Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, East Los Angeles College Stadium, East Los Angeles, California, November 1, 1960

Thank you. Governor Stevenson, Governor Brown, Senator Engle -- thank you -- distinguished members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen: I am grateful to our distinguished leader, Governor Stevenson, for his warm and generous introduction tonight, as I am grateful for his support and counsel in this campaign. I am glad to be marching on his side, and we are going to march forward together for success and victory. (Applause)

Governor Brown, Senator Engle, members of the Congress, the people of California, I come here tonight and ask your help in this campaign. (Applause) I come here tonight and ask your support in moving this country forward again. (Applause) I ask your help in bringing Mr. Nixon back to the beauties of California. (Applause)

Seven days from tonight, one week, this long trail will have ended, and the moment of truth will have arrived. The ballots will be counted, the shouting will be over and so will the campaigning. One candidate will accede and the other will accept. Either Mr. Nixon or myself will turn to the task of governing the great Republic. Whoever wins, the task will not be easy. (Applause)

Whoever wins, the task will not be easy -- I am just trying to keep it open, you know what is going to happen -- (Laughter and applause) The next President’s desk will not be clear, waiting for new problems and responsibilities. It will be piled high with old problems, inherited, chronic problems, old bills demanding payment, ambassadors demanding new instructions, legislation previously submitted needing to be redrafted. But as the new President turns to meet these old problems, new pressures will rush upon him, new crises from every section of the world, new decisions on weapons, on strategy, on economic policy, and a thousand other items. There on that one desk, on the shoulders of the next President of the United States, will converge all the hopes and fears of every American and, indeed, all the hopes and fears of every person in the world who believes in peace and freedom. Whatever the issue, however critical the problem, the President will sit alone. He will have his advisors, his cabinet, the sources of information and ideas; the final decision is the President’s alone. Harry Truman used to have on his desk the sign “The buck stops here.”

For four years, the reins of this nation will be in his hands and he will speak for America. For four years, no other decision that you make will be half so important, no other act in your daily life will entrust so much of your future to one man, one party, in his judgment and his foresight. Fully aware of this grave and somber and sober responsibility, I am asking the people of California and the nation to place their trust and confidence in me. (Applause)

I do not ask you to choose merely between two men. I ask you to choose the kind of State of California you want, the kind of United States of America you want. What kind of an effort you will make to sustain the cause of freedom all around the globe.

Mr. Nixon and I represent two wholly different parties, with wholly different records of the past, and wholly different views of the future. We disagree, and our parties disagree, on where we stand today and where we will stand tomorrow. During the past two years, and in the 14 years that we have served in the government, we have made known our views on these matters. Mr. Nixon and the Republicans stand for the past. We stand for the future. (Applause) Mr. Nixon represents the Republican Party which has put up in recent years Mr. Dewey, Mr. Landon, Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Harding, Mr. Taft, and Mr. McKinley. I represent the party which has run Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt (Applause) and Harry Truman (Applause) and Adlai Stevenson. (Applause)

Some may feel that their life is wholly unaffected by this decision, that their job is secure, that their rent is paid, that their taxes are paid, and are all likely to be the same, which ever man and whichever candidate holds this high office. But I want to make it clear that every American is affected by what happens. Our prestige abroad, what other people think of us, is not of importance only to those Americans who work abroad. The sign “Yankee go home” does not apply only to our diplomats and our soldiers. The great struggle in the world is not one of popularity, but one of power and our power in considerable measure depends upon our ability to influence other nations, to identify ourselves with them, upon their willingness to associate with us, upon their willingness to follow our leadership. When Mr. Nixon says our prestige has never been higher, I say he is either misinformed or misleads. (Applause) For our own administration, this summer, in polls taken in ten countries of the world, has proved that the people of the world, the great majority believe that the balance of power is shifting against us, and that by 1970, in nine out of ten countries polled, polls which the USIA now has, in nine out of ten countries the majority of the people thought the Soviet Union would be stronger in 1970 than the United States. Do you know what that means? That means that people who are now undecided may not be so willing to follow our leadership in the future, may hang back, may be neutral, may be uncommitted, may vote against us in the United Nations, may stand aside as we become gradually weaker. I want the people of the world and Mr. Khrushchev to know that a new generation of Americans has taken leadership of this country and that this free society speaks with power, force and decision. (Applause)

All of these problems, all of the hopes for peace, all of our hopes for security, all hang on the question of what kind of a society we can build in the United States. If we can build a strong and productive society, if we can educate our children, make sure that all young men and women of talent go to college, if we can provide jobs for our people -- and today I spoke in a defense factory that is laying off 400 men a week. What happens to those men? Where do they go? How do they pay their bills? How do they pay their rent? How do the meet their obligations? This administration has sat by while here in California, in Los Angeles, in San Diego, in Pennsylvania were I was yesterday, in Ohio, in West Virginia, and in Kentucky, nearly 4.5 million Americans are wholly out of work and three million others work one, two or three days a week when they can get it. As long as this administration holds back in providing assistance to education, practical physical and monetary policies that hold back employment, hold back the distribution of defense in a stronger problem, our indifference in the problem of medical care for our older citizens -- Mr. Nixon says it is too extreme. He prefers a proposal that provides that the 16 million Americans who live on an average income of 73 dollars a month should take a pauper’s path rather than put it under social security where it has been for 25 years. I want to make it clear that this country has to move again, that we want to get off of dead center, that we want to build in this country the kind of society which will ornament the cause of freedom, a society which moves ahead, which no longer tarries, no longer rests, no longer sits encumbered, but instead picks itself up and starts to move ahead in the Sixties. I ask your help in doing that. (Applause) I ask you to join us. Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 said, “Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead? Shall we call this the promised land?” And he answered, “No”, and in 1960 we answer no again. We are going to move again. We are going to demonstrate what this country can do. (Applause) Let me just say, as I understand we are now coming to a conclusion of this half hour of television, as this is coming to the end of this campaign, I want to make it very clear that this is an important choice that you must make on next Tuesday, the choice that involves the future of our country, of your recognition of your obligation to our country, of your willingness to move this country ahead, of your willingness to bear the burdens that go with citizenship, that go with the burdens of being the chief defender of freedom at a time when freedom is in danger.

I have the greatest hopes for this country and the greatest confidence in it. I have traveled in every state in the Union in the last two years. This is a great country, but I believe it can be greater, and I believe it is a powerful country but it can be more powerful. I ask your help. (Applause)

Source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files, Box 914, "East Los Angeles College Stadium, Los Angeles, California, 1 November 1960." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.