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JFK chose a hot topic in 1960 York Fair campaign visit: the Cold War

Many people today remember being in the audience when John F. Kennedy visited the York, Pa., Fair in his quest for the presidency in 1960. Not as well remembered was the visit by his GOP opponent,  Richard M. Nixon, to York a couple of weeks later. The 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death is Nov. 22. Also of interest: York countians interested in JFK’s life, times and death.

In addressing a large audience at the York Fair in September 1960, the Cold War was very much on John F. Kennedy’s mind.

He referred to the Soviet Union and the Chinese and expressed concern that America was falling behind as a super power.

“I ask you to join with me in a journey into the 1960’s, whereby we will mold our strength and become first again, not ‘first, if,’ not ‘first, but,’ and not ‘first, when,’ but ‘first,’ he commented on that day three years before his death on Nov. 22, 1963.

That challenge remains today – in a world that faces nuclear threats from the big nations and a host of others who have access to that technology.

For posterity

Kennedy’s words to his York audience are fortunately preserved. See them all at, or at least what he was prepared to say: American Presidency Project.

jfk1JFK outside the York fairgrounds.


After a word of thanks, then-Sen. Kennedy began his Sept. 16 speech with a nod to a York County native son and former Pennsylvania governor, sitting next to him that day:

“I want to express my great appreciation for a very nice introduction by a distinguished son of the great State of Pennsylvania, former Governor Leader. I appreciate that very much, indeed.”

jfk2The public had full opportunity to meet JFK.



John F. Kennedy: “Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, York County Fair, York, PA,” September 16, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74056.

Senator Kennedy stopped at Lincoln Woods Inn in Springettsbury Township before his York Fair appearance.

*Edited, 11/22/13

Also of interest:
Check out this working list of presidential visits to York County

Check out other Yorktownsquare.com posts about John F. Kennedy via this Google search: JFK.

Before JFK visited York, he was in Harrisburg. Check out Joe McClure’s PennLive.com op ed.