Presidential campaign speech at Phoenix, Arizona

March 30, 1968


Phoenix, AZ

If there is one overriding reality in this country, it is that we must resist any erosion of a sense of national decency. Make no mistake: Decency is at the heart of the matter—and at the heart of this campaign. Poverty is indecent. Illiteracy is indecent.

The death or maiming of brave young men in the swamps of Asia, that is indecent.

It is indecent for a man to work with his back and his hands without hope of ever seeing his son enter a university.

It is indecent for a man in the streets of New York or Portland, Detroit or Watts, to surrender the only life he will ever have to despair. It is indecent for the best of our young people to be driven to the terrors of drugs and violence, to allow their hearts to wither with hatred.

This is a time to create, not destroy. This is a time for men to work out a sense of decency, not bitterness. This is a time to begin again.

And that is why I run for president, and that is why I ask for your help.

As we stand here today, brave young men are fighting across an ocean. Here, while the sun shines, men are dying on the other side of the earth.

Which of them might have written a great symphony? Which of them might have cured cancer? Which of them might have played a World Series or given us the gift of laughter from a stage or helped build a bridge or a university? Which one of them would have taught a child to read?

It is our responsibility to let those men live. If they die because of our empty vanities, because of our failure of wisdom, because the world has changed and we have not changed with it, then we must answer to them.

And we must also answer to mankind.

We are the great country of diversity. There is room here for everyone. But our young people are our greatest natural resource…

We must bring them back into American life.