Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Coliseum, Raleigh, North Carolina, September 17, 1960

Here in North Carolina - in 1585 - one hundred and eight brave men established the first English-speaking colony of the New World. When the next settlers arrived that colony had disappeared. But the daring of those men - the spirit which conquered America's first frontier - has never disappeared from North Carolina or from America. And I come here today to summon those same qualities of courage and strength and determination to the conquest of America's New Frontier - the frontier of the Sixties.

The pioneering of America's first settlers - from Roanoke Island in North Carolina to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts forms a historic link between your state and mine - between North and South. But there is another tie that binds us together just as firmly - and that is the Democratic Party. For it was two great Southerners, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who, in 1791 sailed up the Hudson River - on what they described as a "botanical expedition" - to find new plants and catch butterflies - and there they met with New York political leaders, and founded the most enduring, the most progressive, and most effective political alliance in American history - the alliance of men of faith and foresight from the urban industrial North and the rural South - the alliance which was to become the only truly National party in our history - the Democratic Party. And I am not here to catch butterflies either - but to reaffirm that historical alliance - and lead it to a great victory in 1961. But I am not in search of victory alone. For, as Woodrow Wilson reminded us, "The success of a party means little except when the nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose." Today, in 1960, I believe that the Democratic Party has such a purpose.

I believe that our success in November will mean the fulfillment of that purpose. And I believe that all America - North, South, East and West - can unite to carry out that purpose. For we intend to build a strong and growing and prosperous America which can be the protector of freedom for all the world. That is the goal of the Democratic Party - that is the goal of North Carolina - and that is why we are going to have a democrat in the White House in 1960.

And America needs a Democratic victory. We are a great and strong country - perhaps the greatest and strongest in the history of the world. But greatness and strength are not our natural right. They are not gifts which are automatically ours forever. It took toil and courage and determination to build this country - and it will take those same qualities if we are to maintain it. For, although a country may stand still, history never stands still.

Thus, if we do not soon begin to move forward again, we will inevitably be left behind. And I know that Americans today are tired of standing still - and that we do not intend to be left behind.

But effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. For, as Socrates told us, "If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favorable." But today we Democrats know to what port we are sailing - we have mapped our destination and we know what kind of America we want the Sixties to bring.

First, we want an America which is using all its resources - the natural wealth and skills of every region - to stimulate our free enterprise economy to new heights of production and abundance. Today our economy is growing more slowly than that of almost any other industrial nation in the world. We have more than four million unemployed - small businesses are failing at a record rate - and there is poverty and distress on our farms. These are failures of the Republican Party - a party which lacks faith in our capacity to grow - and which has adopted policies designed to protect what we have rather than to add to our abundance. These failures must and will be reversed.

And America can find the model for its future growth here in the South. For the most dramatic economic advance of the past decade has been the steady expansion of the modern, vigorous south - the growth of industry - and the steady rise in your standard of living. Today the South is determined to continue that advance - to add to its industry - and restore prosperity to its farms. That is why the South has such a great stake in our desire to build a growing America - for if America grows, the South will also grow - and our programs for developing natural resources, low interest rates, expanding markets, expanding purchasing power, and all the rest are programs which will bring new prosperity, new jobs, and new income to the South, as well as to all America.

Secondly, we want an America whose ability to meet its responsibilities at home makes it a model for all the nations of the world. Today our slowed-down economy, our overcrowded schools, our poor and our unemployed, our spreading slums and our thousands of abandoned farms are visible, tangible evidence of our failure to meet those responsibilities. And those failures are defeats for the cause of freedom. For today the Communists are determined to convince the emerging and developing nations of Asia and Africa and Latin America that only Communism will eliminate their poverty and hunger and disease - that the Communist road is the only road to a better life. We know that this is not true - for our own greatness is living proof that the road to abundance is freedom's road. And we intend to build a still greater America where every man has a chance to work, a decent house to live in and decent schools for his children because we believe in a decent life for all our citizens - and because we who first lit man's hope for the good life are determined that freedom shall continue to show the way to progress.

