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Richard Nixon: Remarks to Eastern Media Executives Attending a Briefing on Domestic Policy in Rochester, New York.
Richard
Richard Nixon
204 - Remarks to Eastern Media Executives Attending a Briefing on Domestic Policy in Rochester, New York.
June 18, 1971
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Ladies and gentlemen:

I am very happy to participate in this media briefing. I was reminded by the elevator operator, who, incidentally, is the manager of the hotel--I don't think they can afford elevator operators at the present time--that the last time I came to Rochester we brought a blizzard. This time we did not bring a blizzard but I imagine after what you have been exposed to, you think you have been exposed to a blizzard of words.

I am not going to try to burden you too much with what I am sure has been covered better by the briefing team up to this point. What I would like to try to do, however, is to put in perspective some of these domestic problems and briefly to point out how I believe they affect also our situation with regard to foreign policy. To do that, I think it might be well to start with a comment that was made after a press conference I had on June 1, just a couple of weeks ago, by a listener, a viewer, to the effect that the viewer was extremely interested in a number of domestic questions, and why was it that of the questions in the press conference, that out of 25 or so that were answered, 22 were on foreign policy or related to foreign policy.

So I went back over the press conferences of this year, except for one that I had in San Clemente where I limited it to domestic policy, and I found, of course, that that was exactly the case. Eighty-five percent of all questions asked at Presidential press conferences since I have become President, and also 85 percent of all the questions asked when I have appeared before editors' groups, as I did before the ASNE [American Society of Newspaper Editors] in Washington, have been on foreign policy or national security-related issues.

Consequently, we thought that in these media briefings it might be important to bring to the attention of the opinion leaders in this part of the country, as we have tried to do and will be trying to do in other parts of the country as well, the very important domestic issues, issues which, because foreign policy at the moment seems to be so important that it obscures the others--we cannot have an effective foreign policy unless we are able effectively to deal with our problems at home.

I will return to that theme in my conclusion, but let me begin by touching on several of the issues that you have already heard discussed and give you, if I may, some predictions about what is going to happen in the Congress.

I will predict flatly that in this session of the Congress revenue sharing in some form will pass. I will predict flatly that in this session of the Congress welfare reform in some form will pass.

As far as the second is concerned, it may be that the problem in the Senate will become so difficult that it may slop over into the next session. But in this Congress both revenue sharing and welfare reform will pass.

And also, I will predict flatly that Government reorganization--and here Governor Connally is the real expert in this field because he was on the committee that recommended it--Government reorganization will begin; at least one of the reorganization plans will be passed.

Let me say in that respect that I have been very pleased, and I think Governor Connally has been pleased, by the bipartisan approach that the chairmen of the committees have taken to this. Chairman Holifield, for example, who very bluntly is opposed to the reorganization plans at first blush, and Chairman McClellan in the Senate, have both said that they wanted to have hearings and give the Congress an opportunity to decide.

If the Congress gets an opportunity to decide on Government reorganization, on welfare reform, on revenue sharing, the majority of the Congress will reflect the majority of the country.

The reason why I am confident that welfare reform and revenue sharing will pass is because a majority of the country want changes made. I use the term "in some form" deliberately. This Administration is working with a Congress of the other party. Even if we had one of our own party, the Congress always needs to and must work its will on administration proposals. Sometimes the Congress improves them. Sometimes we think the action of the Congress does not improve them.

But be that as it may, it must be a joint enterprise, particularly when the Congress is in the hands of one party and the Presidency in the hands of another. But we believe that we have the cooperative framework worked out for these three areas.

Now let me go precisely, if I could, to the first: revenue sharing.

On revenue sharing, great emphasis has been placed on the crisis of the cities, the crisis of county government, the crisis of State government in finance. And at first blush, that appears to be the major reason for it. It is a major reason. It is, however, in my opinion, not the most compelling reason as far as people are concerned. In my view, the most compelling argument for revenue sharing, one that goes directly to people, is what will happen to property taxes.

I have found that the property tax at the present time in the United States is the most unpopular tax. It is the fastest rising tax, and it is the most unfair tax of all. It is the most unpopular because it is the one that people have to pay twice a year. It doesn't come out painlessly as does the income tax--more or less painlessly as far as the average wage earner is concerned. The property tax bill comes in and the individual has to get up the money in order to pay the tax bill. It is the fastest rising. You probably had some statistics already given to you. Over the past 10 years it has gone up two and a half times across the Nation. In the State of New York I think it has tripled. In the past 4 years, the property taxes in the States represented at this regional briefing have gone up 45 percent. And as a result, we are having a taxpayers' revolt, a taxpayers' revolt not directed so much to sales taxes or income tax or Federal tax--all of which have moved some but not nearly at this escalating pace--but a taxpayers' revolt with regard to bonds, the various activities that are essential in order to build schools and other institutions which, of course, are the responsibility of local government.

