OTD in History… July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivers the Malaise Speech

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OTD in History… July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivers the Malaise Speech

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered an address from the White House to the nation on “Energy and National Goals” focusing on the energy and oil crisis, Carter, however, indicated Americans are suffering a “crisis of confidence,” and the speech later became known as “The Malaise Speech.” In 1973, OPEC’s (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) in the Middle East cut oil production creating a shortage of oil and gasoline in the United States, the country was also suffering from a recession and rising inflation. Carter believed the problem was bigger than the economy and emphasized America’s “crisis in confidence” in his address before discussing energy policy and possible solutions including alternative energy sources.

After a Camp David meeting with “business, labor, educational, political and religious leaders,” Carter concluded the real problem was Americans’ lack of “moral and spiritual confidence,” and materialism and the country were no longer the “world’s leaders” in “progress.” Carter also believed that politics was “fundamental threat to American democracy.” One particular line in the speech stands out, President Carter expressed, “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” Although Carter never mentioned the word malaise, that line led the speech to be known as the “Malaise Speech.” Carter concluded in the nation finds their “common purpose” and restores “American values” then “Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy, we can win for our Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.”

The public responded positively to Carter’s speech but within a few days, he fired a number of members of his cabinet including his Secretary of Energy, the crisis of confidence turned into a lack of confidence in Carter’s administration by the American public. Historian Kevin Mattson argues in his book “What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?”: Jimmy Carter, America’s “malaise,” and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country, “Jimmy Carter had grown increasingly convinced that Americans had to face up to the energy crisis, but they only could do this if they faced up to the crisis in their own values. He tried to push the energy crisis on to a kind of moral and civic plane, and the speech was used to unify around a sense of civic sacrifice.”

To solve the energy crisis, Carter looked to “deregulate the price of domestic oil” adding a windfall profits tax, and creating “synthetic fuels.” In less than a year later, Congress passed “The Energy Security Act” and created the Synthetic Fuels Corporation. Historians Diane and Scott Kaufman call the bill, the “most sweeping energy legislation in the nation’s history.” Carter’s policies cut American energy consumption by 10 percent and the use of foreign oil by half by 1983. In an election year, Carter’s success was not enough to save his presidency, Republican Ronald Reagan capitalized on Carter’s negativity, and his conservative ideology appealed to the voters in its plan to reduce the “bloated government bureaucracy” Carter found central to the nation’s crisis.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Kaufman, Diane, and Scott Kaufman. Historical Dictionary of the Carter Era. Lanham : The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2013.

Mattson, Kevin. “What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?”: Jimmy Carter, America’s “malaise,” and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country.Bloomsbury: New York, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals: “The Malaise Speech”

July 15, 1979

Good evening.

This is a special night for me. Exactly 3 years ago, on July 15, 1976, I accepted the nomination of my party to run for President of the United States. I promised you a President who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.

During the past 3 years I’ve spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the Government, our Nation’s economy, and issues of war and especially peace. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually, you’ve heard more and more about what the Government thinks or what the Government should be doing and less and less about our Nation’s hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.

Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject–energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?

It’s clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper—deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as President I need your help. So, I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.

I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society–business and labor, teachers and preachers, Governors, mayors, and private citizens. And then I left Camp David to listen to other Americans, men and women like you. It has been an extraordinary 10 days, and I want to share with you what I’ve heard.

First of all, I got a lot of personal advice. Let me quote a few of the typical comments that I wrote down.

This from a southern Governor: “Mr. President, you are not leading this NationпїЅ you’re just managing the Government.”

“You don’t see the people enough any more.”

“Some of your Cabinet members don’t seem loyal. There is not enough discipline among your disciples.”

“Don’t talk to us about politics or the mechanics of government, but about an understanding of our common good.”

“Mr. President, we’re in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears.”

“If you lead, Mr. President, we will follow.”

Many people talked about themselves and about the condition of our Nation. This from a young woman in Pennsylvania: “I feel so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are excluded from political power.”

And this from a young Chicano: “Some of us have suffered from recession all our lives.”

“Some people have wasted energy, but others haven’t had anything to waste.”

And this from a religious leader: “No material shortage can touch the important things like God’s love for us or our love for one another.”

And I like this one particularly from a black woman who happens to be the mayor of a small Mississippi town: “The big-shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can’t sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first.”

This kind of summarized a lot of other statements: “Mr. President, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual crisis.”

Several of our discussions were on energy, and I have a notebook full of comments and advice. I’ll read just a few.

