President John F. Kennedy

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Kennedy's Statements on Social Security



My dear Mr.----------

I am transmitting here within a bill to make five needed improvements in the social security program.

They will not only help to meet pressing social needs, but if promptly enacted these improvements will give our economic recovery program needed impetus. They will result in placing increased purchasing power in the hands of almost five million people. These are among the lowest income groups in the country.

In addition, the legislation will improve the flexibility and effectiveness of our social security program over the long run and make it better able to contribute to the economic strength of the Nation and the welfare and security of our people.

The enclosed letter from the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare describes the legislation in more detail.


John F. Kennedy

NOTE: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Secretary Ribicoff's letter, also released, recommended the following improvements in the social security program:

1. Increases in the minimum benefits.

2. Retirement benefits for men at age 62.

3. Liberalization of the insured status requirements.

4. Increases in benefits for widows, widowers, or parents.

5. Providing benefits after 6-months total disability even though it is expected the worker will eventually recover.



It is with great satisfaction that I have signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1961. They represent in additional step toward eliminating many of the hardships resulting from old age, disability, or the death of the family wage-earner.

A nation's strength lies in the well-being of its people. The Social Security program plays an important part in providing for families, children, and older persons in times of stress. But it cannot remain static. Changes in our population, in our working habits, and in our standard of living require constant revision. I am pleased that the Congress has acted so promptly this year to modernize the program. It has done so with commendable regard for the sound principles on which social insurance must be based for the legislation is both financially sound and socially responsible.

With these amendments, the Social Security program will be a more effective instrument.


To the Congress of the United States:

Few nations do more than the United States to assist their least fortunate citizens--to make certain that no child, no elderly or handicapped citizen, no family in any circumstances in any State, is left without the essential needs for a decent and healthy existence. In too few nations, I might add, are the people aware of the progressive strides this country has taken in demonstrating the humanitarian side of freedom. Our record is a proud one--and it sharply refutes those who accuse us of thinking only in the materialistic terms of cash registers and calculating machines.

Our basic public welfare programs were enacted more then a quarter century ago. Their contribution to our national strength and well-being in the intervening years has been remarkable.

But the times, the conditions, the problems have changed--and the nature and objectives of our public assistance and child welfare programs must be changed, also, if they are to meet our current needs.

The impact of these changes should not be underestimated:

--People move more often--from the farm to the city, from urban centers to the suburbs, from the East to the West, from the South to the North and Midwest.

--Living costs, and especially medical costs, have spiraled.

--The pattern of our population has changed. There are more older people, more children, more young marriages, divorces, desertions and separations.

--Our system of social insurance and related programs has grown greatly: in 1940 less than 1% of the aged were receiving monthly old age insurance benefits; today over two-thirds of our aged are receiving these benefits. In 1940 only 21,000 children, in families where the breadwinner had died, were getting survivor insurance benefits; today such monthly benefits are being paid to -about 2 million children.

All of these changes affect the problems public welfare was intended to relieve as well as its ability to relieve it. Moreover, even the nature and causes of poverty have changed. At the time the Social Security Act established our present basic framework for public aid, the major cause of poverty was unemployment and economic depression. Today, in a year of relative prosperity and high employment, we are more concerned about the poverty that persists in the midst of abundance.

The reasons are often more social than economic, more often subtle than simple. Some are in need because they are untrained for work--some because they cannot work, because they are too young or too old, blind or crippled. Some are in need because they are discriminated against for reasons they cannot help. Responding to their ills with scorn or suspicion is inconsistent with our moral precepts and inconsistent with their nearly universal preference to be independent. But merely responding with a "relief check" to complicated social or personal problems--such as ill health, faulty education, domestic discord, racial discrimination, or inadequate skills--is riot likely to provide a lasting solution. Such a check must be supplemented, or in some cases made unnecessary, by positive services and solutions, offering the total resources of the community to meet the total needs of the family to help our less fortunate citizens help themselves.

