This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Governor Meyner, Dan Hempstead, the next U.S. Senator from the State of New Jersey, Thorn Lord—and I hope you do support him because he merits your support, and we need another Democrat Senator from this State (applause) and our two congressional candidates from this area, Jim Dobbins of the Seventh District, and Vincent McKenna, and I hope you support them. (Applause)
I want to express my regrets at having been late. We have not been playing golf. We have been campaigning. (Applause) We have been campaigning in Connecticut and New York, and after we leave New Jersey tonight we go to Maine and Rhode Island. We are going to carry the New England States and New York. I come here to New Jersey tonight to ask your help, not only for my own candidacy, and that of Senator Johnson, but because I believe the positions we have taken in this campaign as they affect the security of the United States are in the interests of the United States and this country needs a Democratic victory. (Applause)
Every assumption upon which Mr. Nixon has based his campaign, away back in August, every assumption has begun to crumble. First that this country was enjoying unequaled prosperity. Already that is beginning to have a hollow sound, in Pittston, Pennsylvania, along the Ohio River, in southern Illinois, in West Virginia and Kentucky, where we have more people unemployed this month than we had since the October recession of 1958. I cannot—this is the only group in the United States that ever got photographers to do anything they were not ready to do, so we congratulate you. It shows New Jersey is going to go Democratic on Tuesday. (Applause)
Let me say Mr. Nixon based his campaign on three points: First, that this country’s economy was never so good; secondly, that our prestige in the world was never higher; third, that the balance of power in the world was moving in the direction of freedom.
Now, it has not been 2 months, not 2 years, it hasn’t been 2 months, and already every one of those assumptions is beginning to look hollow and will look far worse next January. We are going to have more unsold cars in the middle of November than we have had in our history, 1 million unsold cars at the beginning of a new season. We are using our steel capacity 55 percent. In the month of September we built 30 percent less homes than a year ago. By January or February this country could be face to face with serious economic difficulties, particularly if led by an administration which 2 months ago said we had the greatest prosperity in our history. (Applause)
It took 2 or 3 years for some of the predictions which Governor Stevenson made in the 1956 campaign to come true. It is taking 2 months to prove that the assumptions and prophecies of Richard Nixon already are untrue. (Applause)
Second, Mr. Nixon stated that our prestige was never higher, even though he must have known his own information service of the State Department had taken surveys in 10 countries around the world this summer, and these surveys show convincingly that in 9 of 10 countries a majority of the people believe the Soviet Union is ahead of us militarily and scientifically, and will surely be by 1970. He pointed to the votes in the United Nations as evidence of our high prestige and the next day on the admission of Red China not a single new African nation voted with us.
Third, Mr. Nixon has said in today’s paper that we are the most powerful nation in the world. He does not point out that a study by the Rand Corp. for Johns Hopkins in this morning’s New York Times pointed out that at the present rate of military power increase by 1970 the United States will be inferior to the Soviet Union.
What does this country need to know about a candidate? If he misled the people in this campaign on three matters essential to our survival, does he indicate he is ready to lead the United States in the 1960’s? I do not think so. (Response from the audience)
This country cannot survive unless the political leaders, those who seek positions of responsibility, are willing to tell the people the truth, and you cannot hide the truth in all the department agencies in Washington. The people of this country know what the facts are. And that is why I believe on Tuesday, November 8, they will not choose to place the affairs of this country in the hands of a candidate like Mr. Nixon, in the hands of a political party like the Republicans, who have opposed progress for 25 years. (Applause) If Mr. Nixon were successful Tuesday, and he has to deal, as he will have to deal, with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, how can he suddenly turn around 180 degrees and ask this country to do the very things that he now says are unnecessary? I predict that the United States will make a decision on Tuesday, and that decision will affect its future and its security throughout the entire 1960’s. This country is either going to choose to accept the viewpoint that we have put forward, that it is time we started moving again, that it is time we made a greater national and international effort, or it will accept the view of Mr. Nixon and will rest on its oars, and will drift and will lie at anchor and will pay the price. (Applause)
I ask your support not merely for my candidacy or that of my colleagues, but I ask your support in choosing right for this country, in moving this country forward, in picking it up and sending it into the sixties to meet its responsibilities. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon represents a party which has opposed progress for many years. He represents a party which voted 90 percent against a 25-cent minimum wage in the mid-thirties, and voted 90 percent against $1.25 minimum wage in 1960. He represents a party which has opposed the strengthening of our educational system, which has opposed medical care for our older citizens tied to social security, which has brought recession in 1954, again in 1958, and has brought us to an economic slowdown in the vital year of 1960. Since June the United States has lost $1 billion worth of gold, $1 billion. Since June we have cut our estimated tax revenues this year $4 billion. That is the kind of economy this administration runs. That is the kind of a country that this administration now seeks to have its record endorsed from. If this is the experience upon which Mr. Nixon runs, I want no part of it.
The decision is yours. You have to decide what you want, what you believe, what your view is. My judgment is clear. After 14 years in the Congress my judgment is that this country, if it is going to maintain its security, if it is going to meet its commitments to freedom, is going to have to do better in the sixties. You have to decide what is your view, what is your view of your responsibilities as citizens of this country. I ask your help in New Jersey. Let us make this State Democratic and let us make the United States Democratic. (Applause)
We are electing on Tuesday, not a committee, not a protégé, not a rescue squad; we are electing a President of the United States. You have seen these elephants in the circus, with their heads full of ivory, thick skins, no vision, long memory, and to move around the circus they grab the tail of the elephant in front of them. And that is what Mr. Nixon is now doing with President Eisenhower. (Applause) That was all right in 1952, he was led around the ring, and in 1956, but this year he is running, and he has no elephant out in front of him this year.
I come here tonight and ask you to join us, ask you to make a decision which will permit this country to have the kind of leadership which will enable us to build a strong and vital society, a society which will serve as an inspiration to people all over the globe. We are the chief defenders of freedom, and it is incumbent upon us to get moving again. I ask your help in doing it. Thank you. (Applause)