David Pietrusza's Amsterdam

Author David Pietrusza hails originally from Amsterdam,
New York and presents this webpage in the city's honor.
New York Links

Amsterdam Links
Old Seal of the City of Amsterdam, New York
                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

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  [Applause.]

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.]
1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon
Kennedy for President