Public welfare, in short, must be more than a salvage operation, picking up the debris from the wreckage of human lives. Its emphasis must be directed increasingly toward prevention and rehabilitation--on reducing not only the long-range cost in budgetary terms but the long-range cost in human terms as well. Poverty weakens individuals and nations. Sounder public welfare policies will benefit the nation, its economy, its morale, and, most importantly, its people.

Under the various titles of the Social Security Act, funds are available to help the States provide assistance and other social services to the needy, aged and blind, to the needy disabled, and to dependent children. In addition, grants are available to assist the States to expand and strengthen their programs of child welfare services. These programs are essentially State programs. But the Federal Government, by its substantial financial contribution, its leadership, and the standards it sets, bears a major responsibility. To better fulfill this responsibility, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare recently introduced a number of administrative changes designed to get people off assistance and back into useful, productive roles in society.

These changes provided for:

--the more effective location of deserting parents;

--an effort to reduce that proportion of persons receiving assistance through willful misrepresentation, although that proportion is only a small part of the 1.5% of persons on the rolls found to be ineligible;

--allowing dependent children to save money for educational, employment or medical needs without having that amount deducted from their public assistance grants;

--providing special services and safeguards to children in families of unmarried parents, in families where the father has deserted, or in homes in danger of becoming morally or physically unsuitable; and

--an improvement in the training of personnel, the development of services and the coordination of agency efforts.

In keeping with this new emphasis, the name of the Bureau of Public Assistance has been changed to the Bureau of Family Services.

But only so much can be done by administrative changes. New legislation is required if our State-operated programs are to be fully able to meet modern needs.


As already mentioned, we must place more stress on services instead of relief.

I recommend that the States be encouraged by the offer of additional Federal funds to strengthen and broaden the rehabilitative and preventive services they offer to persons who are dependent or who would otherwise become dependent. Additional Federal funds would induce and assist the States to establish or augment their rehabilitation services, strengthen their child welfare services, and add to their number of competent public welfare personnel. At the present time, the cost of these essential services is lumped with all administrative costs--routine clerical and office functions--and the Federal Government pays one-half of the total of all such costs incurred by the States. By separating out and identifying the cost of these essential rehabilitation, social work and other service costs, and paying the States three-fourths of such services--a step I earnestly recommend for your consideration--the Federal Government will enable and encourage the States to provide more comprehensive and effective services to rehabilitate those on welfare. The existing law should also be amended to permit the use of Federal funds for utilization by the State welfare agency of specialists from other State agencies who can help mount a concerted attack on the problems of dependency.

There are other steps we can take which will have an important effect on this effort. One of these is to expand and improve the Federal-State program of vocational rehabilitation for disabled people. Among the 92,500 disabled men and women successfully rehabilitated into employment through this program last year were about 15,000 who had formerly been receiving public assistance. Let me repeat this figure: 15,000 people, formerly supported by the taxpayers through welfare, are now back at work as self-supporting taxpayers. Much more of this must be done--until we are restoring to employment every disabled person who can benefit from these rehabilitation services.

The prevention of future adult poverty and dependency must begin with the care of dependent children--those who must receive public welfare by virtue of a parent's death, disability, desertion or unemployment. Our society not only refuses to leave such children hungry, cold, and devoid of opportunity--we are insistent that such children not be community liabilities throughout their lives. Yet children who grow up in deprivation, without adequate protection, may be poorly equipped to meet adult responsibilities.

The Congress last year approved, on a temporary basis, aid for the dependent children of the unemployed as a part of the permanent Aid to Dependent Children program. This legislation also included temporary provisions for foster care where the child his been removed front his home, and an increase in Federal financial assistance to the aged, blind and disabled. The need for these temporary improvements has not abated, and their merit is clear. I recommend that these temporary provisions be made permanent.

But children need more than aid when they are destitute. We need to improve our preventive and protective services for children as well as adults. I recommend that the present ceiling of $25,000,000 authorized for annual appropriations for grants to the States for child welfare services be gradually raised, beginning with $30,000,000 for 1963, up to $50,000,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, and succeeding years.

