50 Years Ago Today: The First Kennedy/Nixon Debate

Opening statement of Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-MA):
“In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln said the question was whether this nation could exist half-slave or half-free. In the election of 1960, and with the world around us, the question is whether the world will exist half-slave or half-free, whether it will move in the direction of freedom, or whether it will move in the direction of slavery. . . The kind of strength we build in the United States will be the defense of freedom. . . If we fail, then freedom fails. . . .
“I should make it very clear that I do not think we’re doing enough, that I am not satisfied as an American with the progress that we’re making. . . Because economic growth means strength and vitality; it means we’re able to sustain our defenses; it means we’re able to meet our commitments abroad. . . I’m not satisfied when the Soviet Union is turning out twice as many scientists and engineers as we are. . .
“I’m not satisfied when I see men like Jimmy Hoffa – in charge of the largest union in the United States – still free. . . . I don’t believe in big government, but I believe in effective governmental action. And I think that’s the only way that the United States is going to maintain its freedom. It’s the only way that we’re going to move ahead. I think we can do a better job.
“I think we’re going to have to do a better job if we are going to meet the responsibilities which time and events have placed upon us. We cannot turn the job over to anyone else. If the United States fails, then the whole cause of freedom fails. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said in his inaugural that this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
“I think our generation of Americans has the same rendezvous. The question now is: Can freedom be maintained under the most severe attack it has ever known? I think it can be. And I think in the final analysis it depends upon what we do here. I think it’s time America started moving again.”

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