This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single version exists as two mimeo copies 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 John F. Kennedy's remarks, including two omissions.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Congressman Karth, Senator Humphrey, Governor Freeman, Senator McCarthy - If I put this on - I will tell you what I will do. I will wear it at the next St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston. (Laughter) But I am very grateful. It is a beautiful hat. I did not know that this was Old Mexico here in St. Paul. I am very grateful. It is a beautiful hat.
I am grateful for Joe Karth's introduction. I don't know whether you realize it, but the Constitution of the United States gives different responsibilities to the Senate and the House. In the United States Senate we are given the responsibility of ratifying treaties and confirming Presidential appointments. The House of Representatives, however, is given far greater power. They are given the power to levy taxes and appropriate money. So any time you don't like the way your money is being spent or what the taxes are, do not write to Senator Humphrey, McCarthy or me, but write to Congressman Karth. (Applause and laughter.)
Actually, he represents the kind of able, vigorous progressive Congressman, in fact public servant, that I think this country needs. I think this is an important election. I know that candidates say that about every election. But I think in many ways the issues which face the United States in 1960 are the most significant that we have ever faced, even more significant than 1932, because in 1932 the issue was whether freedom would remain here in the United States. I think the question in 1960 is whether it will remain around the world. I don't think it is any accident that Mr. Khrushchev spends a month at the United Nations. He is a busy man. He is the dictator of a large country which has many projects at home and abroad, but he chooses to spend a month at the United Nations. Many of us in the United States have rather ignored the United Nations, and Presidents have visited it for a day and made a speech, and then gone back to Washington and the United Nations continues. Why does he spend a month there? Why do all the members of his empire come with him? Why does Nasser and those from every other nation around the world come to the United Nations this year? He is there for a very significant reason, and he stays there for a very significant reason, and that is because he realizes that the balance of power now hangs in the finest balance that it has hung in the last 2,000 years; that if he can win the loyalty and good will, if he can win a commitment to the future from the leaders of Africa, who are not committed to any course of action today, the leaders of Asia, if Castro can spread his influence throughout all of Latin America, then the balance of power will begin to move in the direction of the Communist world, and his future and the Communist future is assured. That is why I say 1960 is the most significant time in the history of not only the American republic, but I think the history of freedom.
What course of action in the next ten years will these people take? We have seen in the case of Guinea that they moved in the direction of the Communists. We have seen in it the case of Ghana, when Mr. Herter said, somewhat unwisely, I think, that the Ghana Government has moved in the direction of the Communists. We have seen it in the case of powerful groups in the Congo. Three countries of Africa, newly independent in the last two years, have begun to move in the direction of the Communists. We have seen it in the case of Cuba. India hangs in the balance. These are the most vital days of our lives, and where I said the other day that I was tired of reading about Castro and Khrushchev, and I wanted to read what the United States was doing and what the President of the United States is doing, I meant it, because these are dangerous times. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon in this morning's paper chose to regard that as a personal attack on President Eisenhower and he came to President Eisenhower's defense. He is going to be coming to President Eisenhower's defense in the next five weeks. During August, he was coming to Governor Rockefeller's defense, and he wasn't mentioning the President, and he was not in September. But now he is attempting to embrace the President. I don't quarrel with the President of the United States. The question is the future. The question is not President Eisenhower but President Nixon. That is the question the American people have to contend with in the next six weeks. Do they want to move in the direction of Mr. Nixon; do they want to move in the direction of the Republican Party, or do they want to move with progress? Do they want to say in the 1960's that the United States is ready to move ahead? Do they want to say to the people of Africa, Asia and Latin America that here in the United States is a strong and vital society that represents a far greater hope for the future than the Communist system which is as old as Egypt. We represent, we think, the way of the future. Mr. Khrushchev says we are a sick and dying and faltering horse that is about to collapse into the ground. I don't believe it. I don't believe that the people of Africa has become independent in order to sell their birthright to Communism. I don't think the people of Eastern Europe, who have demonstrated in the last ten years what they think of the Communist system are prepared to say that the Communist system represents the way to the future. The Communists hold an _______ [sic] empire, and I feel if we remain strong in this country, if we are building our economy, if we are building a vital society, if we are practicing what we preach and what we are, then what we are will be far stronger than what we say we are.
We have a chance to demonstrate that freedom can work. The next President of the United States must personify the spirit of this great society of ours, he must set before us the things we must do, if by the year 1970 we are not only going to be free but strong and moving here and around the world.
I think the opportunity before the United States is bright. In many ways, our time is like the time Dickens described at the beginning of his book: "It was the best of times and the worst of times." It is the worst of times because we face the most severe challenge that we have ever faced, and because in many ways the future will be somber. But it is the best of times because we have a chance to strike a blow, not only for our own security but for the freedom of those who look to us for assistance and succor, who look to us for an example of what freedom can do. Here in the last eight years, I think the United States has drifted. At the time of the Congo crisis, the United States offered scholarships to the Congo; at the time of the break with Castro, we offered aid in Latin America. What were we doing for the last eight years in regard to Africa and Latin America that it was necessary for us to be reminded by Mr. Castro and by the threat of Communist takeover in the Congo that Africa is _______ [sic]. Foresight is needed by the next administration. What were we doing in the early Fifties when the Soviet Union was making a decisive breakthrough in outer space? It is because we have drifted with the times. It is because we have been rowing across what we thought were passive seas, ignoring the subterranean explosions underground that we find ourselves today faced with the most serious crises that we have ever known.
I don't run for the office of the Presidency saying that if I am elected life will be easy. But I run for the office of the Presidency with the greatest possible confidence in this country. Mr. Nixon says I downgrade America. I downgrade the leadership, but I do not downgrade America. I have the greatest confidence in it. (Applause) And I think that if we go to work, if we start this country moving again, that the cause of freedom will not only endure, but it will prevail. Thank you. (Applause)