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- Debate: Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon Second Joint Radio-Television Broadcast, October 7, 1960.
MR. SPIVAK: Mr. Vice President, you have accused Senator Kennedy of avoiding the civil rights issue when he has been in the South and he has accused you of the same thing.
With both North and South listening and watching, would you sum up your own intentions in the field of civil rights if you become President?
MR. NIXON: My intentions in the field of civil rights have been spelled out in the Republican platform. I think we have to make progress first in the field of employment and there we would give statutory authority to the Committee on Government Contracts, which is an effective way of getting real progress made in this area, since about one out of every four jobs is held by and is allotted by people who have Government contracts.
Certainly I think all of us agree that when anybody has a Government contract, certainly the money that is spent under that contract ought to be disbursed equally without regard to the race or creed or color of the individual who is to be employed.
Second, in the field of schools, we believe that there should be provisions whereby the Federal Government would give assistance to those districts who do want to integrate their schools. That of course was rejected as was the Government contracts provision by the special session of the Congress into--which Mr. Kennedy was quite active.
And then, as far as other areas are concerned, I think that we have to look to Presidential leadership.
Now, when I speak of Presidential leadership, I refer, for example, to our attitude on the sit-in strikes. Here we have a situation which causes all of us concern, causes us concern because of the denial of the rights of people to the equality which we think belongs to everybody.
I have talked to Negro mothers. I have heard them explain, try to explain how they tell their children how they can go into a store and buy a loaf of bread, but then can't go into that store and sit at the counter and get a Coca Cola. This is wrong and we have to do something about it.
So, under the circumstances, what do we do? Well, what we do is what the Attorney General of the United States did under the direction of the President: Call in the owners of chainstores and get them to take action.
Now, there are other places where the Executive can lead, but let me just sum up by saying this: Why do I talk every time I'm in the South on civil rights?
Not because I am preaching to the people of the South, because this isn't just a southern problem; it's a northern problem and a western problem, it's a problem for all of us. I do it because it's the responsibility of leadership. I do it because we have to solve this problem together.
I do it right at this time particularly because when we have Khrushchev in this country, a man who has enslaved millions, a man who has slaughtered thousands, we cannot continue to have a situation where he can point the finger at the United States of America and say that we are denying rights to our citizens; and so I say both the candidates and both the vice presidential candidates, I would hope, as well, including Senator Johnson, should talk on this issue at every opportunity.
MR. McGEE: Senator Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Well, Mr. Nixon hasn't discussed the two basic questions: What is going to be done and what will be his policy on implementing the Supreme Court decision of 1954? Giving aid to schools technically that are trying to carry out the decision is not the great question. Secondly, what's he going to do to provide fair employment? He's been the head of the Committee on Government Contracts that's carried out two cases, both in the District of Columbia. He has not indicated his support of an attempt to provide fair employment practices around the country, so that everyone can get a job regardless of their race or color. Nor has he indicated that he will support Title III, which would give the Attorney General additional powers to protect Constitutional rights.
These are the great questions. Equality of education in schools. About 2 percent of our population of white people is illiterate; 10 per cent of our colored population. Sixty to seventy percent of our colored children do not finish high school.
These are the questions and these areas that the North and South, East and West are entitled to know what will be the leadership of the President in these areas to provide equality of opportunity for employment, equality of opportunity in the field of housing, which could be done on all Federal supported housing by a stroke of the President's pen.
What will be done to provide equality of education in all sections of the United States? Those are the questions to which the President must establish a moral tone and moral leadership. And I can assure you that if I'm elected President we will do so.
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