This is a transcript of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
I come here this morning to ask you to join with me in a great common task - the task of rebuilding the strength, the prestige and the vitality of the United States. The effort to which I summon you will not be an easy one - the road ahead for America is perilous and the difficulties are great. But I believe that with your help - with the help of all Americans - we will find that our real greatness and our finest years lie just ahead.
My campaign for President of the United States is founded on a single assumption - the assumption that the American People are tired of the drift in our national course - that they are weary of the continual steady decline in our national vitality and prestige - a decline which has led to economic injustice at home and increasing peril abroad. And, further, I believe, that Americans today have the strength and the vitality and the deep desire to start America moving again, toward its historic aims of justice and opportunity at home - and peace and freedom abroad.
This is the central issue of this campaign - the willingness of the American people to accept the great challenges which confront us - and to rise to those challenges with the effort and dedication which will permit a great nation to realize a still greater future. But if the American people are willing - and I think they are - to accept that challenge, America must choose a party that will so lead them.
I believe that the guide to that choice can be found in the histories of our two political parties for Mr. Nixon and I - the Republican and Democratic parties - have not been frozen in ice or collected in amber since the two conventions. Our parties are like two rivers which flow back through history - and you can judge the force, the power, and the direction of the rivers by studying where they rose and where they ran throughout their long course.
There is no better guide to the historic differences between our parties than the campaign slogans which have served as their rallying cries throughout this century. "Stand pat with McKinley;" "Back to normalcy with Warren G. Harding;" Keep cool with Coolidge;" "Had enough;" "Time for a change." These are the weakest, least constructive, least challenging slogans in American political history. They appeal to timidity and retreat - rather than to the capacities and aspirations of our people.
But contrast these with the slogans of which we Democrats are proud; Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom; Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal; Harry Truman's Fair Deal, and Adlai Stevenson's New America.
And I would also contrast the slogans of this campaign. The Republican candidate stresses "You never had it so good." But the Democratic Party sets before the American people the challenge of the New Frontier.
We are not just talking merely about slogans. For they are reflected in the consistent policies of our two great political parties toward the two great issues of this election: The issues of economic justice and compassion for our own people - and the great overriding issue of peace.
The history of the Democratic Party is the history of human progress in our time - from the humane legislation of Woodrow Wilson, to the great reforms of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
But the story of the Republican Party is a different story. There is no new Republican Party - and no old Republican Party - there is only the same Republican Party which, for half a century, has opposed every single progressive measure designed to improve human welfare and reduce human misery.
This is the party which opposed social security - and then ran a campaign to repeal it. This is the party which has opposed adequate workmen's compensation - adequate minimum wages - and adequate limitations on the hours of labor. And this the party which today is fighting against medical care for the aged, against legislation to clear slums and renew cities, against aid to our schools, and against those programs that are designed to halt unemployment and give aid to depressed areas.
This is the party that tried to block the New Deal - that tried to halt the Fair Deal - and that is trying to keep America from crossing the New Frontier. But they have never succeeded in the past - and they will not succeed in 1960.
For in 1960 the need to eliminate poverty and hunger and insecurity is as great as it ever was - and thus the need for the Democratic Party is as great as it ever was.
More than four million Americans are unemployed - struggling to get by on an average unemployment check of more than $31.00 a month - and the jobs of millions more are in jeopardy because of the steady replacement of men by machines. I have seen the meaning of automation in the coal mines of West Virginia and machine shops all over the nation - and I think it's time this nation took steps to harness this force and make it a blessing for all, and a curse for none.
There are five million Americans who live on a monthly Government food package consisting of less than 10 dollars worth of flour and rice and corn-meal, and a little lard and dried milk. And I have seen the crippled bodies of children who must try to survive on this meager diet.
There are nine million Americans over the age of 65 who receive incomes of less than twenty dollars a week - and three million more who get less than forty dollars a week. But these same older citizens are faced with rising medical costs at a time of life when their need for medical care is the greatest and their income is at its lowest.