Finally, many women now on assistance rolls could obtain jobs and become self-supporting if local day care programs for their young children were available. The need for such programs for the children of working mothers has been increasing rapidly. Of the 22 million women now working, about 3 million have children under 6, and another 4 million have school-age children between 6 and 17. Adequate care for these children during their most formative years is essential to their proper growth and training. Therefore, I recommend that the child welfare provisions of the Social Security Act be changed to authorize earmarking up to $5,000,000 of grants to the States in 1963 and $10,000,000 a year thereafter for aid in establishing local programs for the day care of young children of working mothers.


We must find ways of returning far more of our dependent people to independence. We must find ways of returning them to a participating and productive role in the community.

One sure way is by providing the opportunity every American cherishes to do sound and useful work. For this reason, I am recommending a change in the law to permit States to maintain with Federal financial help community work and training projects for unemployed people receiving welfare payments. Under such a program, unemployed people on welfare would be helped to retain their work skills or learn new ones; and the local community would obtain additional manpower on public projects.

But earning one's welfare payment through required participation in a community work or training project must be an opportunity for the individual on welfare, not a penalty. Federal financial participation will be conditioned upon proof that the work will serve a useful community or public purpose, will not displace regular employees, will not impair prevailing wages and working conditions, and will be accompanied by certain basic health and safety protections. Provisions must also be made to assure appropriate arrangements for the care and protection of children during the absence from home of any parent performing work or undergoing training.

Moreover, systematic encouragement would be given all welfare recipients to obtain vocational counseling, testing, and placement services from the United States Employment Service and to secure useful training wherever new job skills would be helpful. Close cooperative arrangements would be established with existing training and vocational education programs, and with the vocational and on-the-job training opportunities to be created under the manpower Development and Training and Youth Employment Opportunities programs previously proposed.


It is essential that state and local welfare agencies be staffed with enough qualified personnel to insure constructive and adequate attention to the problems of needy individuals--to take the time to help them find and hold a job--to prevent public dependency and to strive, where that is not possible, for rehabilitation--and to ascertain promptly whether any individual is receiving aid for which he does not qualify, so that aid can be promptly withdrawn.

Unfortunately, there is an acute shortage of trained personnel in all our welfare programs. The lack of experienced social workers for programs dealing with children and their families is especially critical.

At the present time, when States expend funds for the training of personnel for the administration of these programs, they receive Federal grants on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This arrangement has failed to produce a sufficient number of trained staff, especially social workers. I recommend, therefore, that Federal assistance to the States for training additional welfare personnel be increased; and that in addition, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare be authorized to make special arrangements for the training of family welfare personnel to work with those children whose parents have deserted, whose parents are unmarried, or who have other serious problems.


In order to make certain that welfare funds go only to needy people, the Social Security Act requires the States to take all income and resources of the applicant into consideration in determining need. Although Federal law permits, it does not require States to take into full account the full expenses individuals have in earning income. This is not consistent with equity, common sense or other Federal laws such as our tax code. It only discourages the will to earn. In order to encourage assistance recipients to find and retain employment, I therefore recommend that the Act be amended to require the States to take into account the expenses of earning income.

Among relatives caring for dependent children are a few who do not properly handle their assistance payments--some to the extent that the well-being of the child is adversely affected. Where the State determines that a relative's ability to manage money is contrary to the welfare of the child, Federal law presently requires payments to be made to a legal guardian or representative, if Federal funds are to be used. But this general requirement may sometimes block progress in particular situations. In order to recognize the necessity for each State to make exceptions to this rule in a very limited number of cases, I recommend that the law be amended to permit Federal sharing to continue even though protective payments in behalf of children--not to exceed of 1% of ADC recipients in each State--are made to other persons concerned with the welfare of the family. The States would be required to reexamine these exceptions at intervals to determine whether a more permanent arrangement such as guardianship is required.