“We can’t go on consuming 40 percent more energy than we produce. When we import oil we are also importing inflation plus unemployment.”

“We’ve got to use what we have. The Middle East has only 5 percent of the world’s energy, but the United States has 24 percent.”

And this is one of the most vivid statements: “Our neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC has a knife.”

“There will be other cartels and other shortages. American wisdom and courage right now can set a path to follow in the future.”

This was a good one: “Be bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment.”

And this one from a labor leader got to the heart of it: “The real issue is freedom. We must deal with the energy problem on a war footing.”

And the last that I’ll read: “When we enter the moral equivalent of war, Mr. President, don’t issue us BB guns.”

These 10 days confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength and the wisdom of the American people, but it also bore out some of my longstanding concerns about our Nation’s underlying problems.

I know, of course, being President, that government actions and legislation can be very important. That’s why I’ve worked hard to put my campaign promises into law–and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else–public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.

We remember when the phrase “sound as a dollar” was an expression of absolute dependability, until 10 years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our Nation’s resources were limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.

These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed.

Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don’t like it, and neither do I. What can we do?

First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this Nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.

One of the visitors to Camp David last week put it this way: “We’ve got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America.”

We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now. Our fathers and mothers were strong men and women who shaped a new society during the Great Depression, who fought world wars, and who carved out a new charter of peace for the world.

We ourselves are the same Americans who just 10 years ago put a man on the Moon. We are the generation that dedicated our society to the pursuit of human rights and equality. And we are the generation that will win the war on the energy problem and in that process rebuild the unity and confidence of America.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our Nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

In little more than two decades we’ve gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It’s a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our Nation.

The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them:

What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.

Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977–never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980’s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade–a saving of over 4 1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.

Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my Presidential authority to set import quotas. I’m announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.

Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel–from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun.

I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2 1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America’s energy security.

Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this Nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.

These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans. These funds will go to fight, not to increase, inflation and unemployment.

Point four: I’m asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our Nation’s utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source.

Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects.

We will protect our environment. But when this Nation critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build it.

Point six: I’m proposing a bold conservation program to involve every State, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I’m proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I’m asking you for your good and for your Nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense–I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Our Nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our Nation’s strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives.

So, the solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our Nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose.

You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world’s highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war.

I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our Nation’s problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act.

We can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.

Twelve hours from now I will speak again in Kansas City, to expand and to explain further our energy program. Just as the search for solutions to our energy shortages has now led us to a new awareness of our Nation’s deeper problems, so our willingness to work for those solutions in energy can strengthen us to attack those deeper problems.

I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people of America. You can help me to develop a national agenda for the 1980’s. I will listen and I will act. We will act together. These were the promises I made 3 years ago, and I intend to keep them.

Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources–America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.

I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy secure nation.

In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our Nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.

Thank you and good night.

Citation: Jimmy Carter: “Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals: “The Malaise Speech”,” July 15, 1979. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=32596.

OTD in History… July 14, 1798, Congress passes the Sedition Act an assault on the first amendment

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OTD in History… July 14, 1798, Congress passes the Sedition Act an assault on the first amendment

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 14, 1798, President John Adams signed into law, the immensely unpopular Sedition Act. It was the fourth of the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts meant to protect the fledgling nation plunged into a Quasi-War naval war with France but at the same time curtailed the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution ratified just seven years before. As the History Channel put it, the act was “one of the most egregious breaches of the U.S. Constitution in history,” “endangering liberty in the fragile new nation.” The laws furthered emphasized the divide between the newly formed political parties, President Adams’ the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans head by Vice President Thomas Jefferson. The Federalists supported closer relations with Great Britain, while the Republicans sided with old Revolutionary War ally France.

During the Quasi-War in 1798–99, France seized over 300 American ships because they were trading with Great Britain under Jay’s Treaty of 1795. France also refused “to accept the credentials of Charles Coatesworth Pinckney, the new American minister to France,” threatening to arrest him. Pickney along with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry went to France to negotiate a deal to retrieve the “confiscated ships.” (Thackeray and Findling, 152) Three agents of French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand demanded from the American commissioners $ 250,000 and a $10 million loan. When Pickney, Marshall, and Eldridge notified Adams he sent Congress that, he was denouncing the treatment and wanted Congress to prepare for a possible War. Republicans demanded proof, Adams sent Congress the Commissioners report, the incident became known as the XYZ Affair, for the letters referenced to Tallyrand’s agents.