Unless we find a way to stop the rise in property taxes, local government and State government in this country are going to have a financial crisis of enormous proportions. Revenue sharing is the only hope of stopping the rise of property taxes.

Oh, there is another hope, and that is, cut the cost of government at the State level, cut it at the city level. The State of New York, of course, is trying to do both. But once the people get used to certain levels of services it is very difficult to cut. Run the country or the State or the unit of government more economically? Yes, some cuts can be made. But as demands go up, inevitably the cost of government will go up, and the taxes must come from some area.

So as far as the hope for reduction of property tax is concerned, revenue sharing provides the only hope. If revenue sharing is passed, it could stop the rise in property taxes by giving the States, local governments, and county governments a new source of income.

If revenue sharing, on the other hand, is passed, looking ahead it has been estimated by our experts in the various departments, particularly the Treasury Department, that it could result in a reduction of property taxes across the country, of course varying, depending upon the situation in each State and local government unit, a reduction of approximately 30 percent.1

1The reference was to an estimated possible 30 percent offset of annual local property tax increases. (I.e., revenue sharing proceeds to all communities were estimated to equal 30 percent of total projected property tax increases in an average year. )

So it is this issue that I think particularly should be hammered home by those who believe that revenue sharing is an idea whose time has come, because to the average person around the country he is concerned about the crisis of his Governor or his mayor or his county official. He is more concerned about the crisis of his own budget rather than the budget of the Federal Government or the State government or the city government. And property tax is the one that gets to him.

Consequently, we emphasize that as one of the major reasons for moving in this particular area.

I pointed out, too, that the property tax not only is the most unpopular; it is the fastest rising. It is the most unfair. It is the most unfair because it hits the people in the lower income brackets the hardest. We all know that if an individual is moving up in the income area, his ability to deduct property taxes from his gross income means that the burden of property tax, while still significant, is not all that important.

On the other hand, for the lower income taxpayer, the individual who perhaps takes the standard deduction, as those property taxes escalate, the burden is much, much greater upon him. And also, all surveys show that the lower a family's income, the larger a proportion of his income goes to housing and, particularly if he is a homeowner, to his property tax.

One personal anecdote that brings this home: I met the other day with a group of leaders of older or what we call senior citizens from around the country. They were competing groups. Some were for one idea, some were for others. The one thing that they were unanimous on was this: They pointed out that 75 percent of all senior citizens in this country own their apartments or their houses, and they said the one greatest interest they have is in getting some method of stopping the rise in property taxes which was proving to be confiscatory and a burden which they would not continue to be able to bear.

So in terms of revenue sharing, then, I believe that we could put it this way: The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House opposes it. The ranking Republican in the House [Committee] also opposes it.

On the other hand, we find that a majority of Governors favor revenue sharing. A majority of county officials favor it. A majority of city officials favor it. A majority of the people favor it. And our polls indicate--and we have made some polls of Members of Congress and the Senate--that while the Members differ as to the form, if the bill were to come to the floor, the House and the Senate Members would reflect the country, and a majority will vote for it.

When you have that much for a particular proposal, you can be confident that it will be acted upon, and that the committee chairmen, those who have, of course, the responsibility in this area, will move in response to what is obviously an overwhelming public mandate.

I turn now to welfare reform. It makes no sense to have revenue sharing unless we reform the institutions of government, because otherwise all we are doing is to put more money into obsolete institutions, costly, inefficient institutions that are wasting, in many cases, the taxpayers' money.

Now, how does revenue sharing, and, therefore, welfare reform--how do the two come together? They are closely related because when we look at the reasons for escalating costs of local and State government, increasing welfare costs is one of the major. Consequently, we must do something about the welfare program, not only in human terms, a point that we have emphasized in our family assistance program, but also in terms of this problem of getting at the cost of government. As I have often pointed out, and I will not go into the details here--all of you are aware of our program--it is one that provides for all of those who are in need. It provides also for the working poor, a bridge for those who are on welfare to move to part-time jobs or poorly paying jobs, and not to have an incentive to stay on welfare.