When first enacted, the aid to dependent children program provided for Federal sharing in assistance payments only to the child. Since 1950, there has been Federal sharing in any assistance given to one adult in the household as well as to the child or children. Inasmuch as under current law there may be two parents in homes covered by this program, one incapacitated or unemployed, I recommend in the interest of equity the extension of Federal sharing in assistance payments both to the needy relative and to his or her spouse when both are living in the home with the child.


Under present public assistance provisions, States may impose residence requirements up to five of the last nine years for the aged, blind and disabled. Increased mobility, as previously mentioned, is a hallmark of our times. It should not operate unfairly on either an individual State or an individual family. I recommend that the Social Security Act be amended so as to provide that States receiving Federal funds not exclude any otherwise eligible persons who have been residents of the State for one year immediately preceding their application for assistance. I also recommend that the law be amended to provide a small increase in assistance funds to those States which simplify their laws by removing all residence requirements in any of their Federally aided programs.

In view of the changing nature of the economic and social problems of the country, the desirability of a periodic review of our public welfare programs is obvious. For that purpose I propose that the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare be authorized to appoint an Advisory Council on Public Welfare representing broad community interests and concerns, and such other advisory committees as he deems necessary to advise and consult with him in the administration of the Social Security Act.

No study of the public welfare program can fail to note the difficulty of the problems faced or the need to be imaginative in dealing with them. Accordingly, I recommend that amendments be made to encourage experimental, pilot or demonstration projects that would promote the objectives of the assistance titles and help make our welfare programs more flexible and adaptable to local needs.

The simplification and coordination of administration and operation would greatly improve the adequacy and consistency of assistance and related services. As a step in that direction, I recommend that a new title to the Social Security Act be enacted which would give to States the option of submitting a single, unified State plan combining their assistance programs for aged, blind and disabled, and their medical assistance programs for the aged, granting to such States additional Federal matching for medical payments on behalf of the blind and disabled.

These proposed far-reaching changes--aimed at far-reaching problems--are in the public interest and in keeping with our finest traditions. The goals of our public welfare programs must be positive and constructive--to create economic and social opportunities for the less fortunate--to help them find productive, happy and independent lives. It must stress the integrity and preservation of the family unit. It must contribute to the attack on dependency, juvenile delinquency, family breakdown, illegitimacy, ill health and disability. It must reduce the incidence of these problems, prevent their occurrence and recurrence, and strengthen and protect the vulnerable in a highly competitive world.

Unless such problems are dealt with effectively, they fester, and grow, sapping the strength of society as a whole and extending their consequences in troubled families from one generation to the next.

The steps I recommend to you today to alleviate these problems will not come cheaply. They will cost more money when first enacted. But they will restore human dignity; and in the long run, they will save money. I have recommended in the Budget submitted for fiscal year 1963 sufficient funds to cover the extension of existing programs and the new legislation here proposed.

Communities which have--for whatever motives--attempted to save money through ruthless and arbitrary cutbacks in their welfare rolls have found their efforts to little avail. The root problems remained.

But communities which have tried the rehabilitative road--the road I have recommended today--have demonstrated what can be done with creative, thoughtfully conceived, and properly managed programs of prevention and social rehabilitation. In those communities, families have been restored to self-reliance, and relief rolls have been reduced.

To strengthen our human resources--to demonstrate the compassion of free men--and in the light of our own constructive self-interest--we must bring our welfare programs up to date. I urge that the Congress do so without delay.

John F. Kennedy


My old colleague in the House of Representatives and friend Aime Forand, Mr. Meany, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow Americans:

I am very proud to be here today at one of over 33 meetings which are being held across the United States. And it is a source of regret to me that the head of the most significant organization here today, Mr. Held, age 77, working on this meeting, had a heart attack--was taken to the hospital. I think we should pass this legislation as soon as possible.

I come to New York because I believe the effort in which we are engaged is worth the time and effort of all of us. I come from Boston, Mass., near Federal Hill, where for a whole period of years meetings were held by interested citizens in order to lay down the groundwork for American independence. And while there may be some who say that the business of government is so important that it should be confined to those who govern, in this free society of ours the consent and may I say the support of the citizens of this country is essential if this or any other piece of progressive legislation is going to be passed. Make no mistake about it--make no mistake about it.