We have millions of children trying to receive a decent education in obsolete and overcrowded classrooms - with overworked and underpaid teachers.
And in every area of our national life - from our city slums to our neglected farms - we find the same story of a government "frozen in the ice of its own indifference" - a government which has ignored the basic needs of the American people - a government which has failed the American people. In 1960 the Democratic Party will not fail.
And in our efforts we welcome the support of working men and women - the support of the labor movement. For the labor movement is people. It shares the goals and the aspirations of all Americans. And the labor movement in the future - as it has in the past - will be an ardent and effective champion of the economic well-being of the American people.
With your help we intend to return to the principles of the full employment act of 1946 - to see to it that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job in the city or on the farm. To do this we must speed up the growth of an economy which - in the past eight years - has been growing at one-half its rate as under Truman, and one-third the rate of the Soviet Union.
Our economy today is still the strongest in the world - but it can be stronger - and it will be stronger under Democratic policies which will stimulate our growth and put men back to work.
With your help we intend to see to it that every American is protected in his later years against the ravages of disease and disability through a system of social security insurance. And we will do more than aid our older citizens. We will also ask their aid. For the New Frontier is not for the young alone. If we are to meet its opportunities and challenges, we will need the wisdom, the skill and the experience of our older citizens. We need their help and their guidance in building a better America - and I will ask them for that help and that guidance.
With your help we intend to help the states of this nation build the classrooms and pay for the teachers which we must have if we are to have an educational system second to none. And America cannot afford a second-rate education.
And with your help we intend to use the full legal and moral authority of the Federal Government itself - to protect every American in the exercise of his full constitutional rights.
These programs are not only vital to the welfare of our own people - they are vital to the successful pursuit of peace and the extension of freedom throughout the world.
For only an America which is building a better life for its own people - only a vital and growing America - can build the strength necessary to keep the peace, and serve as a source of hope and aspiration to the struggling people of the world.
That is why the Democratic party is best equipped to lead this nation through the perilous times ahead. For the problems of the world are largely the problems of people - people who are struggling to emerge from poverty and ignorance - people who seek freedom in a world at peace. And only a party which understands human needs at home can hope to understand them abroad. Only a party that acts vigorously on behalf of people at home can provide vigorous leadership around the world. Only a party that believes in the future at home can help win the hearts of people who have broken with the past.
It is no coincidence that our prestige and influence in the world are declining when our rate of growth is also declining, and when we are under the leadership of a party which refuses to meet America's most urgent domestic needs. In Cuba - in the Congo - in Asia - in every corner of a seething world - militant communism is on the march. We cannot meet its advance by arguing with the Russians or by exchanging insults. Freedom will be victorious only if freedom is strong, and growing stronger - only if our free society demonstrates its great capacity to meet the needs of its people, and provide dynamic leadership for all the world.
I believe that we will succeed in this great task. For I am confident that the future can belong to those who believe in freedom.
I do not think that the world is moving the direction of communism. I think in time it will move in the direction which we have followed. But this will only be true if we are willing to meet our own responsibilities - if we realize that what we have is good, but that we can do better - if we recognize that our past experience is great, but that our future possibilities are even greater - if we recognize that today we do not have just a single candidate running for high office - but that all of you, in 1961, will hold office in the great Republic - and upon all of you great responsibilities and burdens will be placed.
I do not run for the office of President assuring you that life in the sixties will be an easy life. For the coming decade will be a time of great danger. It will require great effort. But I do run for the Presidency confident that our country - and our way of life - can meet the challenges which confront us - and that the President of the United States must play the leading role in the conquest of those challenges.
For I think of the Presidency in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson thought of it - as an office whose chief task was to set before the American people the things that they must do - the responsibilities that they must meet - in short, to set before them the unfinished agenda of our times.
So I call upon all of you to join me on our journey to the New Frontier. The voyage is an uncertain one - great dangers lie in our path - but we will all be partners in a great and historic journey - and beyond the horizon lies a better and freer life for all mankind.