August 15, 1960
I want to report that at the airport he was met by a very large group and the enthusiasm was great. I did not go myself to meet him but sent Edna and David. Edna circulated among the people and asked them if they were Democrats or just curiosity seekers. Almost invariably they answered that they were Democrats. The enthusiasm at the big house was tremendous, and I think he made a very good speech on the expansion of Social Security.
I did not ask the Senator for any definite promise as I felt that this would be almost impossible. But I told him that he needed the Stevenson votes in New York and California and that he had to carry these two states or he would be in trouble because he probably could not hold the solid South.2 This was brought about by his telling me that he had not realized before the fragmentation of the Democratic party and the fact that the majority in Congress did not give the leadership that holds the party together, and that since my husband's time there was no unity. The newly elected governor of Florida3 came in to see him and said: "I want you to know that I am a conservative, I am against integration, and I am for the Right-to-Work Law".4 Whereupon Sen. Kennedy said: "Why don't you join the Republicans?"!
I gather that his understanding of the difficulties of the campaign that face him have matured him in a short time. He told me that he had phoned Adlai this past week and asked him to set up a small group to do research in the area of foreign policy. I told him that this was not enough, that he would have to give the people who were for Adlai the assurance that they were working together. All of us know that unless Adlai felt their philosophies were similar he would not accept the Secretary of State post. Therefore, I felt that he had to prove by working in the campaign and appearing on the same platforms, and perhaps by references and quotation, that there was close cooperation. Bringing both Chester Bowles and Adlai in whenever he could would mean that these were the men he was counting on for advice. He agreed and said he would try to do this.5
We then spoke about Chester Bowles and he said he had asked Chester not to resign. I had had a letter Saturday from Chester in which he gave me his reasons for resigning. He said he thought Adlai was the best man for the Secretary of State post, that he (Chet) would rather be in the executive than in the legislative branch, so he would rather work for Kennedy than be a candidate for Congress.
Kennedy likes Chester Bowles and finds him easy to work with. He also seems to realize that his own mind is so quick he may perhaps be hasty in making decisions and he needs Adlai there.
Now, I have no promises from him, but I have the distinct feeling that he is planning to work closely with Adlai. I also had the feeling that here was a man who could learn. I liked him better than I ever had before because he seemed so little cock-sure, and I think he has a mind that is open to new ideas.
I agreed that I would go on the citizens committee here as honorary chairman,6 and that I would do what I could here. Whether I would take any trips or become more involved will depend on whether or not I am happy with the way he progresses as a person in the campaign.
My final judgement is that here is a man who wants to leave a record (perhaps for ambitious personal reasons, as people say) but I rather think because he really is interested in helping the people of his own country and mankind in general. I will be surer of this as time goes on, but I think I am not mistaken in feeling that he would make a good President if elected.
Much love, and I hope this report will help you make up your mind.
Eleanor Roosevelt(Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt)
Mrs. Albert D. Lasker
Villa Fiorentina et Jean
Cap Ferrat, France
Index to this Document: Bowles, Chester: JFK's relationship with; Mary Lasker and; ER's support for; Bryant, Cecil Ferris: JFK on; California: supporters for Stevenson; Democratic Party: lack of leadership within; ER on; Eisenhower, Dwight D.: New York State support of; Golden Rings Club: JFK's address to; Gurewitsch, David and Edna: on JFK; Kennedy, John F.: address before Golden Rings Club; Chester Bowles and; on Cecil Ferris Bryant; David and Edna Gurewitsch on; Mary Lasker and; on party leadership; popular support for; on right to work laws; ER Val-Kill meeting and, 1960; ER's advice to; ER's assessment of; on Social Security; Southern opposition to; William Walton, accompanies to Val-Kill, 1960; Lasker, Mary: Chester Bowles and; lobbied by ER for JFK; Stevenson and; New York Citizens Committee for Kennedy; New York: support for Eisenhower; supporters for Stevenson; Right to work laws: defined; JFK's opposition to; Roosevelt, Eleanor: on Chester Bowles; JFK, appraisal of; JFK, political advice to; JFK, Val-Kill meeting with, 1960; Mary Lasker and Stevenson; political advice of; Stevenson, ER on JFK's need for; Roosevelt, Franklin D.; South (U.S.): opposition to JFK within; ER's political advice on; Stevenson, Adlai E.: as possible Secretary of State; California supporters and; Mary Lasker's support for; New York supporters; popular support for; ER on JFK and; U.S. Government: Secretary of State, Stevenson as possible; U.S. Congress; Walton, William: accompanies JFK to Val-Kill, 1960
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at https://erpapers.columbian.gwu.edu/.
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