Now why are we here? What is the issue which divides arouses so much concern? I will take a case which may be typical, a family which may be found in any part of the United States.

The husband has worked hard all his life and he is retired. He might have been a clerk or a salesman or on the road or worked in a factory, stores, or whatever. He's always wanted to pay his own way. He does not ask anyone to care for him; he wants to care for himself. He has raised his own family, he has educated them--his children are now on their own. He and his wife are drawing social security, it may run seventy-five dollars, a hundred, hundred and twenty-five in the higher brackets--let's say it's a hundred. He has a pension from where he worked, the results of years of effort.

Now, therefore, his basic needs are taken care of. He owns his house. He has twenty-five hundred or three thousand dollars in the bank. And then his wife gets sick--and we're all going to be in a hospital, 9 out of 10 of us, before we finally pass away, and particularly when we're over 65--now she is sick, not just for a week but for a long time. First goes the twenty-five hundred dollars--that's gone. Next he mortgages his house, even though he may have some difficulty making the payments out of his social security. Then he goes to his children, who themselves are heavily burdened because they're paying for their houses and they are paying for their sicknesses, and they want to educate their children. Then their savings begin to go.

This is not a rare case. I talked to a Member of the Congress from my own State a week ago, who told me he was going to send his daughter away to school but because his father had been sick for 2 years, he could not do it. And Congressmen are paid $22,500 a year--and that's more than most people get.

So therefore now, what is he going to do? His savings are gone--his children's savings, they're contributing though they have responsibilities of their own--and he finally goes in and signs a petition saying he's broke and needs assistance.

Now what do we say? We say that during his working years he will contribute to social security, as he has in the case of his retirement, twelve or thirteen dollars a month. When he becomes ill, or she becomes ill over a long period of time, he first pays ninety dollars, so that people will not abuse him. But then let's say he has a bill of fifteen hundred dollars. This bill does not, that we're talking about--Mr. Anderson's bill and Mr. King's--solve everything. But let's say it's fifteen hundred dollars, of which a thousand dollars are hospital bills. This bill will pay that thousand dollars in hospital bills. And then I believe that he, and the effort that he makes and his family, can meet his other responsibilities.

Now that does not seem such in extraordinary piece of legislation, 25 years after Franklin Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act.

Well, let's hear what some people say. First, we read that the AMA is against it, and they are entitled to be against it. Though I do question how many of those who speak so violently about it have read it. But they are against it, and they are entitled to be against it if they wish.

In the first place, there isn't one person here who is not indebted to the doctors of this country. Children are not born on an 8-hour day. All of us have been the beneficiaries of their help. This is not a campaign against doctors, because doctors have joined with us. This is a campaign to help people meet their responsibilities.

There are doctors in New Jersey who say they will not treat any patient who receives it. Of course they will. They are engaged in an effort to stop the bill. It is as if I took out somebody's appendix.

The point of the matter is that the AMA is doing very well in its efforts to stop this bill. And the doctors of New Jersey and every other State may be opposed to it, but I know that not a single doctor--if this bill is passed is going to refuse to treat any patient. No one would become a doctor just as a business enterprise. It's a long, laborious discipline. We need more of them. We want their help--and gradually we're getting it.

The problem, however, is more complicated because they do not comprehend what we are trying to do. We do not cover doctors' bills here. We do not affect the freedom of choice. You can go to any doctor you want. The doctor and you work out your arrangements with him. We talk about his hospital bill. And that's an entirely different matter. And I hope that one by one the doctors of the United States will take the extraordinary step of not merely reading the journals and the publications of the AMA, because I do not recognize the bill when I hear those descriptions, but instead to write Secretary Ribicoff in Washington, or to me--and you know where I live--or to Senator Anderson or to Congressman King,, if you are a doctor or opposed to this bill, and get a concise explanation and the bill itself and read it.

