Monday, October 14, 2013

51st Anniversary of the JFK Visit - Part II

by Robert Giles

Below is President Kennedy’s calendar for October 12th and 13th, the two days he campaigned in Western Pennsylvania. Note that his day began in New York City with a fund-raiser and that he spoke at Columbus Day festivities in Newark, NJ and in New York City that same morning. He then boarded Air Force One and flew to Pittsburgh.

(His agenda and appointments for the entire month of October 1962 is at  History Central.  History buffs may be interested in the entries for the twelve days beginning October 16th - the Cuban Missile Crisis.)

October 12
  • The President gave a brief address at a fund raising breakfast at the Carlyle Hotel (New York, NY).
  •  The President drove to Newark and spoke at the Columbus Day celebrations in Newark NJ.
  • The President returned to New York City to review its Columbus Day Parade.
  • The President flew to Pittsburgh.
  • The President spoke at an Aliquippa PA political rally (from a stand in the municipal parking lot).
  • In the evening the President gave a speech at the University of Pittsburgh (Fitzgerald Field House).
October 13
  • The President began the day with an address at McKeesport PA.
  • The President traveled to Monessen PA.
  • He then spoke at the Washington County Courthouse (Washington PA).
  • The President traveled to Indianapolis IN where yet again he gave a campaign speech.
  • Next he traveled to Louisville, where he addressed a Democratic Party rally at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds.

At Aliquippa and elsewhere, JFK campaigned for Democratic candidates. At Aliquippa he endorsed Philadelphia Mayor Richardson Dilworth (governor), Senator Joseph Clark (reelection), and Representative Frank Clark (reelection). Outgoing Governor David Lawrence was also on hand to provide support.

Kennedy's speech in Aliquippa is standard campaign boilerplate but the forceful, polished delivery makes it almost inspiring. Here is a real politician at work.

A sound recording of the speech is at the JFK Library.

Kennedy's strong voice does not reveal a whit of fatigue despite his grueling schedule and the fact that he has just flown 400 miles. Aliquippa was his fourth campaign appearance of the day. It is still early in the afternoon.

(When I saw him on Latimer Avenue in Ambridge he seemed aglow with energy and good health. In actuality, JFK suffered from a number of very serious medical conditions including Addison’s disease. On October 4, scarcely one week earlier, the President had cancelled all appointments due to an illness.)

You may be interested in newspaper accounts of the rallies in Mon Valley towns on the second day of his visit --

Monessen PA

It is interesting that the case President Kennedy made against Republican recalcitrance 51 years ago is echoed in the complaints of Democrats today. 

In reply, conservative Republicans and their allies would claim that JFK's domestic agenda (minimum wage, Medicare, housing, aid to education) steals money from the better off, diminishes states' rights, curtails freedom, and contributes to the debt. 

I inserted the word "conservative" because in 1962 the GOP had a moderate to liberal wing. The GOP until recent years included politicians like William Scranton, who defeated Mayor Dilworth in the PA governor's race that November. It was Governor Scranton who tried to face down the Goldwater steamroller at the 1964 Republican Convention.

It was actually a coalition of conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats who defeated most of Kennedy's legislation.

In politics, even a little complexity will ruin your story every time. We can't expect the President to campaign against his fellow Democrats. 

Watch this video at PG Video. (Wait a moment for the commercial message to clear.)

In the video, David Shribman, executive editor of the Post-Gazette, expertly sums up the Kennedy visit in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of the President just over a year later.

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