Third, we want an America which has a military strength second to none-strength sufficient to convince any enemy that an attack would bring disaster. To do this we need two things: an invulnerable atomic striking force which can survive an enemy attack and still remain in possession of its ability to retaliate - and a modern conventional force of sufficient strength, fire power and mobility to intervene quickly and effectively to halt Communist aggression in any quarter of the globe. Only when we attain both of these objectives - and our enemies know and respect our strength - can we hope to talk successfully with Mr. Khrushchev about peace.

Fourth, we want an America whose qualities of initiative and leadership have earned the respect of the entire Free World - not merely because of our size or strength, but because we stand for freedom and progress and the pursuit of peace. This means that we must help the developing and newly emerging nations of the world to achieve the economic progress on which their political freedom depends. We must be sure that they are strong and stable enough to resist the steady and ruthless infiltration of Communist subversion. We must be ready with bold and imaginative new programs to help eliminate poverty and hunger throughout the world.

We must also be ready to reassume the initiative in the conduct of our foreign affairs - or act to spread freedom as well as to react against the spread of Communism. We must propose new and workable programs for disarmament, for banning nuclear testing, for reducing tensions in the many trouble spots around the world from Berlin to the Formosa Straits. For only an America which is applying its full resources of imagination and thought and strength to the resolution of the world's great problems - only such an America will be able to maintain its position as the champion of peace and the protector of freedom everywhere.

These are our goals for America - this is the large and definitive purpose toward which our victory is directed. And if we pursue these goals with energy and determination then the next decade will see a still greater America - an America whose strength is unchallenged.

And only a stronger America can hope to maintain its freedom and the freedom of the world. We are faced with an enemy which now commands a vast empire from the Formosa Straits to Berlin - an enemy whose agents of subversion are penetrating into Africa, into Asia, and now stand only ninety miles from our shores in Cuba - an enemy which is convinced of its ultimate victory - which believes, to quote Mr. Khrushchev, "that the old and the rotten will always fight with the newly emerged, but it is a law of history that the new will always win." But it is freedom that is new, and despotism and tyranny that is as old as civilization is - and it is freedom that will win - not because of any law of history - but because we will have the strength and the determination that will bring the victory.

But to do so we must begin moving again. We must reverse the drift and complacency which has slowed down our growth at home and permitted our prestige and our strength to decline abroad. We must reverse the failures of imagination which have allowed the Russians to be the first on the moon - and the first to return passengers safely from outer space. We must reverse the policies which have confined Mr. Khrushchev to Manhattan - but which have not kept him from moving in Africa and Asia and Latin America.

And we cannot do this by trading insults with Mr. Khrushchev or by arguing against his policies - or by talking tough. We talked tough when the people of Hungary revolted - but he crushed the revolt. We talked tough when Communism began to grow in Cuba - but Cuba is a Communist satellite today. We have talked tough about the need for disarmament - but the arms race is more intense than ever. We have a magnificent record of talking tough - but we do not have a magnificent record of halting the advance of Communism and strengthening the spread of freedom. That will be done through the strength which alone can answer Mr. Khrushchev's threats and ambitions.

I come here to North Carolina to set before you the goals for America and to ask you to join with me in rebuilding our strength in leading America across its New Frontier. For, as a New Englander, I recognize that the South is still the land of Washington, who made our Nation - of Jefferson, who shaped its directions - and of Robert E. Lee who, after gallant failure, urged those who had followed him in bravery to re-unite America in purpose and courage.

I cannot assure you that the road ahead is an easy one - because I know it will not be easy, and our journey will require effort and sacrifice. But I believe that the people of this State - and the people of all America - are ready to work together so that America can again begin its forward march. For I believe that we all share the faith of a great son of North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe, when he wrote:

"I think the true discovery of America is before us."

"I think the true fulfillment of our spirit, of our people, of our mighty and immortal land, is yet to come."



MR. SANFORD: Earlier this evening, as the audience in the Coliseum knows, question blanks were given out to anyone who wanted to ask a question of Senator Kennedy. In the limited time we have available left for television, you can understand that Senator Kennedy cannot answer all of these questions. As a result, we are going to start asking those questions which were asked most frequently by the audience. In a moment, we will get those questions directly from the audience.