The moment was a great triumph for Adams as anti-French sentiment swept the new nation, Congress expanded the Army and Navy, with former President General George Washington agreeing to come out of retirement and lead the army with Alexander Hamilton as his second. Congress also cut trade with France but Adams would not agree to Hamilton’s demands for a formal declaration of war. Hamiltonian Federalists in Congress decided on the next best solution to maintaining Federalist control, the Alien and Sedition Acts. Publicly the acts were for national security protecting the country from France; privately Federalists aimed the laws at French supporting Republicans and their partisan press.

The fifth Congress passed four bills in 1798 compromising the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Nationalization Act increased the residency requirement for citizenship to fourteen from five years. The Alien Act allowed the president to deport any immigrant deemed dangerous. The Alien Enemies Act could imprison immigrants whose country declare or threaten war with America. Finally, the Sedition Act, the only one of the four acts enforced. The law punished by fine or imprisonment anyone who made “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government of the United States. The law clearly violated the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and punished the Republican press, the Federalists greatest detractors. Ten Republican newspaper editors were prosecuted including Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon, who received a four-month prison sentence and a $1000 fine.

Republicans Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, passed in their respective state legislatures declaring the laws a violation of the First and Tenth Amendments. Their remedies called for a “states’ rights interpretation of the Constitution,” Madison called for states’ conventions to curtail federal power, while Jefferson suggested a state could nullify a law should they find it violated the Constitution. The resolutions were political, aimed at electing Jefferson president in 1800. Faced with a backlash Adams committed political suicide by breaking with Hamiltonian Federalists, resuming diplomatic negotiations with France, firing Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, and sending three new commissioners to France who negotiated a “forgive-and-forget agreement,” the Convention of 1800 with France’s new leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Alien Seditions Acts and breaking with Hamilton secured Jefferson ascendency to the presidency and Adams’ defeat. Three of the Acts expired right before or early in Jefferson’s term, with the Alien Enemies Act the lone holdover used during the World Wars in the 20th century. Nearly, two hundred and twenty years later Republican President Donald Trump is preaching and enacting similar anti-immigrant laws in the name of national security with his travel ban, upheld by the Supreme Court and his attacks on the press, continually referring to them as fake news. Trump’s Hamiltonian rhetoric and actions have a precedence neither the press nor the public refuse to acknowledge; throughout American history the Constitution has been threatened by those in the highest offices pledging oaths to protect it.

SOURCES

Findling, John E, and Frank W. Thackeray. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 15, 1960, John F. Kennedy accepts the Democratic presidential nomination

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Address of Senator John F. Kennedy Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

July 15, 1960

Governor Stevenson, Senator Johnson, Mr. Butler, Senator Symington, Senator Humphrey, Speaker Rayburn, Fellow Democrats, I want to express my thanks to Governor Stevenson for his generous and heart-warming introduction.

It was my great honor to place his name in nomination at the 1956 Democratic Convention, and I am delighted to have his support and his counsel and his advice in the coming months ahead.

With a deep sense of duty and high resolve, I accept your nomination.

I accept it with a full and grateful heart–without reservation–and with only one obligation–the obligation to devote every effort of body, mind and spirit to lead our Party back to victory and our Nation back to greatness.

I am grateful, too, that you have provided me with such an eloquent statement of our Party’s platform. Pledges which are made so eloquently are made to be kept. “The Rights of Man”–the civil and economic rights essential to the human dignity of all men–are indeed our goal and our first principles. This is a Platform on which I can run with enthusiasm and conviction.

And I am grateful, finally, that I can rely in the coming months on so many others–on a distinguished running-mate who brings unity to our ticket and strength to our Platform, Lyndon Johnson–on one of the most articulate statesmen of our time, Adlai Stevenson–on a great spokesman for our needs as a Nation and a people, Stuart Symington–and on that fighting campaigner whose support I welcome, President Harry S. Truman– on my traveling companion in Wisconsin and West Virginia, Senator Hubert Humphrey. On Paul Butler, our devoted and courageous Chairman.

I feel a lot safer now that they are on my side again. And I am proud of the contrast with our Republican competitors. For their ranks are apparently so thin that not one challenger has come forth with both the competence and the courage to make theirs an open convention.

I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my faith, has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk–new, at least since 1928. But I look at it this way: the Democratic Party has once again placed its confidence in the American people, and in their ability to render a free, fair judgment. And you have, at the same time, placed your confidence in me, and in my ability to render a free, fair judgment–to uphold the Constitution and my oath of office–and to reject any kind of religious pressure or obligation that might directly or indirectly interfere with my conduct of the Presidency in the national interest. My record of fourteen years supporting public education–supporting complete separation of church and state–and resisting pressure from any source on any issue should be clear by now to everyone.

