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12E.1.6 Statement of Senator John F. Kennedy, Medford, Wisconsin, February 25, 1960

Kennedy, John F.

Statement of Senator John F. Kennedy, Medford, Wisconsin, February 25, 1960, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,

Governments play a large role in how to use our scarce resources. Some politicians make resource conservation a priority and write legislation to create economic incentives by placing new regulations on natural resource use. Regulations can also encourage investment in environmentally friendly policies. Subsidies to encourage green energy investment not only produce jobs but are also investments in alternative energy sources. Other politicians focus on economic growth and encourage loosening government regulations on natural resources to encourage businesses to increase output and create jobs. Where do you think JFK fell on the continuum of resource conservation and support of business growth? What evidence from the speech can you use to support your claim?

Pollution negatively affects human health, which in turn has an impact on human capital. Regulations designed to curb pollution not only protect the present population and production but also protect future workers and productivity, as pollution has long-lasting environmental impact. Although not yet president, JFK was foreshadowing some of his ideas regarding his future environmental policy. He declared his run for the presidency in January 1960, so this was a campaign speech. Presidents, and governments in general, use discretionary fiscal policy to either increase or decrease regulation dealing with resource use, emissions production, and business growth. Students could compare the regulations, executive orders, and policy of President Obama and President Trump to see the different presidential administrations’ visions for resource allocation and use. To highlight the use of incentives when decisions are made, you could ask the students to consider, What were Senator Kennedy’s incentives for making this speech? What incentive would President Eisenhower have to veto a bill to clean up contaminated water?

Today we are in the midst of a depression — a depression in the handling of our natural resources. This is not a depression of scarcity — it is not caused by a lack of power or water or land. It is due to despoilment, underdevelopment and neglect — it is due to a lack of faith and a lack of vision. And every day in which we lack leadership — every day in which no plans are drawn or efforts made — plunges us deeper into this depression.

Some of these failures are of special importance to the people of Wisconsin — all of them are of vital concern to the entire nation.
First is the failure in our national forests. These forests are one of our most valuable assets — they cover a large part of Wisconsin — they provide timber for your important construction and paper industries. Throughout the nation they are the major source of water for more than 1600 cities and towns — they drive more than 600 hydroelectric projects — they provide a source of recreation — not only in Wisconsin but for millions of Americans all over the country. Yet the Administration has refused to spend more than fifty per cent of the funds which its own Secretary of Agriculture has said are essential if we are to preserve this great natural resource. Our forests are being allowed to deteriorate from misuse and lack of effort.

Second is the failure to keep our water clean. The Administration has opposed all efforts to meet the growing threat of water pollution. Today a Presidential veto hangs over the modest program of Federal aid which Congress has just passed — a program which is essential if we are to halt the destructive and dangerous contamination of our water supply.