But the important point to make from a political standpoint is this: Why did welfare reform fail last year? Just let me recount what happened. It passed very substantially in the House. It bogged down in the Senate. It bogged down in the Senate because Senators felt, particularly those in the committee--and perhaps even a majority of the Senate might have reflected this view, although I think a majority would have voted for it if they had gotten the chance--but it bogged down in the Senate because many Senators felt that instead of reforming welfare we were simply adding millions more to the welfare rolls. Putting it more bluntly, many of them said that what we were asking the country to provide was a guaranteed annual income for people whether they worked or were willing to work or not.

Consequently, we have reformed our welfare reform proposal. We have reformed it by strengthening the work requirements and the work incentives. It is not fair to have a neighborhood in which one individual works to support his own children and then pays taxes out of his income to support the children of his neighbor who is able to work but refuses to work and refuses to support them.

Consequently, while we do provide assistance for families, while we do provide for the working poor, there is a very strict requirement that if an individual has job training, if he is able to work and he refuses to work, he is off of welfare.

This, I believe, is the key to opening the Senate door for the passage of welfare reform. It is already out of the House committee. The House, in my opinion, will vote it. When it goes to the Senate we will again have the battle. But, I believe, there is the fact that we have strengthened the work requirements, and we have made it absolutely clear that this is not a guaranteed annual income.

A guaranteed annual income means in effect we will guarantee an individual an income whether he works or is willing to work or not. I don't believe in that, the country doesn't believe in it, an overwhelming majority are against it.

What we provide is an income for all of those who need it, but no income and no incentives for those who are able to work and refuse to work. That is the key to the passage of welfare reform. And because we have found that key I believe we are going to pass it.

Government reorganization I will touch upon just briefly. It is a very complicated matter. I simply would summarize the attitude of most people toward government in this way: Most people are pretty fed up with it. They are fed up with it at all levels. They are fed up with it because they think it costs too much, they think it doesn't work, and also they think they don't have anything to say about it.

Government reorganization, combined with revenue sharing, answers that fundamental concern of the American people. It will reduce the cost of government by making it more efficient. It will make it work better. And, through revenue sharing's proposals for local and State decisions, it will give people a chance to have something to say, more to say, about their government--what is done with their tax money, what programs they want, rather than what programs some bureaucrats in Washington may want.

Now we come to the problem of drugs, which I know has probably already been fairly well covered and it has been more recently covered in your newspapers and television and radio programs last' night and this morning since I presented it to the bipartisan leaders and then to the press yesterday.

I would like to summarize briefly the attitude with regard to the traffic in illegal drugs by knocking down some misconceptions.

First, that drug addiction is a ghetto problem.

It used to be. However, the fastest rising use of drugs now is not in the ghettos, but in the suburban, higher income neighborhoods, and among groups in many of the so-called better families, and particularly those families with children in high school and some of the better colleges and universities, if we are able to select between better and not better.

Second, it has been assumed that the drug problem was primarily a nonwhite problem.

It used to be. However, the fastest rise in drug addiction is not at the present time among blacks. It is among whites. And whites have now substantially passed blacks in terms of the use of drugs--still it is a very serious problem among blacks.

As Congressman Rangel, who is the Congressman, as you know, from New York, very eloquently said when I met with the Black Caucus, this, he thought, was the major problem in his particular district that we could deal with.

Nevertheless, we must not sit here and believe that it is simply a primarily nonwhite problem.

And, finally, the idea that, as far as the drug problem is concerned, it is one that has simply arisen because of the involvement in Vietnam.

It is true that young men who go to Vietnam are able to purchase heroin at lower prices than they could in their environments at home. But a recent study indicated--and these statistics, of course, are not as complete as they might be-it is estimated that 50 percent, approximately, of the young men who go into the armed services and go to Vietnam, or Europe for that matter, before they go into the service have tried drugs of one kind or another. Of course, what this indicates is that the problem is national in scope. It is one that crosses all lines of the economy, the poor as well as those that are not poor, black and white, primarily young, and, therefore, it is one, since it works primarily on the young, that can be so destructive to the character of the country.

As you know, we have a four-point program. One that will deal with the supply. And I have instructed the Ambassadors that they should have, of course, great concern about foreign policy; but that we can have the most successful foreign policy in the world, good relations with any .country in the world, and if we destroy the character of our young people in this country it isn't going to make any difference. Therefore, we have got to put stopping the drug traffic, stopping the source of supply, first in the various countries where it is a problem, and we are doing that.

