October 17, 1960 – Senator John F. Kennedy At Wittenburg University, Springfield Ohio – Past Daily Reference Room
Senator John F. Kennedy – 57 years ago today. On the campaign trail for the Presidency, Senator John F. Kenndy speaking before a capacity audience at Wittenburg University Stadium in Springfield Ohio.
Senator John F. Kennedy: “In considering what we shall do in the sixties, there is one subject that I have not discussed in this campaign, and that I have chosen to discuss here today. It involves the recognition that if we are to be successful in the days to come, if we are to implement a program for the 1960’s, then we need the government that is honest, a government that is efficient a government that is dedicated, a government that is committed solely to the public interest. One cannot make such sweeping promises without recognizing that these promises have been made before. Every challenger for public office, especially for the Presidency, talks about a great crusade to end corruption; to obtain government clean as a hound’s tooth. But experience has shown that promises are not enough. For ours is a government of men, not of promises, and some men yield to temptation. Other men lack discrimination, and other men see no wrong in pursuing their private interest in their public capacity. The problem is not merely one of deep freezes and vicuna coats. Less flamboyant but at least equally flagrant are the cases of those who use their office to obtain contracts for firms in which they have a financial interest. Those who use their position to repay political or financial debts, those who extract power from the information they receive, or the power they wield. These cases are not only tragic in the public sense, in terms of justice denied, of taxes wasted, of problems ignored. These tragedies have their private effects as well, for cheating in the Government cannot help but affect cheating in the classroom, on the quiz show, in the expense account. The appointment of good men, moreover is not a matter of morality alone. It may not be unethical to appoint an ambassador who is not acquainted with the language or the problems of the countries involved, but it is harmful to the interest of our Nation. It may not be immoral to appoint to key positions men drawn only from the area of private business who intend to return to that business as soon as possible. But the national interest cannot be maintained by men in our Defense Department with an average tenure of less than 1 year. [Applause.]
It may not be improper to confine Presidential appointees to the members of one party, but the whole Nation was the beneficiary of the service of Stimson, Knox, Forrestal, McCloy, and Lovett, and I can not recall in the last 8 years a single major member of my party who has been appointed to a high position in the national security field, in Defense or in State, with the exception of one man, the Ambassador to Germany, Mr. David Bruce. [Applause.]
And if we are to open employment opportunities in this country for members of all races and creeds, then the Federal Government must set an example. There are 26 Negroes in the Foreign Service of the United States, and there are 6,000 members of the Foreign Service. There is not a district judge, Federal district judge, who is a Negro, in the United States, and there are more than 200. There are messengers, laborers, clerks, very few heads of departments. Very few of our facilities and people have been used in extending our influence around the world. It is an interesting fact today that Africa has one-fourth, or will shortly have, of all the votes of the General Assembly. And yet 26 Negroes, spread throughout the entire world, are speading for us as a source of democracy in this country. I believe we can do better. [Applause.]
The President himself must set the key example. I am not going to promise a Cabinet post or any other post to any race or ethnic group. That is racism in reverse at its worst. So I do not promise to consider race or religion in my appointments if I am successful. I promise only that I will not consider them.”
Yes, times were different then, but we were still in the midst of conflict and still with the threat of a looming war. Our leaders were different then. People we could trust and who we believed in. Our government was different then. The common welfare seemed to be of primary importance and issues were discussed in a spirit of unity.
Perhaps the world has indeed changed. And we’re witnessing it. Take a deep breath and hope for the best.
Here is that campaign address, complete – as given by Senator John F. Kennedy and broadcast on October 17, 1960 from Springfield Ohio.
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