Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at Edgewater Hotel, Anchorage, Alaska, September 3, 1960

Speech source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960. Box 910, Folder: "Anchorage, Alaska, 3 September 1960".

The Republicans see Alaska as a giant ice-box - a useless wasteland. They see its problems and its limitations. They see it as a burden on the mainland - a cost to the taxpayers - at best a colony for certain commercial interests. As far as they are concerned, it is still "Seward's folly."

But I see another Alaska - the Alaska of the future. I see a land of over one million people. I see a giant electric grid stretching from Juneau to Anchorage and beyond. I see the greatest dam in the free world at Rampart Canyon, producing twice the power of TVA to light homes and mills and cities and farms all over Alaska. I see a network of paved highways and modern airports linking every city and section of this state. I see Alaska as the destination of countless Americans - seeing not only land and gold, as in days of old, but seeking a new life, new cities, new markets, new vacation spots. And I see an Alaska that is the storehouse of the nation, rich in timber, rich in minerals, rich in fisheries, rich in water power and rich in the blessings of liberty as well as abundance.

I do not say that this is the Alaska of 1961 or even 1971. I do not say a Democratic Administration can magically being all this to pass. The work must be the work of many - the burden must be the burden of many. It will take your help and your efforts and your time - but it is high time we got started.

For the Alaska I see is not the Alaska of a "no new starts" policy. It will not come about when forests and fisheries are being depleted, highways are being neglected and water power is going to waste. It will not come about as long as Alaska faces drastic discrimination under the Federal Highway Act - or is saddled with extra-high ocean shipping rates. And it will not come about under an Administration that acts only through the negative, empty, arbitrary method of Presidential vetoes.

I know that Alaska has had reason in the past to be grateful to Administrations of both parties - to Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, in particular, among the Republicans. But there is a special tradition for Democratic Administrations in Alaska - Woodrow Wilson founding the Alaskan railroad and the City of Anchorage - F.D.R. founding the Matanuska Valley settlement, Ladd Field and a stable gold market - Harry Truman founding the Eklutna power project and a host of others. I can only give you my pledge, should I be elected, and my wish - to carry on in that great tradition - and to be worthy of it.

I come here seeking your votes because this is a sovereign state. Your rights ought to be equal to any other states, new or old, large or small. But many new nations of the world have learned that political equality and independence are not enough without economic equality and independence. And while the Democratic Congress could grant Alaska her just political rights, it will take a Democratic Administration to grant this state her just economic rights.

For I voted for Alaska to be a sovereign state, not a colony. And I find the discrimination now practiced against this state hard to believe. I could hardly believe that the largest state in the Union received less money for roads than the smallest state in the Union. I could hardly believe that the study of the Rampart Dam project has been cut back to a pace that would take 10 years to complete. I could hardly believe that the Secretary of Interior was still insisting that fish traps continue, despite the fact that they were abolished by your Constitution and Legislature.

Why has the Department of Interior refused to survey the public land needed for this state's private development? Why was Ladd Field abolished without warning? Why must ocean transportation rates here be among the highest in the world?

The answer would appear to be a deliberate attempt to reduce the state of Alaska to a second class rank - and I have always believed that there should be no second class states in all America.

It is time for this country to start moving again - and time for Alaska to start moving with it. We are not going to be deterred by those who scoff at our plans and programs. They called TVA Pie in the Sky. They called Grand Coulee and Bonneville Pie in the Sky. It is only natural for them to call Rampart Canyon Pie in the Sky - and to shrink from the gigantic tasks required to give this state the transportation network and other essentials it needs.

These needs and these programs are cast in huge dimensions. But so is the state of Alaska. And the Scriptures tell us of the time when "there were giants in the earth." And I sincerely believe that Ernest Gruening and Bob Bartlett and Bill Egan and Ralph Rivers and in a sense, all of the people of Alaska, are giants in a giant land.

That is what this state needs. And that is what our country needs. This is not time for trivia. This is not time for petty complaints and halfway measures. This is a time for giants - for doers instead of talkers - a time for the great-hearted, not the faint-hearted.

I give you the call of the New Frontier - and I call for your help on the Last Frontier. Together, in a common effort for the common cause, I know we can prevail.