This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single text of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the speech can be found here.
It is a long way from North Dakota - where I spoke last week - to New Jersey. But, even though the distance is great, much is the same. For here, as in the Dakotas, and in all the many states which I have visited in the past few months, the American people are aroused - change is in the air - and the Democratic Party is preparing for its great, triumphant march toward the White House. And I know that New Jersey will be leading that march in November.
But let me remind you that forty-seven years ago the Democratic Party was also on the road to a great national victory. And when that victory had been achieved - when the Democrats found that for the first time in the Twentieth Century the power and the prestige and the pomp were theirs - in the midst of that jubilation, President Woodrow Wilson sounded a more somber note: "The success of a party means little," he said, "except when the nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose."
Today we are again on the eve of a great victory - but, if that victory is to be worthy of the struggle we must also have a great purpose. What shall that purpose be?
Of course we must modernize and extend the great social welfare programs of the New Deal - expanded social security benefits, medical care for the aged, higher minimum wages, adequate unemployment compensation - a decent life for our workers, food for our hungry, and an opportunity to achieve a decent life under freedom for all Americans. This is the heritage of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman - and these are programs which we must and shall carry on.
But our purpose - our program for the sixties - must go beyond the great, visionary policies of the New Deal. For today we have new problems, new challenges, new dangers - and the old answers are no longer enough. The Republicans have not given us these new answers - and by this failure have demonstrated that they are more dedicated New Dealers than any Democrat, so warmly have they grasped the programs of the thirties, refusing to move beyond them. Mr. Nixon has no solution and he has not even responded to Mr. Rockefeller's suggestion that he look for one. But the Democratic Party can and will provide solutions for today's problems just as it answered the problems of yesterday. And we are going to begin to put those solutions into action in January - from the White House.
For, although the specific programs of the New Deal cannot meet all the challenges of the sixties, the philosophy that underlay those programs is the key to our future course. The New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt pointed out, is not new at all, "but an old deal, old as the earliest aspirations of humanity for liberty and justice and the good life." And those same ancient hopes will be our guide to the perilous years ahead.
For the next American President will not only be the symbol of hope to all Americans - he will be the central figure of the entire free world - the man who leads the destinies of a nation which alone stands between the non-communist peoples of the world, and the remorseless forces of communist despotism. Across his desk will come decisions affecting not only our welfare and our survival - but the welfare and the survival of the non-communist world. He alone will have the opportunity to make the American dream of freedom and plenty into the hope of the world - and perhaps, into a reality for millions of people in all parts of the globe.
The next President must attempt to do for the world what the New Deal did for America - to protect and extend freedom and equality, and bring to every man the hope for a future of growing economic opportunity. And the price of his failure at this task may well be communist domination of much of the world.
That is why I have stated my conviction that the central issue of this campaign is the Presidency itself. The choice before the voters is whether we are to have a Presidency which is a place of dynamic, creative leadership, a place where policies are made and carried out - where our world responsibilities can be met - and office in the great tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman - or whether we are to have four more years of drift and indecision - of failure to lead, and failure to progress toward solution of the great problems of today's world. I believe that the people will choose leadership - and that means that they will choose the Democratic Party.
For Mr. Nixon - the Republican's lone surviving heir to the throne - has said that he intends to carry out Republican policies. Let us hold him to that statement. I do not believe this country will accept four more years of dwindling farm income - four more years of islands of poverty and hunger in the midst of American plenty - four more years of government by slogans which conceal rather than illuminate difficulties - four more years of dwindling prestige abroad and dwindling strength at home. No, America cannot afford these policies, America does not want these policies, and the American people are going to reject those policies in November.
The Republicans have charged that the Democratic Party is trying to promise something to everyone. But I say that it is the Republicans who are promising the impossible. They tell the American people that we can meet our world commitments, and strengthen our defenses without sacrifice or effort. They say that prosperity and economic growth do not take work - that dangers should not cause concern - that their leaders will solve all problems, eliminate all difficulties and, at the same time, cut our taxes.
These are irresponsible promises - promises which cannot be fulfilled - and promises which the American people are not going to believe this November.
We Democrats have our promises too - but a different kind of promise. We hold out the hope of a country with an expanding economy - where no group of Americans will know the pangs of hunger or the despair of poverty. And we also carry the hope of a world where freedom grows stronger - and where the free world is able to endure the dangers of an expansive, militant communism. But we do not say these are easy goals - or that they can be achieved without sacrifice, and effort, and vision, and leadership. We know that we must reinstill in the American people that same iron determination which drove men across the ocean to found a country and subdue a continent. And we know that the many programs which are essential to these goals - the increased defense programs, the expanded economic aid programs, the research and the peace programs, and all the rest, can never succeed without the active participation of the American people - without a determination to strive and a willingness to sacrifice which has rarely been asked of a peacetime America.
These are our promises - we do not offer peace and prosperity at no cost. But we do offer the leadership which can bring high rewards for much work. And I believe that this is the kind of promise the American people will believe - and will vote for in November.
A great Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, knew that great goals were not won without great effort. He said: "The Twentieth Century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely . . . ease . . . if we shrink from the hard contests . . . then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by and will win for themselves the domination of the world."
To make sure that America is not passed by, is the great purpose of today's Democratic Party - that is the real goal of our victory. Today we are working for a new era of Democratic rule - but that rule, and our triumph, will only be meaningful if we can translate victory at the polls into victory for the American people and the cause of world freedom.