Second, in the field of enforcement, here the Secretary of the Treasury has a major responsibility and some really very significant gains have been made. We have been pulling it together; it is much better coordinated. But, on the other hand, there is a lot that remains to be done due to the fact that the problem has become more and more serious.

And third, and this was the major announcement that was made yesterday, in the treatment of drug addicts we finally are pulling it together in one program.

I hope that Dr. Jaffe, the man that we have appointed to head this up, can come up to appear before--and I am sure he would be able to and would be glad to if you invite him, some of you-to meet with some of your editorial boards collectively or otherwise and tell you what he did in Illinois and what I have told him to do nationally.

In the field of drug addiction, what we have found is that there are nine Government agencies, Federal Government agencies, working in this field. What often happens is that these Government agencies are more interested in knowing who is going to get the biggest appropriation, who is going to get the most slots, than in doing the job.

Dr. Jaffe is controversial. He is blunt. He is abrasive. He is going to knock heads together, and I have told him to, because we need a controversial, blunt, abrasive man to take this problem. And one thing we are going to accomplish: We are going to see to it that the nine Government agencies that are presently operating in this field quit fighting each other and start fighting the drug problem.

This is going to take leadership from the very top because when you have these interagency fights, as the Secretary of the Treasury knows, and the Under Secretary will tell you, they are all equals. But usually they will pay attention if the White House tells them. Sometimes, at least, they do.

In any event, we are backing up Dr. Jaffe in this. He will have the total backing of the White House and our total interest.

I mentioned abrasiveness, toughness, and the rest. I am also impressed by him because he is a very compassionate man. He understands this problem. We must be compassionate with regard to the problem of drug addiction. He is one who understands it, but one who also realizes that we must solve it.

The other point that I make involves you: that is that the fourth part of any program is education. Dr. Jaffe points up that we can cut off the source of supply. We can prosecute the pushers; we can treat the addicts. But in the final analysis, unless we establish a new attitude among our people--and here you have got to start with young people at high school, even grammar school, age--it means that the traffic will continue to grow. So education--education by the media, by the newspapers and the television and the radio, by the teachers, by all leaders of opinion--is an absolute essential or our program will fail.

So we ask for your help in this. We are going to be sending a lot of materials out. Please don't treat it as boiler plate. It is, in my view, as I have indicated, drug traffic is public enemy number one domestically in the United States today, and we must wage a total offensive, worldwide, nationwide, government wide, and if, I might say so, media-wide.

Let me touch briefly on one other area that I think it is appropriate to mention in Rochester, because in this city I recall 4 or 5 years ago there were some difficult problems in the field of race relations.

Here I think it is important for us to realize that those of us in positions of leadership, of opinion, you, particularly, the opinion makers, have a very great responsibility. We can point to some progress. I, of course, have a rather diverse background in that respect. I went to school in the West, grew up in the West; I have lived in the North, in New York City; and I also went to school for 3 years in the South at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. I think I know the Nation.

It is interesting and ironic to note that the section of the country that has the most difficult problem has made the most progress in the field of race relations over the past 3 years. For example, 38 percent of all black students in the South go to majority white schools. Twenty-eight percent of all black students in the North go to majority white schools. There has been a doubling--I mean a tripling--of the number in the South in the past year. There has been no change whatever in the North in this number over these past 3 years.

We could go on by dissecting the problem and pointing out how far we still have to go in the South, how far we have to go in the North. We could talk about other areas: job opportunity, housing, and so forth.

I would simply like to leave this thought with you with regard to this: It is the responsibility of the national Administration to enforce the law. We will, and we are.

In the field of school desegregation, in the field of fair housing and all the rest, we shall enforce the law. But I recall in my first year in law school, the first day, the professor in contracts started the course before we opened the case books, and he said, "Gentlemen, before you study all these cases I want to say one thing. A contract is only as good as the will of the parties to keep it."

To paraphrase that, we must recognize that a law is only as good as the will of people to obey it. That will must come, and it will only come, through leadership, again from the media and the rest, all of us who have this responsibility, who will, one, not create among the minds of people that they must like a law in order to obey it; but to create at least among those who have the problem, whatever it may be in this difficult area, to create among them this attitude that once the courts have spoken, once the law has been laid down, then it is their responsibility to carry it out.

That is why when we worked on the problem of Southern school desegregation we could have gone the other way. We could have demagogued it a year ago, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision, and we would have had massive resistance. But we called in the white leaders and the black leaders--and we met with them hour after hour after hour--from all of the major States. I personally met with them at the White House. They left; and many of the white leaders particularly--even some of the blacks--but most of the white leaders said, "We don't agree with the law, we don't like the law, but we do not want our part of the country to be a non-law-abiding area."