I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant. I want to stress, what some other political or religious leader may have said on this subject. It is not relevant what abuses may have existed in other countries or in other times. It is not relevant what pressures, if any, might conceivably be brought to bear on me. I am telling you now what you are entitled to know: that my decisions on any public policy will be my own–as an American, a Democrat and a free man.

Under any circumstances, however, the victory we seek in November will not be easy. We all know that in our hearts. We recognize the power of the forces that will be aligned against us. We know they will invoke the name of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of their candidate–despite the fact that the political career of their candidate has often seemed to show charity toward none and malice for all.

We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue. Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal–but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.

That “someone” may be the millions of Americans who voted for President Eisenhower but balk at his would be, self-appointed successor. For just as historians tell us that Richard I was not fit to fill the shoes of bold Henry II–and that Richard Cromwell was not fit to wear the mantle of his uncle–they might add in future years that Richard Nixon did not measure to the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Perhaps he could carry on the party policies–the policies of Nixon, Benson, Dirksen and Goldwater. But this Nation cannot afford such a luxury. Perhaps we could better afford a Coolidge following Harding. And perhaps we could afford a Pierce following Fillmore. But after Buchanan this nation needed a Lincoln–after Taft we needed a Wilson–after Hoover we needed Franklin Roosevelt. . . . And after eight years of drugged and fitful sleep, this nation needs strong, creative Democratic leadership in the White House.

But we are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care–the families without a decent home–the parents of children without adequate food or schools–they all know that it’s time for a change.

But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high–to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.

Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

Abroad, the balance of power is shifting. There are new and more terrible weapons–new and uncertain nations–new pressures of population and deprivation. One-third of the world, it has been said, may be free–but one-third is the victim of cruel repression–and the other one- third is rocked by the pangs of poverty, hunger and envy. More energy is released by the awakening of these new nations than by the fission of the atom itself.

Meanwhile, Communist influence has penetrated further into Asia, stood astride the Middle East and now festers some ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Friends have slipped into neutrality–and neutrals into hostility. As our keynoter reminded us, the President who began his career by going to Korea ends it by staying away from Japan.

The world has been close to war before–but now man, who has survived all previous threats to his existence, has taken into his mortal hands the power to exterminate the entire species some seven times over.

Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary. The New Deal and the Fair Deal were bold measures for their generations–but this is a new generation.

A technological revolution on the farm has led to an output explosion–but we have not yet learned to harness that explosion usefully, while protecting our farmers’ right to full parity income.

An urban population explosion has overcrowded our schools, cluttered up our suburbs, and increased the squalor of our slums.

A peaceful revolution for human rights–demanding an end to racial discrimination in all parts of our community life–has strained at the leashes imposed by timid executive leadership.

A medical revolution has extended the life of our elder citizens without providing the dignity and security those later years deserve. And a revolution of automation finds machines replacing men in the mines and mills of America, without replacing their incomes or their training or their needs to pay the family doctor, grocer and landlord.

There has also been a change–a slippage–in our intellectual and moral strength. Seven lean years of drouth and famine have withered a field of ideas. Blight has descended on our regulatory agencies–and a dry rot, beginning in Washington, is seeping into every corner of America–in the payola mentality, the expense account way of life, the confusion between what is legal and what is right. Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose.

It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership–new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.

All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power–men who are not bound by the traditions of the past–men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries–young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.

The Republican nominee-to-be, of course, is also a young man. But his approach is as old as McKinley. His party is the party of the past. His speeches are generalities from Poor Richard’s Almanac. Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo–and today there can be no status quo.

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not “every man for himself” –but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over–that all the horizons have been explored–that all the battles have been won– that there is no longer an American frontier.

But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won–and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier–the frontier of the 1960’s–a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.

Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises–it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook–it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.

But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric–and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.

But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age–to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”

For courage–not complacency–is our need today–leadership–not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation–and the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory.

There may be those who wish to hear more–more promises to this group or that–more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin–more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high. But my promises are in the platform you have adopted–our ends will not be won by rhetoric and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.

For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation–or any nation so conceived–can long endure–whether our society–with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives–can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.

Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction–but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?

Are we up to the task–are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future–or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?

That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make–a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort–between national greatness and national decline–between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy”–between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity.

All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.

It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.”

As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.

Thank you.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Address of Senator John F. Kennedy Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles,” July 15, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25966.

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