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President Kennedy Speaks at AFL-CIO Convention

Nov. 15, 1963 - President Kennedy told the leaders of American labor today that providing jobs was the most important issue in the country, more vital than civil rights legislation or education. Mr. Kennedy spoke at the fifth biennial convention of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. at the Americana Hotel in New York City. The 1,200 delegates represent unions that are an important source of money and votes for Democratic candidates. The gist of the President’s message was that the nation had made progress under his Administration, but more must be made. “I am here today to talk about the right to work — the right to have a job in this country in a time of prosperity,” the President declared. “That is the real right-to-work issue in 1963.” Calling the nation’s continuing high level of unemployment “an intolerable waste for this rich country of ours,” Mr. Kennedy ranked economic security above civil rights legislation and education in the hierarchy of issues. “The civil rights legislation is important,” the President said. “But to make that legislation effective, we need jobs in the United States.” At the conclusion of his speech, a 26-year-old Irish governess, Teresa Norton, shattered the elaborate security arrangements made for Mr. Kennedy. She crashed the party through a wall of press photographers and succeeded in shaking hands with the President as he sat on the grand ballroom dais. Miss Norton, who said she is governess for a family on upper Madison Avenue, explained that she had three dreams about President Kennedy, the third one last night, in which she shook his hand. “I had to make that dream come true,” she said. Her chance came when the President sat down following his speech. Miss Norton climbed on the platform but fell and landed on her back on a chair. Several cameramen helped her to her feet. Mr. Kennedy saw what was happening and said: “It’s all right. Send her up.” She lost her balance again and sprawled over a table as she reached to take the President’s hand. Mr. Kennedy told the woman, “Don’t be nervous, don’t worry.” Secret Service men waited a moment or two and then escorted Miss Norton from the ballroom. “I had to do it. Did I do something wrong?” Miss Norton asked them. No charges were filed.


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