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 Lawrence, Senator Clark, Congressman Green, Mr. Rice, Warren Ballard, the next Congressman and one of the great Americans of the day, ladies and gentlemen: I appreciate that I am understating it. I understand that earlier today there was a meeting here of the Children’s Party for UNICEF, which is a United Nations organization, which is committed to the ending of children’s diseases around the world, and instead of having a Halloween Party everyone contributed to that. May I say that I think that is in the best tradition of this country’s humane and sympathetic effort. Government to government work is important, but in the final analysis, we are a free society depending upon the effort that each of us makes, and, therefore, I congratulate those who were connected with this effort this afternoon. When we look at the amount of disease which afflicts children of all parts of the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia, it staggers the imagination and offers a great challenge to us. It is sometimes tragic for us to realize in thinking of the problems which face us in the 1960’s, that one of the great contributions which the United States made to international understanding and good will was the sending of penicillin to cure some of the diseases which inflicted the people of North Africa. But as a result of ending those diseases, the population of those areas so increased beyond the food supply that instead of increasing the per capita standard of living, the per capita standard of living went down.
So it is not enough to cure disease. If a standard of living of a country depends in the past on three, four, or five million children out of ten dying, their first year, and we are able to save all those children, then there is not enough food supply to go around.
The point of all this is twofold. First, that I am delighted that the effort is made to participate in a humane and useful work, and secondly, it suggests the staggering complexity of the problems that face the United States as the leader of the free world in 1960. We fight against disease, we insure longer life; we do not increase food supply, and therefore the standard of living of the people goes down. How is it possible for a country like Congo to maintain its freedom and independence when it has 12 university graduates in the whole country? How is it possible for Libya to maintain its freedom when the average income is $25 a year per person? How is it possible for India, where the average income is $65 per year per person, and nearly fifty to sixty million people are unemployed?
To be the leader of the free world will require the best effort of those of us in the United States. The point that I wish to make in this campaign is that we can’t do our best to meet our responsibilities around the world unless we do our best here in this country, unless we are moving ahead here in the United States. As long as there are 35 per cent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school and never see the inside of a college, as long as there are 50 per cent of the capacity of our steel mills unused, as long as we are today building 30 per cent less homes than we did a year ago, as long as we are second in space, as long as we are not able to make progress to develop all of our potential and all of our resources, both human and material to serve the cause of freedom, then quite obviously we are not meeting our responsibilities and we cannot meet our responsibilities around the world. The difference of opinion between Mr. Nixon and myself in this campaign in short is this: He says that our prestige has never been higher, that of the Communists never lower; he suggests that everything that needs to be done is being done in its own good time, and he has chosen to run on a slogan of peace and prosperity.
My judgment is that what we are now doing is not good enough, that we need new people, new energy, new vision, new leadership. We need to attract people to our government service and the service of our country who today are in universities or, like you, are following your own interests. We need young men and women who will spend some of their years in Latin America, Africa and Asia, in the service of freedom. We need others who will serve in governmental posts which lack glamour but which serve the cause of freedom. We have to do through freedom what the Communist system attempts to do through the power of the state. But to do that in a system of freedom where each man or woman can follow his own individual effort requires the best kind of leadership, a leadership which shares with the people the facts of our existence.
One of my disagreements with this administration and with Mr. Nixon has been on the argument of whether our prestige is the highest it has ever been, and all of you know now that this summer the United States Government paid for polls taken in ten countries, stretching all the way from England to Indonesia, to ask them what they thought of the United States, what they thought of our leadership, what they thought of our purpose, what they thought of our military power in relation to that of the Soviets, what they thought of our science in relation to that of the Soviets, and which system they thought was going to win the long struggle. These polls have never been revealed, except the newspapers did get two or three of them this week. They showed, for example, that only 7 per cent of the people of England and France thought we were ahead of the Russians in science. The majority of the people in nine of the ten countries believe by 1970 the Soviet Union will be first scientifically and militarily.
Now, if they don’t have confidence in us, if they don’t believe that the future belongs to the free, belongs to the strong, belongs to the productive, if they believe that the Communist system is moving with more purpose and direction than we are, how can we lead a free world coalition, which faces great difficulties anyway? I believe we can, and I believe that the truth should be told, I believe the American people should have a clear and honest choice between two different candidates between two different philosophies of government, between two different views of our present opportunities, our present dangers, and our future, and I believe this country is great. I believe it can meet its obligations and responsibilities. But I believe it can only do it by moving ahead. I do not believe that the Republican Party and Mr. Nixon are committed to progress. (Applause)
I have yet to hear, and I have been in the Congress for 14 years, and I know all about the record then, but I have yet to hear of one single original piece of new, progressive legislation of benefit to the people, suggested and put into a fact by the Republican Party. (Applause) Social Security, unemployment compensation, housing legislation, care for the aged -- all of these programs -- civil rights, -- in 1953 and 1954 the Republican Party controlled the White House, the Senate and the House. Not one single civil rights bill saw the light of day in either body. (Applause)
Social security? The Republicans voted 90 per cent against social security in the mid-Thirties, and voted 99 per cent against medical care for the aged tied to social security in 1960. The Republicans voted 90 per cent against a 25 cent minimum wage in the mid-Thirties and voted 90 percent against the $1.25 minimum wage in 1960. If you think that party is committed to progress, then Mr. Nixon is your man. (Response from the audience and applause) But if you share my view, if you share my view that this country is going to have to move ahead, that progress is our most important commodity, if you share my view that it is time we picked ourselves up and moved into the Sixties, I ask your support. Thank you. (Applause)