, with renewed vigor and confidence if it is given leadership, and I do not believe that Mr. Nixon, since his nomination has indicated any understanding or willingness to face up to the problems that this country faces. (Applause).
I find myself running against many candidates. I run against the "Old Nixon" and the "New Nixon." I run against a man who in May could write to Clarence Buddington Kelland of Arizona that he had been all his life, and I quote him, "an economic conservative," and who could say this week in California that he was a "practical progressive".
I run against a man who wanted to send American troops into Indochina in 1954 and yet could say last year at the time of difficulty in Tibet that he was unconcerned about the Communist advance in that area. I run against a man who on this desperate occasion in the life of the Free World can say that our prestige has never been higher, that our strength has been unequalled, that his country is on the ascendancy, that, if UN and other standards are used to test our prestige, it is secure and could not be better. I could not disagree more. (Applause)
It seems to me that the basic responsibility for the next President of the United States is to do what Franklin Roosevelt did in the 30's, to set before our country its unfinished business. And only the President of the United States could do that, not the Senate. I represent Massachusetts in the Senate and Senator Engle represents California, but only the President of the United States speaks for Massachusetts and California, only the President of the United States speaks for the United States.
I believe it incumbent upon the next President to set before us the things we must do in order to maintain our strength, in order to build a more vigorous society, in order that the people of our country may express better the real opportunities of freedom, and in order that we may hold out ourselves to the world as an example as we sit on the most conspicuous stage of what freedom would really be. That is the assignment and the burden that all of us, as citizens of this country, must bear in the 1960's.
I do not run for the Presidency with any expectation that life will be easy for any of us, but I do run with the greatest possible confidence in the vitality of our system, in the ability to move forward, in our willingness to assume all challenges that come our way, once we are given the direction, once we are given the leadership, once we are informed of what our goals must be if we are going to protect ourselves and those who look to us for help. (Applause)
I think Franklin Roosevelt set before us in his second acceptance speech in 1936 the issues, which separate our two parties. In that speech he said, "Governments can err. Presidents can make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the science [sic] of the cold blooded and the science [sic] of the warm hearted in a different scale." Better the occasional default of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the eyes of its own indifference. (Applause)
And I believe, in the plight of our schools, the decline of American agriculture, our inability at this competitive time to maintain full employment and full use of our facilities, in our policy of no new starts in the development of our natural resources, in our willingness to accept a secondary position in the development of scientists and engineers, and the building of our cities, I believe that we have followed too often in this administration to words which T. S. Eliot wrote in his poem, "The rock and the wind shall say, 'These were a decent people, their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.'" We can do better than that. (Applause)
So, I come here tonight to southern Maryland and ask your support in this campaign. I ask you to join us. (Applause)
All those who, regardless of age, look to the future; all those who, regardless of their party, are concerned about the fate of their country; all those who wish us to meet our responsibilities both at home and abroad; all those who wish the United States to move again. We come here and ask your help.
During the American revolution of 1776, Thom Paine said, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." Now, I believe in the 1960's we return that service and the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. I am confident that this country will move ahead. I am confident that the 1960's can be not as Dickens says, "The worst days," but the best of days.
I am confident that the Democratic Party will be called once again to assume its historic task of providing leadership in a dangerous time in the life of our country.
Thank you. (Applause)