Senator Kennedy Campaigns in Erie

On September 27, 1960, Adoring fans met Senator John F. Kennedy at the airport. The Senator made a few remarks to the crowd that had greeted him, then proceeded to the Hotel Lawrence where he spent the night in Erie. In the following day on September 28, 1960, Senator Kennedy gave his campaign speech in front of the Hotel Lawrence. All the Catholic Schools were closed so the students could attend the downtown rally in support of the nation's first soon-to-be-elected catholic president. Thousands of people crammed the corner of West 10th and Peach Streets to see the future President of the United States. The Erie Daily Times that day devoted most of the front page of its final edition to the rally. Prior to Senator Kennedy's campaign speech he had breakfast with his supporters. During breakfast the Senator had a few words for his supporters.

An amateur's silent video of Senator Kennedy giving his campaign speech in front of the Hotel Lawrence, at the corner of West 10th and Peach Streets, can be viewed here.

The following text are the transcribed remarks that he had made at the Airport and the Hotel Lawrence during his visit:

Remarks Of Senator John F. Kennedy "Airport" September 27, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you very much. I want to say how much I appreciate your coming to the airport to meet me tonight. I know the reason that you do it is because you share the view that I have that it is essential to this country and to the State of Pennsylvania that the Democrats win this election. [Applause.]I think the issue is a plain one and I think we attempted to discuss it last night. [Applause.] That is the question of whether the United States can do better, whether this is a great country that must be greater, a powerful country that must be more powerful. I do not run for the Presidency on the slogan "You never had it so good." I think we can do better, and I hope that all those who share my views that this country has a most important destiny, to be the chief defender of freedom at a time when freedom is under attack all over the world, I hope that you feel as I do, that the Democratic Party which in this century produced Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as a contribution. I ask your help in this campaign. I think here in this State of Pennsylvania this issue may well be decided. It is my judgment that the next President of the United States will carry Pennsylvania on November 8. [Applause.]

I would not have been nominated at the Democratic Convention if I had not secured the support of the Pennsylvania delegation. Now that you have done that, I hope you will go the rest of the way. We have a chance to be of service. This is a great country and I think it deserves the best of us.

I must say, looking back on the record of the past 25 years, that Mr. Nixon has said party labels don't mean much; what counts is the man. I think party labels mean something. The Republicans never would have nominated me, and the Democrats never would have nominated Mr. Nixon. [Applause.] I believe in the Democratic Party because I think it has been of service to the people. I think it looks to the future, and I think it recognizes that there must be placed before the American people during the next 10 years the unfinished business of our society, the things we must do to keep our people working, to provide security for our old people, to provide good education for our children, to provide a defense second to none. I hope it may be said at the end of the next President's first term that during those years the world started to look to the United States again, and wondered what the United States was doing, and wondered what the President was doing, not what Mr. Khrushchev was doing. I am tired of hearing it. [Applause.]

I will close by again expressing my thanks. I think we have a chance to really be of service now. I think that when we serve our country, we serve not only our own people, but we serve the cause of everyone who wants to be free, also. During the American Revolution, Thomas Paine said, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." I think in 1960, the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. If we succeed here, the cause of freedom succeeds. If we fail, the cause of freedom fails. That is why I run for office this year, feeling that we must do better that we must be stronger, because what we do I think depends upon the future of the world. This is a great opportunity for all of us. I think if we can rewrite the history of the world in the next 4 or 8 years, we can be of service to ourselves and all those who look to us and historians will later write that these were the great years of the United States. Thank you. [Applause.]

Remarks Of Senator John F. Kennedy "BREAKFAST WITH KENNEDY" Lawrence Hotel, September 28, 1960

Senator Kennedy. Governor Lawrence, Reverend Clergy, Mrs. Price, ladies and gentlemen: I am very grateful for the Governor's generous remarks, and his kind analogy with Mr. Perry. The only thing is that Mr. Perry did not have to fight three times all over again after having gone through it once. It is like playing Ohio State every Saturday for 4 weeks in a row. So we will try again next week. I appreciate your coming to the breakfast. I am touched by the - not as deeply touched as you have been this morning. [Laughter and applause.]

It always warms the hearts of the Democrats to see contributors gathered together in one room on an occasion such as this. I wish there were some other way to run a campaign, but this is what makes the mare go, and this is what keeps us moving today from here to Buffalo and on through New York. You would not have wanted to have gotten a telegram from Albany saying we were stranded there. [Laughter.]

