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Tuesday the American electorats will go to the polls for what may be the most crucial Presidential election of this century. The next President faces an immense load of unsolved international and domestic problems, and upon the way be handles these problems rest the future of this country as a free society and the future of the world as a free and peaceful planet. Because, unlike his opponent, he has demonstrated an understanding of the challenges and dangers of the Sixties; because, unlike his opponent, he has emphasized the courage and sacrifice necessary to meet those challenges; and because, unlike his opponent, he has given promise of initiative and constructive action, the CRIMSON strongly endorses Senator John F. Kennedy for President of the United States.
Those who say that this election affords little real choice are making a grave mistake. The choice is a real and important one, and for those who find much to disturb them both home and abroad, it is an obvious one.
The choice is, as Senator Kennedy has said, between two philosophies of government, if non-government can be called a philosophy. The Republicans offer a government that speaks only when spoken to; whose method of operation is that of reaction to stimuli; whose policy toward strangers is to set up a Neighborhood Protection Association; whose policy toward enemies is to slap and howl when stung and to exchange insult for insult; whose policy at home is to throw the dogs a crumb when their barking becomes too loud. The Democrats, on the other hand, offer the promise of systematic programs to meet the needs that eight years of non-government have neglected.
In foreign policy, there is a need for something more than reaction to Soviet stimuli, more than an American slap for every Russian slap, and more than ineffective crash programs when the State Department finally sees trouble coming in an underdeveloped country. The new President must offer substantive policy rather than the swift rebuttal, a constant flow of economic aid rather than swift bursts when an irresponsible leader starts veering to the Left.
The new President must, as W. W. Rostow has said, learn to view the Russians both as rivals and as fellow citizens of the planet; he must enter arms control negotiations not already convinced of their futility, but rather convinced of their necessity. He must see the United Nations not as a world debating society, but as a useful instrument for resolution of conflict. He must realize, and make the American people accept, the fact that the leaders of new nations can in good conscience find little profit in military alliance on either side of the cold war; he must not view neutralist flirtation with the Soviets as the first step to satellite status.
In short, the new President must make the long over-due adjustment to a world of thermo-nuclear weapons and emerging nations, and must apply American understanding and initiative to the problems of this different world.
Senator Kennedy and the men around him, through their platform and their public utterances, give hope--in fact, reasonable expectation--that these adjustments can be made that the United States can have a foreign policy other than shouting "Black!" when the Soviets shout "White!", that diplomatic initiative can be recaptured in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Mr. Nixon by contrast, can offer nothing but limp defenses of Eisenhower mistakes, extravagant postures ("We shall not yield an inch of the area of freedom") and misleading claims ("There were eleven dictators in Latin America when we came in; now there are only three. . . . I call that progress.").
The saddest event of the Eisenhower years has been the decline of the America of Point Four, Korea and the Marshall Plan, into the vague, insubstantial good will of a traveling man from the White House. The time has come to put meaning back into that good will, and substance into the idea of an "area of freedom." Senator Kennedy has the understanding and intelligence to do just this, to meet the challenge of Soviet efforts and pressing world problems with genuine programs based on this country's real stake in the peace and stability of the world.
If America's image has become tarnished in world opinion, the reality behind that image has decayed at home. On the surface, the Eisenhower years have been prosperous ones, and no doubt life on the upper levels of American society is as comfortable as it has ever been. Yet these facts remain, much as Mr. Nixon would like to hide them:
Millions of Americans (it doesn't matter whether it is 10 or 15 or 20 millions) "go to bed hungry every night," while the farm surplus continues to grow.
Despite the efforts of a few mayors, most major cities are losing the battle against the slum problem, with Federal aid spotty and almost wholly inadequate.
Children all over the country go to school on double sessions; the teacher shortage is great and likely to become greater; a college education remains financially inaccessible to many qualified students. "Poor schools," as J. K. Galbraith says, "are, after all, cheap."
Many of the nation's aged must turn to charity--public or private--to pay for their medical needs; the country is not training enough doctors for projected future requirements.
Almost six million people are unemployed, with all sorts of public work that needs to be done. Meanwhile, the steel industry operates at little more than fifty per cent of capacity, and the automobile industry turns out products that drink gasoline and are designed to become obsolete a year after manufacture.
Clearly, the system is out of joint, and neither Mr. Nixon's statistics nor Life's bright photographs can prove otherwise. Eight years of Eisenhower non-government have left an imposing backlog of business unfinished or never begun, and Mr. Nixon seeks to forestall any real action now with the shibboleth of "state and local initiative" and the bogeymen of "socialized medicine" and "Federal control of education." He points with pride to statistics showing Republican accomplishments in, for instance, school and hospital construction, but accomplishments are meaningless except in relation to needs, and the needs have not been met, despite Mr. Nixon's smug assurances to the contrary.
The Republicans say that they have costed out the Democratic platform to meet these great domestic needs, at an additional $16 billion in Federal expenditure--quite a feat for economists who cannot figure their own budget accurately and who, in order to give their fiscal 1960 budget an appearance of balance, had to postpone payment on certain items from June 30 to July 1 (the first day of a new fiscal year).
Still, it is clear that the proposals of the Democratic platform will cost money. But it is equally clear that the money is better spent here than on Detroit's planned obsolescences, and that the nation has the resources to pay for the housing, schools and hospitals it needs, be it from economic growth, the closing of tax loop-holes, or higher taxes. After all, as Lyndon Johnson has said, perhaps it is the Republicans who are down-grading America in preaching economic timidity, in saying that necessary programs will "spend the country into bankruptcy."
Senator Kennedy and the Democratic Party are committed to programs that will, in his words, "get America moving again," enable the public sector of the economy to catch up to the population it is intended to serve, and give millions of underprivileged Americans the material ability to enjoy a free society. They will make the Presidency what it should be--a seat of moral leadership in the battle for civil rights. The Democrats promise a systematic attack on the country's needs, the Republicans only the minimum that will appease the dogs when the barking gets too loud.
Nixon's road of economic timidity means the nation's turning its back on the great contradictions of unemployment, slums, depressed areas and inadequate schools--in the face of unprecedented consumer prosperity.
Although Mr. Nixon and the Eisenhower administration have done their best to hide the fact, this is a time of great danger and great need. The country needs responsible government willing to tell it the truth; it must choose the road of courage, not the road of timidity and self-indulgence. The choice on Tuesday is a vital one, and the choice of Senator Kennedy is the right one. It is a question not only of survival in the contest with the Soviets abroad, but of survival at home as a free society; not of prestige, but of self-respect.
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