Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, London, Ohio, October 17, 1960

This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single text of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.

Governor DiSalle, our next Congressman, Congressman-to-be Sullivan, we hope, ladies and gentlemen: There is a terrible rumor to the effect that this is a Republican community. I am sure it is not true. (Laughter) But it would be interesting to know how many Republicans have we here today. Will you hold up your hands? (Response from the audience) Let us see how many Republicans with an open mind we have got. Two. (Laughter) Well, there is some prospect. (Laughter)

I am delighted to be here today and whether you came as Democrats, Republicans, independents, convinced, unconvinced, I do appreciate the chance to speak with you.

This is an important election. Our role, Mr. Nixon's and mine, is important, because it is our function to present the position of our party on the great issues which face our country. We work hard from the time we are nominated until election day, November 8, and then you work, because then you make your judgment, and any citizen of this country who on this occasion takes that judgment lightly, of course, does not meet his responsibilities as a citizen. I would say the judgment you make on November 8, 1960, as to which candidate you select, not only for the Congress and for the various other offices, your judgment as to which political philosophy should lead our country, your judgment of the state of our national development, the state of our national opportunities, the state of our national peril, the state of our national challenge, all that meets on November 8 when you make your judgment as to who you want to be the President of the United States.

I know in these times, and through our history, that many people feel that the whole trend of our history is due completely to our power as a nation, through the forces of history, and that human decisions and human personality and the judgment of the President does not really affect directly your lives, your fortunes. I don't think that is true in the 1960's.

The President of the United States has the great power not only of war and peace, not only of defending our commitments abroad, but also of setting before the American people the unfinished business of our society. I will give you two problems which face us as citizens and face the next President of the United States. One of them is called industrial employment in the State of Ohio and around the country and the other involves agriculture.

There are in this country now nearly four and a half million people out of work. There are three million people who are working part time, and yet we had a recession in 1954, a recession in 1958, now two years later, we have a slowdown. We are using today only 50 per cent of the capacity of our steel. The Soviet Union last week came close to out-producing us, even though they have only one half of our capacity. The reason, of course, is that we can produce more than we can consume. We can produce more in our factories and more on the farms than we can consume at a decent price. Therefore, our steel mills work 50 per cent, 100,000 steel workers are out of work, it affects coal, chemicals, paper, everything. It affects Detroit. How can the next administration so provide an atmosphere for our economy where our country begins to move ahead, where our people work, where our facilities are used, particularly at a time when machines are taking the jobs of men.

Those of you who are farmers have seen that on your farms in the last 20 years. Those of you who live in the city know that a machine comes along and takes the jobs of five men or ten men. We are going to have to provide, in order to get a job for every American who wants one, and this affects those of you who are on farms because many of you hold part time jobs in the city - and if you are not finding full employment in the cities, you are the first to be laid off, because you have a part time job. The fact of the matter is you are going to have to find in this country, the next President is going to have to give leadership, 25,000 new jobs a week every week for the next ten years, and we are going to have to do that if we are going to keep our people working, and we are going to have to do that if we are going to strengthen our country, and we are going to have to do that if we are going to protect our commitments around the world. We are going to have to move. We are going to have to provide an economy, an atmosphere and leadership which will provide full employment for our people. That is one problem.

The second problem is the decline in agricultural income. I believe that the decline in agricultural income is the most difficult and important domestic problem facing the United States, both because of its effect on farmers and because of its effect on industry. The farmers of the United States are the No. 1 market for Detroit automobiles. When farm income drops, Detroit slows up. When Detroit slows up, Pittsburgh steel slows up, and we have lost in the last eight years nearly $33 billion of farm income. This administration, and some of you are Republicans - you feel you want to vote for the Republicans because they run a careful, frugal, responsible government. Mr. Benson has spent more money in the last eight years than all of the Secretaries of Agriculture in the history of our country, stretching back 100 years. We now have $9 billion of surplus foods stored away in a hungry world. Our farm income has dropped nearly 23 per cent in the last 18 months. The average wage for a dairy farmer in a state like this, or Wisconsin, is about 53 cents and hour. If a farmer was paid according to his hours, the money he has invested in his farm and his managerial skill, farm prices would have to go up 60 per cent, so low is his income.

Now, this decline is continuing, and the program that Mr. Nixon has put forward in my opinion will provide for a further decline in farm income, because he provides the same program that Mr. Benson provides which is a support price for corn or wheat, soy beans, whatever it may be, which is tied to 90 per cent of the average market price for the three previous years. Now, as the market price drops so does the support price. Where you had $1.50 for corn eight years ago, you may be getting 90 cents for corn today or 93 cents. That is the market price. Mr. Nixon will pay you 90 percent of that market price next year, and if it drops to 85 cents, he will pay you 90 percent of that, and that is the step, down, down, down, until farmers are driven off their farms in increasing numbers.

Now, you have to make a judgment whether you consider that policy to be in your interest. If you do, you should vote with Mr. Nixon. If you consider the position of the United States in the world improving, if you feel secure, if you think the possibilities of your children living in peace and freedom, if you look to the news in the morning paper of Mr. Castro's utter contempt for the United States, because that is what he was demonstrating, his indifference to our reaction, his conviction that the time is on his side, not only in his own country, but throughout Latin America - if you can support a candidate who, in this most dangerous time, runs on the slogan, "You never had it so good", then you should vote for Mr. Nixon.

But if you hold the view, whether you are a farmer, whether you are an industrial worker, whether you are a citizen, whether you have children in school who want and need a good education, whether you have a view of the United States as fulfilling a great destiny in a dangerous time in the life of freedom, then I ask you to join us. This is not a fight between Republicans and Democrats. This is a fight between the comfortable and the concerned, between those who look forward and those who stand still, between those who believe that all we have to do is what we are doing now and more, and those who believe it is time for a great movement forward for our country again. (Applause)

So I come to London, Ohio, and I come to this Republican community, and I come here without any hesitation at all in asking your support. I come because - (applause) - because I believe that this country deserves the best that we have. I believe that this country requires leadership which will place before us the things we must do, if we are going to maintain our freedom. Because I would like to see the United States, which sits on a most conspicuous stage, set an example of what freedom can mean, that freedom and prosperity go hand in hand, that liberty is the handmaiden of abundance, and that this great country of ours can be greater. This powerful country of our can be more powerful. This country of ours can move again. Thank you. (Applause)