So I hope you will keep us going. We are very grateful for it. This is an important campaign and it does involve us all greatly. I have the honor to lead the Democratic Party in this campaign, but the contest is not merely Mr. Nixon versus myself. We have a tendency sometimes in this country to personify or personalize all of our issues. We look at Mr. Castro and we look at Mr. Khrushchev and we look at Mr. Nasser and all the rest. Really, the important thing about Mr. Khrushchev is not Mr. Khrushchev himself being a formidable figure, but it is the Communist system. We worried the same way about Stalin, and we worry about Khrushchev. When Khrushchev disappears, we will worry about Koslov and Mikoyan, whoever emerges out of that. It is the power of the system that counts, and it is the same thing of the United States. The vigor and leadership of the President is an ingredient in national strength, but in the final analysis it is the sum of the total that counts. Presidents may change, but the power of the United States, in the balance of world politics, in the balance of the power struggle of the world, is the great force on the side of freedom. So in a very real sense, we are all involved. When the United States is in trouble, it isn't the President that is in trouble. It is the United States.

So this is the struggle between Mr. Nixon and myself. I think it is a struggle really in a larger sense between two different concepts of government which has gone on for many years, and which continues in 1960. We have a Democratic Congress. I hope we are going to have a Democratic Executive. I hope that the Democratic Executive and the Democratic Congress in a responsible and effective way will try to set before the American people the unfinished agenda, the unfinished business. I think it would be helpful if we could make a determination of what we have to do in the next 10 years to maintain our military position, our economic strength, our social strength, here in the United States and throughout the world. Then I am confident we can do it. I don't think there is any doubt that even though I have been critical of some phases of our national leadership, I have never been critical of our country. I think its potential is unlimited. We proved it in two wars. We proved it in peacetime. Therefore, we are all united in support of our country. Mr. Nixon persists in saying that I am downgrading America. I downgrade the leadership, which is getting in some phases of our national lives but I don't downgrade the country. I upgrade it. After traveling through it for many years, after having been in 50 States and after having been as much of it as I have, no American could possibly have anything but the greatest confidence in it and its people. The problem is that we make sure that in the sixties that we recognize not merely the difficulties we are passing through now, but that we try to do everything in relationship to what needs to be done.

Mr. Nixon Monday night, and it was well within his debate rights, kept applying to the present statistics what might have happened 10 or 12 years ago. I prefer to apply what is happening today with what needs to happen. I prefer to apply what we are doing with what the Communist world is doing. I think it better to apply what is happening today. Is our prestige increasing relative to theirs around the world? That is the only question before us. In other words, by 1970, will we be stronger in relation to them than we are today, or weaker? That is what the determination is that the American people have to make. My judgment is we can be stronger. My judgment is that with the present relative rate, how ever, there is no assurance of that. I ask your help in this campaign and I want to express my appreciation for the support you have given this campaign, in this State and throughout the country. We could not possibly have carried on without help like this. I want you to know that I think in addition to being of assistance on this occasion, I think that you are also meeting the responsibilities which go with citizenship. This campaign cannot possibly be run without money to pay for transportation - these are the humdrum things - television, radio, and all the rest. Where are we going to get the assistance? We are going to get it from the people who will be willing to help, even though they have many other responsibilities or we just won't get it. I think that both parties ought to have assistance in presenting their views. Then the American people can make a fair choice. Then there is no inequality in their ability to deliver their message. Then the choice is very fair, and we get democracy at its highest. So I hope that you feel as I feel, that in helping this campaign, you also contribute not merely as Democrats or Republicans to a campaign, but in fulfilling a responsibility which goes with citizenship. I appreciate it very much. I appreciate your help in this campaign. I do think we have a great chance to win, but, more important than that, we do have a chance to be of service to our country. Thank you. [Applause.]

Remarks Of Senator John F. Kennedy "RALLY" Lawrence Hotel, September 28, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Lawrence ladies and gentlemen, does not anyone ever go to school in Erie? [Laughter.] I want to express my thanks to all of you for this morning's reception and also for last night. I don't think that in the whole campaign we have had as high a turnout of the people who live in one community as we have had in this community. [Applause.] We have been traveling in this campaign from community to community, from State to State, from region to region, and we travel by plane and by car, and there are bands and all the rest. But we are engaged in a serious business, in a serious time in the life of our country. I lead on this occasion the Democratic Party which, in other years and other occasions and other great crises, had produced Jefferson, Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I think the Democratic Party has produced these men for two reasons: First, because the party is a national party, it represents potato farmers in Maine and steelworkers in Pennsylvania, and citrus growers in California and fishermen in the State of Washington. It speaks for all the people and all interests, and, therefore, I think looks to the future as the American people do.

