Old Seal of the City of Amsterdam, New York
David Pietrusza's Amsterdam

Author David Pietrusza hails originally from Amsterdam,
New York and presents this webpage in the city's honor.
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Amsterdam Links
1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon
        Senator John F. Kennedy
       Amsterdam, New York
         September 29, 1960

On Thursday, September 29, 1960 Senator John F. Kennedy, Democratic
candidate for President, campaigned in Amsterdam, New York, addressing a
crowd in the municipal parking lot between Grove and Main Streets. Here is
the text of his remarks:

Mayor Wagner, Governor Harriman, Mr. Prendergast, Mr. Chairman,
Congressman Stratton, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my thanks
to all of you for being kind enough to come here during your lunch hour. I
particularly am glad to be here--and during my lunch hour [laughter]--I am
particularly glad to be here with your distinguished Congressman, Sam
Stratton, who fought for this district and who fights for the United States.

Amsterdam, New York and Boston, Massachusetts, have many things in
common. They are among the oldest cities of the United States, and like all
old cities, they meet the same problems which come with maturity, with age.
Our responsibility, those of us who live in the urban centers of the United
States, is to try to rebuild our cities and their economies so that they can
serve as a place of vitality in the economic life of the United States. We are
an old section of the United States, you who live along the Mohawk River
or along the ocean in Massachusetts. Senator Green, who represents Rhode
Island in the U.S. Senate, was 12 years old when General Custer was slain
in Montana. That is how young America is. That is how young the West is.
That is how old we are.

If we are going to maintain our economic position, if we are going to prevent
our factories from leaving us for other sections of the United States, sections
which have great natural resources, which have iron, gas and oil
underground, and coal--we have no natural resources in the soil of the
Northeast United States--the only resources we have is the skill of our
people--I believe it incumbent upon the next President of the United States
and the next administration to join together with those who fight for the
rebuilding of our American economy, especially in those areas which have
been hard hit, and Amsterdam, New York, is one of them. Lawrence,
Massachusetts, is another. And the reason is the same in both cases. In
Lawrence, Massachusetts, we lost our cotton and worsted textiles, in
Amsterdam you lost carpets and some textiles. They moved to other
sections of the United States.

How are we going to maintain our employment? Part of it requires, of
course, local effort. We have rebuilt Lawrence, Massachusetts, partly by
bringing Raytheon in there, partly by concentrating on electronics, and partly
by using the skills of our universities and colleges for new research work. So
part of it requires a local effort and part of it requires a State effort and part
of it requires a national effort.

I believe the next President of the United States should sign the following
bills, and if I am elected I will do so:

1. The area distress bill, a bill which put the credit and power and vigor of
the economy of the Federal Government in those areas where
unemployment is higher than 7 or 8 percent for a long period of time. In
other words, the Federal Government will loan its credit to businesses that
wish to come to areas such as this, will provide vocational retraining for
older workers, provide supplemental unemployment compensation benefits
for those who are out of work for a long time, will aid in cleansing the rivers,
will aid in trying to bring new industry into this area. We will, if we pass
defense manpower policy No. 4 again, steer defense contracts into those
areas with a high level of unemployment.

2. I think the President and the administration and the Government and the
State government and the city should join together in cleaning our polluted
rivers. They are a great national asset. But if you are going to bring industry
in here which is going to use fresh, clean water, they can't use the river as it
is today. The administration vetoed the distressed area bill; the have vetoed
the polluted river bill last year. Our rivers belong to the people who live
along them and belong to the people who come after us. I live on the most
polluted river in the United States, the most polluted river in the world west
of the Ganges--the Potomac in Washington, the Potomac River in
Washington. But these rivers in the New York area are not so clean and we
have to do a better job of maintaining them if you are going to bring industry
in that needs fresh water.

3. I think this administration should pass a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour.
[Applause.] The Vice President of the United States on Monday night's
television show said that the $1.25 an hour was extreme, $1.25 an hour
being $50 a week. You will get that under the bill which was considered
extreme in 1960. What is extreme about that? I want somebody in the
Senate or the House to live on $1.25 at a time when the Bureau of Labor
Statistics says a single woman to even survive in an urban center of the
United States, it costs her $52 a week. Yet the average wage for laundry
women in five large cities of the United States is 64 cents an hour, and for a
48-hour week.

I believe in $1.25 minimum wage, and I think the next Congress should pass
it. [Applause.]

And finally, I believe in a program of urban renewal for our cities and
particularly our older cities. I am concerned about these cities of the United
States because I think the problems that urban centers have faced, such as
Amsterdam and my own city, are really one of the undiscussed problems
that face the United States today. Housing, transportation, water, fresh air,
space, schools, libraries, hospitals - these are all public resources, public
facilities, which are essential to the development of an orderly society. And I
think the Democratic Party looks ahead. I come here as a Democrat. Mr.
Nixon says it doesn't really make much difference which party you belong
to. I am not going to let him run away from the Republican record on social
security, minimum wage, housing, civil rights, and the rest. [Applause.]

I think it makes a difference what party you belong to. Grover Cleveland, a
President, said:

What good is a politician unless he stands for something, and what good is a
political party unless it stands for something?

If I were a Republican, I would admit it; I would run on that record and let
the people make their choices between the Democratic Party and the
Republican Party, not saying it does not make any difference. I think it does  

The Bible tells us, "By their fruits you shall know them." And they know the
Democrats and they know the Republicans and on November 8, I think the
American people are going to say yes to the next 10 years, are going to
look ahead, are going to do in our time what they did in the administrations
of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, say yes, say
we can do better, say we must move ahead. [Applause.]

So I come here today and ask your help. I think we all should try to register
and vote. Franklin Roosevelt said some years ago:

What good is the right of free speech for a man who does not say anything?
What good is the right to go to church if you don't practice a religion? What
is the good of the right to vote if you don't register and vote?

We have these freedoms and I think this is the time we should use the
freedom, the right of free choice, and strike a blow for this country and the
cause of freedom, strike the blow for a stronger and more powerful
America, strike a blow for the future of this country. Thank you. [Applause.]
Kennedy for President