But first, Jack, I would like to ask a question: I have traveled all over North Carolina since the Los Angeles Convention, and I am convinced of all the things on the people’s minds today in North Carolina, that foremost, the dominant issue, the dominant question, is the sinking prestige of America in the world. I would like to ask you as a national view what is your opinion of the dominant issue of your campaign.

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I would say, as I suggested in the speech, that I think the basic problem facing the United States is to maintain the peace, maintain our vital interest in our national security, serve as the leader of the cause of freedom around the globe, and attempt to develop in this country sufficient forward motion so that we catch again the imagination of the world as a power and a system of government that represents the kind of government which all people want to endorse, the kind of government under which all people want to live. In other words, if we do well here, we enhance the prestige and power and influence of the cause of freedom around the world. If we fail, the cause of freedom fails. If we succeed, the cause of freedom succeeds. Our responsibility is to throw light and luster around that great cause, around the globe. (Applause)

QUESTION: My question is, do you think Russia will ever act peaceably toward the United States regarding nuclear warfare?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Will act peaceably?


SENATOR KENNEDY: I hope that the United States maintains its military position which would include the ability after the Soviet Union might have initiated its first attack to retaliate and, therefore, destroy the Soviet Union. If we have that kind of force which requires, as at the present time, both SAC and I think an increased production of missiles, then I think the Soviet Union would be extremely slow to resort to nuclear weapons. I think they will continue their struggle against us, but it will take the form of economic competition, subversion, and perhaps brush fire wars. For that reason, I think we should maintain our conventional forces. I think we should strengthen the kind of forces that you have at SAC here in North Carolina, increase our air lift and be prepared to fight a kind of limited war. If we are prepared to fight, we may not have to. Winston Churchill said ten years ago "We arm to parley." If we are strong, then I think we can maintain the peace. (Applause)

QUESTION: I am Don Gilmore, a young Democrat for Kennedy. Senator, do you think your religion will be a handicap in this campaign?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I don't thin – I would hope that it would not be a factor in the campaign. It seems to me that in 1960 the issues which I tried to discuss tonight, the future of this state, the future of the country, the security of the United States, the peace of the world, I would think that they would be of far greater interest to the people of North Carolina than where I am going to go to church tomorrow morning. (Applause)

QUESTION: I am Barbara Wright from Raleigh, North Carolina. Senator Kennedy, what is your policy for labor unions?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I served on the Labor Committees for 14 years in the House and Senate. I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor as well as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I feel that labor unions honestly led, and I think the great majority are, serve a useful function in protecting the interests of their members and building their wage level. Unless we have a strong wage level in the United States, who is going to buy all the good we produce? We can't sell them abroad. (Applause)

My own feeling is that the Jimmy Hoffas and the others and the Bridges who we investigated at some length during the Rackets Committee hearings, are a minority. My own feeling is that I will not be satisfied as long as Jimmy Hoffa remains at the head of the Teamsters Union. (Applause) And I think it would be extremely helpful to have a Department of Justice which pursued and administered present laws with vigor involving Mr. Hoffa. (Applause)

QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Bill Gear, Democratic Chairman of the Fifth Precinct of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You must know, after this day of warm welcome in North Carolina, how much we like you in the South. (Applause) I want you to tell this audience, I want you to tell us, what do you like about the South. (Applause)

SENATOR KENNEDY: What I like about the South is first its sense of history and its identification with the history of the United States. Second, I think it has had in its history a strong internationalist viewpoint. It has stood for the defense of our country, its strength and prestige around the world. It has been willing to bear arms in war, and it has had a strong sense of public service in time of peace. Thirdly, or fourthly, I guess, it is a growing section. I think the Franklin Roosevelt Administration probably meant more to the development of the South than it did to any other section of the United States. (Applause) I hope that in the 1960's the South will continue to move ahead, and let me say what I would like, perhaps to say first, the fact that the South has maintained in good times and bad the Democratic Party. (Applause)

QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Mr. McDonald of Raleigh, North Carolina, and I have a pressing question. In 1956 the American people were told by the present administration in Washington that the cost of living had leveled off, and that the situation was well under control. However, we are faced today with the highest cost per necessity in the history of this country. This is a pressing problem to families and to all of us. What is your approach to the present high cost of living?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I don't think that the high interest rate policy followed by this administration as an anti-inflationary policy has been particularly successful. We had a recession in 1954, we had the worst peacetime recession since the 1930's that we ever had in 1958. We ended up the year with a $12 billion deficit, which is the largest peacetime deficit in the history of the United States, and now we are moving into another area where we are certainly on the plateau and not on the rise. I said in my speech we were only using 44 per cent of the steel capacity of the United States. I think with a lot of people out of work, with a good deal of unused capacity in the United States, that a more progressive economic policy, more flexible use of our fiscal and monetary tools which we have available, I think would provide a greater stimulation for our economy and therefore a greater production, and if we maintain vigorously the antitrust laws, sufficient competition to keep our wage level and our income level abreast or ahead of the rise in the price level. Historically since the beginning of time you have had a gradual increase in your price level, but I think what we are concerned about is that we maintain a purchasing power which stays at least equal and maybe ahead, we hope ahead.

Secondly, I would protect those who are on fixed incomes. I am thinking particularly of those on social security. That is why I think medical care for the aged is a matter which should be on the conscience of the United States – and others who are dependent upon a fixed source of income. (Applause)

QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Bill Connor from Durham, North Carolina. I would like to know how your proposed policies for national growth are going to benefit the Southern sector of the United States.

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, because the Southern sector of the United States need economic growth – the South lost 3 million people in the last ten years by out-migration. On the other hand, you had great areas of great prosperity in the South. I believe that a rising tide lifts all the boats. If the economy of the United States is moving ahead, the economy of the South moves ahead. You are a great agricultural section in this State of North Carolina; you are also a great textile center. So are we in Massachusetts. When the economy is at a low level, marginal industries, of which textiles is almost one, particularly suffer. So if the economy of the country is moving ahead, with the resources, with more effective transportation, the South will move ahead, too. If the country is slowing down, then the South will slow down. So may I say that the fate of the North and the South and the east and the west are inextricably bound together. If one moves ahead, they all will move ahead. (Applause)

QUESTION: My name is Miriam Bloch. I live in Raleigh. The newspapers say that both parties are moving toward a similar foreign policy. Would you explain whether this is true and what the major differences are?

SENATOR KENNEDY: A similar foreign policy?


SENATOR KENNEDY: I would say that these criticisms of the present administration's foreign policy therefore would suggest alternatives. In the first place, the United States almost ignored completely the problems that we have now in Latin America. The United States gave more aid to Yugoslavia since the end of World War II than we have to all of Latin America altogether.

No. 2, until our relations with Cuba became so sour that we broke off the sugar quota, the United States almost ignored the needs of Latin America for long term capital. The authorization which Congress passed in August for the benefit of Latin America was directly tied, unfortunately, in the minds of many Latin Americans as well as in the minds of many Americans, to our troubles with Cuba. Therefore, you have people in Latin America as I said earlier today, running for office, as they are in Brazil, and their platforms are un-American. One of the candidates running in Brazil runs on the platform of making legal the Communist Party and re-establishing the relations with the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists.

So, you quarantine Mr. Castro in Manhattan but you don't quarantine the influence of Castroism all through Latin America, which has caught the attention of the young, ambitious students, intelligentsia. I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. I can tell you that Africa has been known as the dark continent in the United States until the difficulties beginning in the Cogo. We are bringing very few students from there. We have shown very little interest in their health, welfare and economic problems.

Thirdly, I think the United States should put greater emphasis on disarmament.