All these arguments were made against social security at the time of Franklin Roosevelt. The are made today. The mail pours in. And, it least half of the mail which I receive in the White House, on this issue and others, is wholly misinformed. Last week I got 1,500 letters on a revenue measure--1,494 opposed, and 6 for. And at least half of those letters were completely misinformed about the details of what they wrote.

And why is that so? Because there are so many busy men in Washington who write--some organizations have six, seven, and eight hundred people spreading mail across the country, asking doctors and others to write in and tell your Congressman you're opposed to it. The mail pours into the White House, into the Congress and Senators' offices--Congressmen and Senators feel people are opposed to it. Then they read a Gallup Poll which says 75 percent of the people are in favor of it, and they say, "What has happened to my mail?"

The point of the matter is that this meeting and the others indicates that the people of the United States recognize one by one, thousand by thousand, million by million, that this is a problem whose solution is long overdue. And this year I believe, or certainly as inevitably as the tide comes in next year, this bill is going to pass.

And then other people say, "Why doesn't the Government mind its own business?" What is the Government's business, is the question.

Harry Truman said that 14 million Americans had enough resources so that they could hire people in Washington to protect their interests, and the rest of them depended upon the President of the United States and others.

This bill serves the public interest. It involves the Government because it involves the public welfare. The Constitution of the United States did not make the President or the Congress powerless. It gave them definite responsibilities to advance the general welfare--and that is what we're attempting to do.

And then I read that this bill will sap the individual self-reliance of Americans. I can't imagine anything worse, or anything better, to sap someone's self-reliance, than to be sick, alone, broke--or to have saved for a lifetime and put it out in a week, two weeks, a month, two months.

I visited twice, yesterday and today, in the hospital, where doctors labor for a long time, to visit my father. It isn't easy--it isn't easy. He can pay his bills, but otherwise I would be. And I am not as well off as he is. But what happens to him and to others when they put their life savings in, in a short time? So I must say that I believe we stand about where--in good company today, in halls such as this, where your predecessors--where Dave Dubinsky himself actually stood, where another former President stood, and fought this issue out of Social Security against the same charges.

This argument that the Government should stay out, that it saps our pioneer stock--I used to hear that argument when we were talking about raising the minimum wage to a dollar and a quarter. I remember one day being asked to step out into the hall, and up the corridor came four distinguished-looking men, with straw hats on and canes. They told me that they had just flown in from a State in their private plane, and they wanted me to know that if we passed a bill providing for time and a half for service station attendants, who were then working about 55 to 60 hours of straight time, it would sap their self-reliance.

The fact of the matter is what saps anyone's self-reliance is working 60 hours at straight time, or working at 85 or 95 at a dollar an hour. Or depending upon filling out a pauper's oath and then going and getting it free.

Nobody in this hall is asking for it for nothing. They are willing to contribute during their working years. That is the important principle which has been lost sight of.

I understand that there is going to be a program this week against this bill, in which an English physician is going to come and talk about how bad their plans are. It may be, but he ought to talk about it in England, because his plans--because his plans and what they do in England are entirely different. In England the entire cost of medicine for people of all ages, all of it, doctors, choice of doctors, hospitals, from the time you're born till the time you die, is included in a Government program. But what we're talking about is entirely different. And I hope that while he's here, he and Doctor Spock and others who have joined us, will come to see what we are trying to do.

The fact of the matter is that what we are now talking about doing, most of the countries of Europe did years ago. The British did it 30 years ago. We are behind every country, pretty nearly, in Europe, in this matter of medical care for our citizens.

And then those who say that this should be left to private efforts. In those hospitals in New Jersey where the doctors said they wouldn't treat anyone who paid their hospital bills through social security, those hospitals and every other new hospital, the American people--all of us--contribute one-half, one or two thirds for every new hospital, the National Government. We pay 55 percent of all the research done. We help young men become doctors.