It is that type of an attitude that we need, of course, to inculcate all across this country.

Now if I could move finally to putting this in the perspective of our foreign policy, without going into great detail in that field, because that would take me another 25 minutes, and you, I know, are on a rather tight schedule.

At the present time, the eyes of the Nation primarily in the field of foreign policy are riveted on Vietnam. I understand that. My eyes are on Vietnam, and I have a responsibility to end the American involvement there in a way that will contribute to a lasting peace.

I will simply say to get that subject in perspective, if all of the great issues in foreign policy which come across my desk were as certain of solution as Vietnam, I would feel very sure about the future of peace in the world for the last third of this century. Because in Vietnam, either through negotiation or through our process of withdrawal and the replacement of American forces by the South Vietnamese for their own defense, the American involvement is ending. American casualties are going down.

It is on that record that we expect to be judged. We are going to succeed. So what we have to do, then, since we have here a problem which, of course, blanks out virtually everything else in the field of foreign policy, is put it aside for the moment, recognizing that further down the road there are other problems that will be with us after Vietnam leaves, as it will most certainly leave.

Some of these problems you have, of course, covered very, very well in the media. I will touch upon them only briefly.

So that we don't have any false sense of euphoria--and in this area I think I would be the last to accept the charge of being euphoric about our relations with countries that have very different interests from ours--but so that we don't have any false sense of euphoria, let me set forth our relations first with the Soviet Union, then with Mainland China, and, finally, in terms of our foreign policy generally.

With the Soviet Union, the leaders of the two major countries are committed to work toward an offensive-defensive limitation of nuclear arms this year. That doesn't mean we have got it. It doesn't mean we can be sure. It does mean that the chances are good that we will have some kind of an agreement, because the leaders at the top having made this public commitment, we have an interest in seeing that it be done.

This can, therefore, provide, and I believe will provide, a step toward moving in other directions because if the two super powers are able to agree in an area that affects their vital interests--as, of course, this whole matter of nuclear arms does--so greatly, then the two super powers should be able to move in other areas that are primarily peripheral. I do not want to suggest, for example, that the Caribbean is peripheral as far as we are concerned. It may be as far as the Soviet Union is concerned.

I do not want to suggest, for example, that the Mideast is peripheral as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. It may be.

But whatever the case may be, whether it is the Mideast, whether it is the Caribbean, or where we get down to an area that affects more directly the vital interests of both major powers--and I mean Western Europe and Eastern Europe--a movement toward some kind of an agreement with regard to nuclear arms give us some hope of progress in the other areas.

What I am saying to you today is not that I predict a Mideastern settlement. I do say that it is in the interests of both major powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, not to allow that very explosive part of the world to drive them into a confrontation that neither of them wants, although our interests are very diametrically opposed in that part of the world--except our common interests in not becoming involved in a war.

I do suggest that in Europe, for example, that whether we talk about the Berlin Settlement or the MBFR [mutual and balanced force reductions] settlement, whatever the case might be, there is a long, hard road of negotiation ahead. But what is important to note is that both nations, looking to their own interests as we have in the SALT talks to date, and as we both should, recognizing that our interests are different, recognizing that we are not going necessarily to like each other in terms of our foreign policy interests, both nations, because they know the danger of not agreeing, are moving at least through an era of negotiation.

Turning briefly to China, we should not overestimate what has happened. I do not refer, of course, to the visit of the table tennis team, but I am referring to the more significant fact: What has happened is that we have opened the door as far as trade and travel are concerned to Mainland China. That door now being open, we shall see what comes through the door. The question, of course, which we must consider is: Why, what does it mean?

Let me put it in perspective this way: As far as Mainland China is concerned, it is at present not a major nuclear power. It at present is not a major economic power. Japan, with one-fifth of the population of Mainland China, has one and a half times as much GNP as Mainland China.

But looking down to the end of this century, to the kind of a world that we leave for our children, we will have a billion Chinese who, because they are Chinese--not because they have a Communist government--are among the most creative and dynamic people in the world, a billion Chinese.

If we have those billion Chinese people outside the world community, living in isolation--isolated, of course, by the Soviet Union, as is the present case, and isolated from the other major power, the United States, with Japan in the middle-you can see what the prospects for peace in the Pacific might be, how dim they might be. And you can also see what the dangers might be, regardless of what agreements the Soviet Union and the United States might make out to reduce tensions that we have, regardless of what might happen in other parts of the world. Therefore, anyone in a position of responsibility at this time in the United States must look to that future and in a careful, measured way, as we are, move toward a normalization of relations--and it will not come quickly--and toward a time when Mainland China will not be isolated from the world community.

