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Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail
May 10, 1959

Kennedy Hits Glib Phrases, Poverty

By Don Marsh

WELCH - U. S. Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Saturday that the United States will get "the kind of vigorous leadership we need only when we get a Democratic president in 1960."

Kennedy, a tall, lean New Englander with a shock of crisp brown hair, denied that he is an active candidate for the office and then made a flaming attack on what he called "the hesitant, moribund" Republican Administration.

Speaking at a McDowell County Democratic dinner celebrating the 75th birthday of former President Truman, Kennedy, 41, said the Administration had offered "many a bold platitude" as a substitute for a positive program.

He said Republican leadership had promised action on a variety of fronts, "as long as it's not too complicated, not too controversial, and doesn't cost money."

"We are given a glib phrase instead of leadership," he continued, "popular slogans instead of a program... today the choice might be said to lie between Main St. and Madison Ave. - and the Democratic Party is going right down Main St."

The speech climaxed a busy day for the multi-millionaire lawmaker who looks more like the rage of the teen-age set than like a leading contender for his party's presidential nomination.

His chartered plane landed shortly after 12:30 p. m. Saturday at Mercer County Airport near Princeton. He was whisked to Bluefield for a private luncheon; hustled to a Bluefield hotel where he shook hands with visitors; driven to Welch for a rally on the courthouse lawn; held a press conference, and left immediately to visit a coal mine.

It was at the press conference that he denied that he was an active presidential candidate.

"I haven't made up my mind about that," he said, somewhat euphemistically. "I'll make public my decisions probably at the end of this year or early in 1960."

Despite his hectic schedule, which includes, a member of his staff said, about 6,000 speaking invitations a year, Kennedy appeared unflustered and completely relaxed.

He answered routine questions routinely: Was he now a candidate? What does he think of Stevenson? Does he think Vice President Nixon will be the Republican nominee? Could any Democrat have beaten Eisenhower in 1952 or 1956?

He brightened noticeably when someone asked him about the labor bill which bears his name and which passed the Senate in April. It is, he said, an excellent bill. "It does everything that needs to be done in the field. It is fair, strong, and in the public interest. I think people who are members of unions think this bill is in their interests... which it is."

He also offered an observation. His drive from Bluefield to Welch, a route that carves through some of the state's hardest-hit coal mining areas, upset him, he said.

"It made me think of ... legislation which will be of some use, which is the depressed areas bill," he said. "I think it's very important that we do something about depressed areas, which are as much a problem in my state as they are in yours."

In his speech, which was delivered to an overflow crowd at Welch Elementary School, he returned to the theme.

"We haven't eliminated the malignant effects of poverty, injustices and illness from the land. We haven't met the needs of some 4 million unemployed workers.... of the nearly 7,000 families in this, the richest land on earth, still trying to get by on less than $2,000 a year."

"We haven't met the needs of some million families housed under what the Bureau of the Census classifies as sub-standard conditions. We haven't ended the waste of our natural resources.. reversed the decay that is blighting some [of] our major cities... or, most tragic of all, found the means of stopping man's destruction of man.["]

Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.) flew in from Washington with Kennedy. Among those who joined Kennedy here were State Sen. Ralph J. Bean, Judge Thornton Berry, Judge Harlan Calhoun, Rep. Elizabeth Kee (D-W.Va.), State Democratic Chairman Hulett Smith, Del. Harry Pauley, Atty. Gen. W. W. Barron, State Treasurer Orel Skeen, Secretary of State Joe Burdett, Judge Chauncey Browning.

He extended his remarks to include the ailing coal industry by saying it would be "the height of folly for this nation to permit its coal mines to be abandoned."

Future world needs, he said, "will place greater demands on all our sources of fuel and energy than any previously experienced or even predicted."

Kennedy observed that coal has "hidden properties" not yet fully explored. He endorsed a federally directed industrial research program for coal.

"This is no time to call it quits," he said, "when the future is so bright."

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