We are concerned with the progress of this country, and those who say that what we are now talking about spoils our great pioneer heritage should remember that the West was settled with two great actions by the National Government; one, in President Lincoln's administration, when he gave a homestead to everyone who went West, and in 1862 he set aside Government property to build our land grant colleges.

This cooperation between an alert and progressive citizen and a progressive Government is what has made this country great--and we shall continue as long as we have the opportunity to do so.

This matter should not be left to a mail campaign where Senators are inundated, and Congressmen--twenty-five and thirty thousand letters--the instructions go out, "Write it in your own hand. Don't use the same words." The letters pour in 2 or 3 weeks, half of them misinformed. This meeting today, on a hot, good day when everyone could be doing something else, and the 32 other meetings, this indicates that the American people are determined to put an end to meeting a challenge which hits them at a time when they're least able to meet it.

And then finally, I had a letter last week saying, "You're going to take care of all the millionaires and they don't need it. "I do not know how many millionaires we are talking about, but they won't mind contributing $12 a month to social security, and they may be among those who will apply for it when they go to the hospital. But what I will say is that the National Government, through the tax laws, already takes care of them, because over 65 they can deduct all their medical expenses.

What we are concerned about is not the person who has not got a cent but those who saved and worked and then get hit. Then there are those who say, "Well, what happens if you die before you are 65?" Well, there isn't--you really don't care, you have no guarantee. But what we are talking about is, our people are living a long time, their housing is inadequate, in many cases their rehabilitation is inadequate. We've got great unfinished business in this country, and while this bill does not solve our problems in this area, I do not believe it is a valid argument to say, "This bill isn't going to do the job." It will not, but it will do part of it.

Our housing bill last year for the elderly, that won't do the job. But it will begin. When we retrain workers, that won't take care of unemployment chronically in some areas, but it's a start. We aren't able overnight to solve all the problems that this country faces, but is that any good reason why we should say, "Let's not even try"?

That's what we are going to do today, we are trying. We are trying. And what we're talking about here is true in a variety of other ways. All the great revolutionary movements of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in the thirties we now take for granted. But I refuse to see us live on the accomplishments of another generation. I refuse to see this country, and all of us, shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time. Because what we are now talking about, in our children's day will seem to be the ordinary business of government.

So I come here today as a citizen, asking you to exert the most basic power which is contained in the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, the right of a citizen to petition his Government. And I ask your support in this effort. This effort will be successful, and it will be successful because it is soundly based to meet a great national crisis. And it is based on the effort of responsible citizens. So I want to commend you for being here. I think it is most appropriate that the President of the United States, whose business place is in Washington, should come to this city and participate in these rallies. Because the business of the Government is the business of the people--and the people are right here.

In closing, let me say that on this issue and many others we depend upon your help. This is the only way we can secure action to keep this country moving ahead, to have places to educate our children, to have decent housing, to do something about the millions of young children who leave our schools before they graduate.

Every day I am reminded of how many things were left undone. Thirty years ago they provided that no drugs be put on the market which were unsafe for hogs and for cattle. We want to take the radical step of doing the same for human beings. Anyone who says that Woodrow Wilson, as a great President as he was, and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, that they did it all and we have nothing left to do now, is wrong.

We ask you, the citizens of this country, the responsible and thoughtful doctors, the hospital administrators, all those who face this challenge of educating our children, finding, work for our older people, finding security for those who have retired, all who are committed to this great effort of moving this country forward: come and give us your help.


Dear Abe:

It is with deep regret that I accept your resignation as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

You were my first choice for the first Cabinet post I filled precisely because of the qualities you have demonstrated in it. I needed your help in blazing new trails in health, education and welfare--and your tireless, courageous efforts have laid the groundwork for at least a decade of significant progress in these fields. In one of the most difficult and challenging positions of government you have discharged your responsibilities with skill born of rich experience and insight born of deep compassion. The people of this Nation owe you their thanks for the distinguished services you have rendered in their behalf.