We are making progress. I think that the prospects are that more will be made, and I would suggest that it might well be--I do not know how history ever judges an administration; no man knows while he is in the job--but it might well be that the most significant thing that happened during this Administration has been that we took the first step of a journey that takes a thousand miles.

Now finally, if I could say a word about our foreign policy as it relates to our domestic policy and express a conviction which may not be widely supported among many of you who are, to your credit, honest critics of our foreign policy. Let me simply summarize in this way: The United States, needless to say, has done many things in the field of foreign policy in its long history that are subject to criticism. We all realize how controversial our role in the war in Southeast Asia has been. The United States, on the other hand, not because we asked for it, but because of the accidents of history and the great traumatic results of World War II-the United States is the only nation in the free world that can play the role in this next 25 years that will make the difference between war and peace.

In that respect, I believe the world is fortunate that the United States is in that position. We have our faults. Look at our record: We have been in four wars in this century. We didn't start any of them. The United States in each instance believed then, and we believe now, that we were fighting for freedom rather than to destroy it; that we were fighting for the forces that would bring peace rather than to destroy it.

That is something which I think reassures the world to an extent, and I can say that in the conversations that I have with foreign leaders--including the conversation I had before coming up here today with a very eloquent spokesman for the new Africa, the President of Senegalthe United States with all of its faults is not feared by any of the smaller nations of the world, that we would use our power to destroy their freedom.

The United States, on the other hand, has the responsibility to use its power and its economic strength, use it effectively in the cause of peace in this last third of a century. I think we will.

On the other hand, we cannot do it unless we have the strength at home--the strength at home economically and the strength at home militarily, of course, to carry out our commitments; and another kind of strength which comes from something other than wealth and military power.

I often refer to the fact that I marvel, and I think all historians marvel, at the young America of 190 years ago. It was weak in arms and poor in goods but rich in spirit, and caught the imagination of the world.

Today, America is strong in arms and rich in goods, and many think poor in spirit--doubts about our role in the world, doubts about what is going to happen at home.

I simply want to say in conclusion that the other day I was sitting by an ambassador from a major European country at dinner. He had just returned from a month's trip around the United States. He had been to Portland and Seattle and Denver. He had been also to Cincinnati and Kentucky, to Louisville. He came back. He said, "I saw a very different America abroad in this land than I see in Washington." He said, "Here I get the impression"--and he was not being critical of his Washington colleagues or the Washington press or the Congressmen or the Senators, it is just the fact that in Washington we are obsessed with the problems. He said, "Out there in this country there is a vibrancy, there is a spirit." He said--even in the Seattle area where there is much unemployment because of the airframe problem--he said, "There is a spirit, a vibrancy, an idealism which is very heartening to a visitor from abroad."

In my view, I believe that we have the best chance since World War II to look forward to a generation of peace. We will succeed, however, in the world in having that generation of peace only if the United States plays a role, plays it with its military strength, using it with restraint to preserve the peace, never to break it; plays it with its economic strength, and that means vitality; but plays it also with the spirit, a spirit of idealism which was ours in the beginning and which I believe deep down in the American character is still here.

There are many forces that would erode that strength, forces like drugs, forces like division between the races and the generations, forces like national defeatism, negativism. All that I would suggest to the media leaders in this room is that we need your criticism, and we will try to react responsibly to it.

We need your constructive suggestions. But the Nation needs, at times, to be reassured that with all of our faults we have played a useful role in the world and will continue to, and must continue to, and that with all of our faults this Nation, to billions in the world, is the land where there is more opportunity, more wealth more reasonably shared, than any nation of the world. The lacking ingredient could be whether America, as it has become rich and strong, has become poor in spirit. It is the American spirit that you and I really have in the palm of our hands, and it is that area that we must constantly, of course, nurture, because we will be responsible if that spirit should fail.


Note: The President spoke at 1 p.m. in the Tudor Room at the Flagship Hotel.

Later the same day, the President met with a committee of New York State citizens interested in revenue sharing. Lists of participants at both the briefing and the meeting were released by the White House.


Citation: Richard Nixon: "Remarks to Eastern Media Executives Attending a Briefing on Domestic Policy in Rochester, New York.," June 18, 1971. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=3049.
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