Fourthly, I think it has been the greatest blow we have had in the 1950's or since World War II, when the United States was second in space. Because the Soviet Union was regarded as a backward country and we were a forward country, when they beat us into the newest kind of scientific accomplishment, it made it appear that time was running out for us. So I would say stronger defenses, a more concentrated interest in the problems of newly emerging countries, and expanding economy here at home which carries out its influence around the world – I would say that they could begin to move us forward in a very difficult time. I would think the 1960's would be more difficult than the 1950's. But to carry on the same administration whose experience has been, in my opinion, deteriorating the United States, to reward that record I think is a great mistake. So that is why we are running. (Applause)

QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, I am Maude Kaplan, of Raleigh. I feel the question I am asking concerns the people of my age the most. I would like to know how you expect to improve our educational – what our educational policies are doing today. I would like to know how you expect to improve our school system mainly in the sciences and maths.

SENATOR KENNEDY: Let me say that I would say the improvement of the school system, the training of the teachers, the quality of the teachers, your ability to study and your desire to study depends upon the people of North Carolina and the people of this city and town. There is nothing that the President of the United States or the government can do in the final analysis to provide good schools and good teachers except play a marginal role. I think the Federal Government ought to aid over a four year period during this particular hump with a tremendous increase in our population, the number of children, we should provide federal aid for school construction.

Second, we have to recognize, and this is a problem for you in North Carolina as well as in the country, that in the next decade we are going to have to build more college buildings than have ever been built since the beginning of this country in 1775. In a ten year period we are going to have to do as much as we have done in 175 years. One of the programs that the government could help with I think is loans for college dormitories and college rooms. It was in the housing bill last year, and the President vetoed it. I think loans at a 2 per cent rate of interest are the most satisfactory kind of assistance to colleges and universities.

Thirdly, I think we should continue the Defense Education Act, which provides scholarships and loans, particularly loans, which have not been used nearly as generally as I think they could be used to help bright young boys and girls to go to college. (Applause)

In the final analysis, as far as studying sciences and mathematics, I don't think we want to overstress it, but I think that is up to your mother and father, but I do hope that in the final analysis you will study. I think John Adams once said, "I study mathematics and war so that my son may study English and history, so that his son may study poetry and literature." I don't think we all want to be scientists and mathematicians. (Applause)

QUESTION: My name is Tim Tuttler, from the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill.

(Response from the Floor.)

I would like to ask what your attitude to Mr. Khrushchev's breaking of diplomatic formalities by coming to the United States with apparent propaganda motives only, and would you meet him on equal ground at the UN?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, let me say that in the first place I think his purpose in coming here could be many fold. One, he may have some new proposals on disarmament which he hopes to capture the attention of the world with.

Secondly, I think he thinks that the General Assembly of the United Nations is going to be increasingly influential and powerful. One quarter of all of the nations of the General Assembly by 1965 will be newly independent nations of Africa. Therefore, I think he hopes to extend his influence through Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the General Assembly to see if the day can come when he can gain a majority.

Thirdly, he hopes to embarrass the United States by bringing all of his satellite leaders with him, by bringing Nasser and Castro and others, and hopes to demonstrate that he is the aggressive figure, that he is the world leader, that we respond to his initiative rather than our – rather than his responding to our initiative. So I would think that he feels that this will spotlight once again the attention of the world on the Soviet Union.

The second question, would I meet him on equal ground – I said before that if he requested to see Mr. Nixon and myself, both of us, separately or whatever way, that I would certainly be willing to attempt to meet him. I don't think that either one of us should meet him unless we both do. This is really a matter for the President of the United States. President Eisenhower has been entrusted with the conduct of foreign policy in this country until the end of his term, and, therefore, I think that this decision and the reaction of the United States to Mr. Khrushchev's visit should be guided by the good judgment of the President, and he is the President of all of us. So I will stick with his opinion on that matter. (Applause)

I want to again express my thanks to all of you. I must say I thought the questions were very helpful and I hope – I want you to know that we have had a great day in North Carolina. I came to North Carolina with some concern, but I should have known that they grow Democrats deep down here. Thank you very much. (Standing ovation.)

Source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files, Box 911, "Coliseum, Raleigh, North Carolina, 17 September 1960." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.