Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962

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Author: John F. Kennedy  | Date: May 22, 1962

205
Remarks to Participants in the Campaign Conference for Democratic Women.
May 22, 1962

FIRST OF ALL, I want to introduce the gentlemen that—the Vice President said he has been spending the last 2 days with you, which must have been wonderful for him-I want to introduce the Leadership of the House and Senate who are now going over to a conference-of course the Vice President, who spoke to you last night—the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Mansfield; the Majority Whip of the Senate, Senator Humphrey; the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Congressman Albert of Oklahoma; and the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Congressman Boggs; and the man who looks more like a Senator than almost anyone, Senator Smathers of Florida. And I would like to introduce my wife, Mrs. Kennedy.

I want to say what a pleasure it is to have you here. Somebody said—the Vice President once said the only thing keeping us going are not the programs but my wife and Caroline! But we believe that the programs are also important. A party is not merely an organization or a social structure, it is a means of implementing action. And I think the question, really, before this conference, and I know has been occupying you, is what policies does the United States need in 1962 and the rest of this decade to meet all the problems which a complicated and sophisticated society like ours has. How are we going to make our abundance a blessing and not a burden on the farms? How are we going to improve our cities? How are we going to make it possible for 300 million people to live here, by the end of this century, in comfort and security? How are we going to make it possible for people who want to find a job to find it? What are we going to do with 8 million young people who are going to leave our schools before they finish school in this decade—what kind of work are they going to find—what kind of a future are they going to have? What are we going to do about our older people who are now 17 million of them and will be 25 million of them in the next few years—what kind of a future, as they live longer because of the advances of medicine—what kind of housing are they going to have—what kind of medical care are they going to have?

These are the questions which this society of ours must solve. How are we going to make it possible for all Americans to live together and have an opportunity to develop themselves? This idea that the great problems which we face are those abroad in a sense is true, because they involve war and peace. But there are also the problems of making this society of ours function better. And I do not take the view that everything that had to be done was done by those who went before us, that Franklin Roosevelt, however extraordinary his record was, and Harry Truman and the others, that they did the job, and ours is now merely to pass through our political period and occupy positions of public significance and not do anything.

Now that is really the question that we have. Every program which is up before the Congress of the United States involves important issues, whether it’s employment for our youth and opportunities for our youth, whether it’s retraining older workers, whether it’s doing something for the millions of people now who are unemployed for a longperiod of time. We have thousands of families in America every week whose unemployment compensation is exhausted and who go on public assistance. What is going to happen to them? So that anyone who feels that these issues are rather far away and don’t matter so much, are wrong. Now we can’t possibly get these programs by without your help. As these gentlemen know, nearly every issue which comes before the House and Senate today is settled by one vote, one way or the other. Congressman Boggs, on the trade bill—nearly every important vote on the trade bill in the Ways and Means Committee was settled in our favor by one vote. We lost the Agricultural bill in the Senate—Agricultural Committee on which Senator Humphrey sits—by one vote. We passed it in the House of Representatives, out of the Agricultural Committee, by one vote.

So that these matters are extremely important, and there is no sense complaining that we are not solving our problems unless you join with us, support those people who recognize that there is still need for affirmative action by those of us who live in this country.

Now there are those who say that the federal Government, the National Government, ought to mind its own business. I think the business of the people is the people’s business, and as long as we have these problems which are so much a part of our lives, which are all around us, then we have to try to do something about it. And I think very clearly that’s the choice that we face in 1962.

The party in power has lost, in this century, every time except 1934. And the question is now, if we lose important seats in the 1962 election, then quite obviously these issues which are settled today perhaps by one vote with us, will be settled by many votes against us. And those who believe that the people working through the National Government should take no action on these vital questions, I think will have been successful.

So I ask you today to recognize that you are vitally needed, that your work from now to November is vitally important, because I think these issues which may not have the great public drama of the struggles of the thirties are vitally important if we’re going to be able to maintain jobs for our people and if we’re going to be able to continue to make this society of ours what it should be, which is, an example to the world.

And these people who say everything’s fine just as it is—look at Western Europe which was in ashes 10 years ago and which is now growing twice as fast as we are, which is now providing full employment for all its people, let alone the competition which we have from the Soviet Union and other places. I don’t believe that we should rest on our oars.

And that’s the issue. So we are here today to welcome you to Washington, to welcome you to the White House, but also-and you’re used to this—to ask your help again in the coming months.
Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

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Chicago: John F. Kennedy, "205 Remarks to Participants in the Campaign Conference for Democratic Women.," Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.913-915 425. Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2020, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3U1CIGIEFVKVHY3.

MLA: Kennedy, John F. "205 Remarks to Participants in the Campaign Conference for Democratic Women." Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.913-915, page 425. Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2020. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3U1CIGIEFVKVHY3.

Harvard: Kennedy, JF, '205 Remarks to Participants in the Campaign Conference for Democratic Women.' in Public Papers of John F. Kennedy, 1962. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.913-915, pp.425. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2020, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3U1CIGIEFVKVHY3.