The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

My Day

CASTINE, Maine. -- Here it is Thursday morning and still the popular vote count is not fully in from California nor from one or two other doubtful states. But the electoral vote is firmly for Sen. John F. Kennedy, so we can say that as a nation we will embark on a new course.1

Already Senator Kennedy has said that he counts on moving swiftly after the inauguration on January 20. I hope, however, that he will take no responsibility for policy before he is able also to be responsible for personnel and for methods by which any policy is carried out. I am sure he will obtain as quickly as possible all the information the President has promised to share with him to help in an orderly change of administration. The responsibility remains with the President and the Republican party until Inauguration Day.

The President-elect will need all the youth and energy and health, which fortunately he seems to have, to meet the problems that are going to engage him from the first day of his responsibility. In his favor, too, will be a Congress of his own party. And if there still remains the possibility of a coalition of reactionary Republicans and certain reactionary Democrats, there also can be a coalition of progressive Republicans and progressive Democrats. So I think with his great power as President and the prestige of winning in this close election, Mr. Kennedy will be able to carry out his pledge to "the long-range interests of the United States and the cause of freedom around the world."

There is one important goal I hope he can achieve, and that is to develop among the people of the country a sense that he is their man and that he is working for them and needs their help. It will take the best that is in the people of this country to uphold him and make him a strong President and a strong leader of the whole United States.

Some of the newspaper stories note that there were no signs of jubilation in the Kennedy household on the morning after Election Day. The fact probably is that they were too weary to register any emotion after the long period of uncertainty and the weeks of grueling campaigning. There is always a sense of elation in the knowledge that you have the American people to call upon, and it is a tremendous challenge to find the words and the deeds that will make them feel identification with you.

It will be a good example to many parts of the world that such a close election can be accepted so quietly and be followed by a closing of ranks behind the new President. In some areas of the world such a result might well mean a revolution and a refusal to accept the verdict on the part of the loser.

We are the example of democracy in action as a government. Vice-President Richard M. Nixon has behaved in the best tradition. He must, of course, be bitterly disappointed. But he will have the opportunity to function in the business groups which he believes in, and he may well find that this world outside of politics may be more suited to his talents than the political world in which he has tried hard to rise. He, of course, still will have considerable power in his own party because of his heavy popular vote.

The real question for the people of the United States is whether they are prepared to face the fact that for the past eight years they have been sleeping; they have not been told clearly enough that they are in a struggle for survival and that either our system of freedom will prevail in the world or that the Soviet system of communism will prevail. If we waken to the real challenge of the world of today and put all that is best in us into our struggle at home and abroad we can win.

We in the United States are the leaders, and if we have the courage to face the world situation -- to trust in a President who wants to give us at home a better life but knows that this can only be valid if at the same time we meet the Communist challenge -- then we may be able to save ourselves and the world. Our success will be an advance of human beings.

We trust in God, we know how to dream and how to work, and I pray we will rise to sustain and follow a great man with great ideals.


     1. In addition to California (which Nixon won), Hawaii (which Kennedy would win) had not finished its final vote count. Kennedy won 303 electoral votes; Nixon won 219. The election was not decided until early Wednesday afternoon when Minnesota reported eleven electoral votes for Kennedy. Different vote-counting methods among southern states made it impossible to determine a precise popular vote count, although most experts say that Kennedy had less than a 120,000 vote margin out of 69 million votes cast (or a .0017 edge). [Herbert S. Parmet, JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (New York: The Dial Press, 1983), pp. 58-59; and Herbert S. Parmet, "The Election of 1960," in Campaigns, Candidates and the Presidency [CD-ROM] (New York: Compton's New Media, 1995).]

Index to this Document: 1960 presidential election; Democracy: as challenge to communism; Democratic Party; Electoral College; Freedom: protection of; Kennedy, John F.: ER on leadership of; ER's assessment of; My Day; Nixon, Richard: ER's criticism of; Republican Party; Roosevelt, Eleanor: on American people; on elections; JFK, leadership of; JFK, potential of; on leadership; on Nixon; U.S. Government: U.S. House of Representatives; United States (U.S.): as world leader

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

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. .

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