This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A press release and several reading copies of the speech exist in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. The texts of those documents do not differ. Page images of the press release and a reading copy are available.
Washington, D.C. - the nation's capital - is only a few hundred miles from McDowell County. But the Administration in Washington has less understanding of your problems, less concern over your distress, than it displays for peoples and lands on the other side of the globe.
Our President has traveled to Asia and Europe and South America - but never to McDowell County. He has seen the poor and hungry of foreign lands - but he has not seen the poor and hungry of McDowell County. He has talked with the representatives of many countries - but has never taken the time to talk with your representatives. For had he made a trip to Welch or talked with your people - and had he seen the poverty and hunger, the destroyed health of your children - he would never have said at his press conference, as he did last week, that he always "assumed" that your needy and deserving people were receiving an adequate and varied diet.
Had the President come to McDowell County he would have seen a once prosperous people - the people of the largest and most important coal-mining county in the world - who were now the victims of poverty, want and hunger. He would have seen a county where 40% of the people were being denied the chance to work and where 50% were forced to struggle for existence on a government surplus food diet of rice, flour, cornmeal, and - on special occasions - a little lard, dried eggs and milk. And he would have known that there was no basis for any assumption that the people of Welch were receiving a healthy and adequate diet.