You are entitled to look back on your record of 18 months with great satisfaction. For the first time in our nation's history, the dependent children of unemployed workers have been receiving Federal-State public assistance payments--older men have the right to retire under Social Security at the age of 62--juvenile delinquency is being effectively attacked by a major federal program--educational television is to be promoted with Federal help--and rehabilitation instead of relief is being stressed for the recipients of public welfare, under administrative actions you initiated last fall. The Social Security Act has been improved. The nation's effort to combat water pollution has been doubled. More nursing homes and community health facilities and services have been made available to our older citizens. You have provided solid leadership to our efforts to help Cuban refugees, and to provide retraining for our nation's unemployed workers. And you have taken forthright and unprecedented steps to assure the citizens of all races an equal, nonsegregated opportunity to participate in the programs offered or financed by your Department.

Still more of the proposals on which we have worked together will be accomplished, I am confident, at this session of the Congress: improving our public welfare program to end chronic dependency--eradicating the major diseases of childhood through an all out immunization campaign--and relieving the financial plight of students and colleges at the increasingly crowded levels of higher education. I am also hopeful that the Congress will find time to enact measures to improve the quality and opportunities of the teaching profession--to eliminate illiteracy among American adults--to help our medical colleges produce more doctors and dentists--to provide increased employment opportunities for our youth--and to afford full protection to consumers of drugs and cosmetics.

But it is increasingly clear that all of this may not be done in as full a fashion is the nation's needs require--that a formula may not be found at this Congress to provide aid to education--and that we face an extremely close vote on our bill to provide health insurance for our older citizens under the Social Security system. Your persistent efforts for this bill since early 1961 have brought us close to success. The improvements you recently suggested have enlisted bipartisan support. But inasmuch as experience has taught us time and again that a handful of votes or even one vote in the legislative branch may decide whether our efforts succeed or fall back, and it is the legislative branch where action must now be taken in so many areas, I accept your request that you be free to seek the office from which you can next year cast that vote.

As much as I regret the loss of your services from my cabinet--as much as your leadership will be missed by the people of this country, old people, students, educators, consumers, the handicapped and the unemployed and the underprivileged--we need your voice and vote in the halls of Congress. And I congratulate the people of Connecticut for having the opportunity to send you there.

The experience you have gained in the Cabinet uniquely qualifies you for further service to the people of your State. You have my respect and admiration for your willingness to relinquish an appointive position for the challenges of a campaign for elective office. And I look forward to working closely with you in the future as I have in the past.


John F. Kennedy


[Telecast from the Fish Room at the White House]

The Medical Care for the Aged Bill was defeated in the United States Senate. A switch of two votes in the Senate would have provided, I believe, for its passage.

I believe this is a most serious defeat for every American family, for the 17 Million Americans who are over 65, whose means of support, whose livelihood is certainly lessened over what it was in their working days, who are more inclined to be ill, who will more likely be in hospitals, who are less able to pay their bills.

I think they have suffered a serious setback today. But this issue is not confined to them. All those Americans who have parents, who are liable to be ill, and who have children to educate at the same time, mothers and fathers in their 30's and 40's, I believe they have suffered a serious setback. In 1960, with Senator Anderson, I introduced the Medical Care for the Aged. A change of four votes in the Senate in 1960 would have provided for its passage. This year we came closer.

I think the American people are going to make a decision in November as to whether they want this bill, and similar bills, to be passed, or whether they want it to be defeated. Nearly all the Republicans and a handful of Democrats joined with them to give us today's setback. The election in 1960 was very close. It has meant that nearly every vote in the House and Senate is close. Some we win by one or two votes; others we lose. We have to decide, the United States, in 1962, in November, in the Congressional elections, whether we want to stand still or whether we want to support this kind of legislation for the benefit of the people.

You are going to have a chance to make that judgment. I hope that we will return in November a Congress that will support a program like Medical Care for the Aged, a program which has been fought by the American Medical Association and successfully defeated. This bill will be introduced in January 1963. I hope it will pass. With your support in November, this bill will pass in 1963.