Last Wednesday would have marked President John F. Kennedy’s 96th birthday.
Before he was the leader of the free world, he was a Democratic candidate running an uphill battle against the incumbent vice-president, Richard Nixon. When all votes were tallied, Kennedy squeaked by with an advantage of just over a hundred thousand votes (only a 0.17% difference).
Alaska did not help Kennedy’s cause. In a very close race, Nixon won the state by the narrowest of margins – 144 votes!
But Kennedy made history as the first presidential candidate to actively campaign in Alaska. And not just refueling stops! He came twice, to Juneau in 1958 and Anchorage and Palmer in 1960. The junior senator from the Bay State spoke about the importance of traveling North to the Future during a speech at the state fair in Palmer just two months before he was elected to become the 35th president of the United States.
There are three electoral votes in Alaska. I left Washington, D.C., this morning at 8 o’clock. It is now 11:30 in Washington. I have come, I figure, about 3,000 miles per electoral vote, and if travel 800,000 miles in the next 2 months, we might win this election. But I am prepared to do it.
There is a story that once a traveler from Boston, Mass., used to complain that the train stood still at night in the West, and the reason, of course, was that when they woke up in the morning, they saw the same mountains and the same rivers that they had seen the previous morning. I, too, come from the other end of the American continent. I was born in one of the oldest cities of the United States, the city of Boston, and I find myself tonight in one of the youngest cities of this country. I was raised in one of our smaller States, and I find myself tonight in our biggest State.
But I feel at home as an American in the State of Alaska, and for good reason, for Alaska is a new State, and it typifies the kind of opportunity and determination which we need if we are going to restore our country to a position of second to none around the world. For in America, too, nothing stands still at night. This is a changing State here in Alaska an it is a changing country. The pressures and needs have increased, and yet we have stood still. I don’t think that that is the kind of action which in the State of Alaska they want, if this State is going to realize its great potential….
I think here in the largest State of the Union we have an unparalleled opportunity to grow, by recognizing our great natural resources, by harnessing our rivers, by building our roads and highways, by improving our fishing resources, by recognizing that this is an opportunity not merely for the people of Alaska, but for the People of the United States….
I come here to Alaska with pride as an American in this State, and with confidence that this State and this country will be, by the year 1970, once again second to none, the capital of the free world, the hope of men who desire a better life for themselves and their children. Alaska represents what can be done. I am delighted to be here today. I am delighted to campaign in this State. I hope the Vice President comes here after me, because here in Alaska it is an education for him and for me. Whoever is President must know this State, must recognize its opportunities. I can assure you that if I am successful, the needs of this State will be recognized, because here is the new frontier.”
You can read the full speech HERE.
The next time Juneau decides to dedicate state time to passing resolutions supporting old presidential speeches, I think this one might be deserving of a nod.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President.