This is a transcription 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 here at the John F. Kennedy Library. The text appears to be a verbatim transcript of the speech as delivered.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Next Governor Kerner, Senator Paul Douglas, Congressman Mel Price: I am confident that Governor Kerner to be, Senator Douglas and Mel Price will be returned by the people of the State of Illinois, because they deserve it. (Applause) And I am proud to stand with them on this platform. The fight that we are carrying on in the State of Illinois, and the fight that we are carrying on across the United States, is the same fight that in other days Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt waged for progress for the United States. (Applause)
Mr. Nixon has said that parties don't make much difference; what counts is the man. I agree what counts is the man, and I also agree that what counts is the party, and his political philosophy. (Applause)
The Republican Party, which in 1935 voted almost unanimously against the 25 cent minimum wage, voted almost unanimously against the $1.25 in 1960. A Republican Party, which in 1935 voted 95 to 1 in the House of Representatives against the social security bill, voted 44 to 1, with only one Republican, for medical care for the aged in the last session of the Congress.
A Vice President who was [sic] a Congressman in 1949 opposed public housing, is part of the same administration which in 1959 vetoed two housing bills. Are the people of Illinois and the people of this city and the people of this district have a chance to determine what kind of government they want here in this state and across the country.[sic]
Do you feel that everything that has to be done to provide better working conditions for our people and better housing, and medical care for the aged, which affects us all, because we all have someone in our family that needs assistance -- and under the bill which the Congress passed and which was signed by the administration before anyone can get medical aid, they have to sign a petition that they are indigent, that they are broke, that they have expended their money, that they are paupers.
I believe in medical care for the aged, nursing care, all tied to social security which has served our people so well for 25 years. I believe in an expanding America, where there is equality of opportunity, regardless of religion, regardless of race, regardless of creed. I believe in an America where the housing is second to none. There are 15 million American homes in the United States which are substandard. The average unemployment compensation check in the United States, in the richest country on earth, is $31.00 a week, and in some states as little as eight weeks. The average wage for laundry women in five large cities of the United States, and most of them are Negro women, is 65 cents an hour for a 48 hour week. Anybody who says that we have to do nothing now, that all we have to do is realize the opportunities which Franklin Roosevelt and Truman presented, is wrong. We in our time have our own responsibility. We have to build homes. We have to get our mills moving again. We have to provide employment for our people. We have to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans. We have to build a stronger America, and I ask your help in this campaign. It is the oldest fight in the world, the fight for progress. In every generation there are those who say that we should stand still, that we have never had it so good, and in every generation there are those who say it is time to move forward again, it is time to move forward, it is time to build a better country, it is time to extend the benefits of our society to all of our people.
I ask your help in this campaign, because I believe that in 1960 the Democratic Party in this state and across the country has a chance to be of service. We are going to finish the unfinished business of our generation. We need your help. I ask your assistance. And I can assure you that with the Democratic Congress and a Democratic Executive, that government will be manned by people who are interested in the future, whose program is their product, who are identified with the future, who believe that this country can move ahead. I ask your help, and so do we all. I can assure you that if we are successful, we do not say that all problems will be solved, but I can assure you that we will have a government that is moving and a country that goes ahead. I hope you will join us in this campaign. Thank you. (Applause)