The second reason is because we have had in every year of our great contribution, men and women of sufficient vitality and vigor to look to the future: Woodrow Wilson in the campaign of 1912 on the new freedom. The first 2 years of his administration were the most productive since the administration of Abraham Lincoln. Franklin Roosevelt ran with the New Deal. As Governor Lawrence said this morning, the first 100 days redid the face of America, and we still benefit from what he did in the first 12 months of his Office. Harry Truman ran on the Fair Deal, to speak on behalf of the people of this country. I think that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were regarded as great Presidents by the people of this country, and the world. They were regarded as good neighbors by the people of Latin America, because they were good neighbors to the people of this country. You cannot succeed abroad, you cannot be strong abroad, you cannot have our prestige strong around the world unless you are moving here at home. What we are speaks louder than what we say. What we are doing here carries its imprint across the face of the globe. Because Franklin Roosevelt developed the Tennessee Valley, people all over the world thought they could do the same. They wanted to imitate us. I want people to look again to the United States for leadership. I want them to know that we have in this country not only a free society, but also a strong and productive society. I want people in this country working. I want us developing our natural resources. I want us to demonstrate that we can be first; not, if or but or when, but first, now, period. [Applause.]

I think the people of this country should make a determination in making a decision as to who they should elect in November. They should make a determination not only on what is best for the United States, but which party can lead this country to a position of preeminence in the world.

A Gallup poll taken some months ago showed that of the 10 countries polled, a majority of the people in every country thought the Soviet Union would be ahead of the United States, in 1970, both scientifically and militarily. If people think it so, it may be so. I don't think it so. But I think the important thing is to let people know that it is not going to be so, to let people know that we are on the move here in the United States. [Applause.)

I am tired of reading what Khrushchev is doing. I would like the people of the world to be reading what the American President is doing, and what the United States is doing, not merely what Castro is doing or Khrushchev is doing or Kadar is doing or Gomulka is doing. [Applause.]

I make no pretense of saying that if we are elected life will be easier. I think the next President's responsibility in the next 6 months will be extremely heavy. He will be faced with the problem of maintaining full employment here in the United States, of maintaining our economy, of trying to stimulate sufficiently so that people who want to find work can find it, and in addition he will be face to face with a serious situation in Berlin, in Formosa and around the world. He will be face to face with a competition in Africa and Latin America.

I don't run for the Office of the Presidency promising that if I am elected life will be easy for the people or for the President. I think it is a difficult time. But I think all of us want to serve our country, all of us want the best for it, and I happen to believe that the Democratic Party has sufficient energy and vitality, sufficient force, to lead the United States through dangerous times. I ask your help in this campaign. I ask your support. [Applause.]

Let me close by saying to you--

(Response from the audience.)

I know that I am doing the work and when I stop you have to go to school, and then you have to work

(Response from the audience.)

In any case, I want to express my thanks to you all. I think here in Pennsylvania you know as much about the issues as you can know. You have a distinguished Democratic Governor. You have had serious problems which have faced this State because it is a major industrial component of the United States. If our economy is moving ahead, then Pennsylvania moves ahead. If our economy stands still or is on a plateau, then Pennsylvania stands still. This is, in a sense, a weather-vane State, because if its basic industries are moving ahead, I think the future of this State will be assured. What we want for this State we want for our country, and what we want for our country, we want for the free world.

In the American Revolution of 1776, Thomas Paine said that the cause of America is the cause of all mankind. I think in this case the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. I think we have a great contribution to make, and I am satisfied that we are going to make it. I want it said not in November but in a later date in our history by 1965 or 1970, or 1975 or 1980, when the world begins to move in the direction of freedom that we have met the enemy and they are ours. Thank you. [Applause.]

Senator John F. Kennedy walks off the plane he took to Erie (September 28, 1960)
Senator John F. Kennedy walks off the plane he took to Erie.

Senator Kennedy's Presidential Campaign in Erie, Erie Municipal Airport (1960)
Senator Kennedy's Presidential Campaign in Erie. Erie Municipal Airport. Photo provided by Ellen Innes.

Senator Kennedy giving his speech in front of the Hotel Lawrence
Senator Kennedy giving his speech in front of the Hotel Lawrence.

Citizens for Kennedy Headquarters
Citizens for Kennedy Headquarters.