Richard Nixon photo

Address in the Alfred M. Landon Lecture Series at Kansas State University

September 16, 1970

Governor Landon, President McCain, Governor Docking, Senator Pearson, Senator Dole, all of the distinguished guests on the platform, and all the distinguished guests in this audience for this Landon Lecture Series:

I want to express first on behalf of both Mrs. Nixon and myself our warm appreciation for your welcome. It is good to be on the campus of one of America's great universities. And for the benefit of our television audience, I should explain this tie. As we were flying out to Kansas on Air Force One, Senator Pearson, Senator Dole, the members of the congressional delegation, and others presented this tie to me and they said, "You must wear it when you speak at Kansas State."

So, I put it on. And then the television director for today saw it and he said, "You can't wear that tie." I said, "Why not?" He said, "Because purple doesn't go with a blue suit."

All I can say is I am proud to wear the purple at Kansas State.

And incidentally, I also want to thank those who made the arrangements for this meeting for having as the waiting room, before we came into the auditorium here, the dressing room for the Kamas State basketball team. It is nice to be in a room with a winner, believe me.

At this great university, in this very distinguished company, I cannot help but think about the twists of fate--and of how we learn from them.

I think of the fans of Wildcat football here today Who have known what it is to lose--and then who have known what it is to win.

I think back to 1936. You were not born then. But I think then, when Governor Landon--who already knew what it was to win--the only winner among Governors on the Republican side in 1934--a man who knew what it was to win up until that time, learned what it was like to lose.

And I think, too, of some of the moments of my own career: as a football player who spent most of my time on the bench, as a candidate who knew the great satisfaction of winning--and then as a candidate to learn what it is to lose.

And having won some and lost some, I know-as you know--that winning is a lot more fun.

But I also know that defeat or adversity can react on a person in different ways.

He can give up; he can complain about "a world he never made"; or he can search the lessons of defeat and find the inspiration for another try, or a new career, or a richer understanding of the world and of life itself.

When All Landon lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, he was not a man to waste his life in brooding over what might have been. In the 34 years since then, the world has been transformed. And enriched by his experience, Alf Landon has continued to grow with the world--until now he is one of the great eider statesmen of America, a man whose wisdom and common sense, and whose outspoken concern for the welfare of this Nation, have inspired and aided generations that have come thereafter.

We applaud him and commend him today for that distinguished career.

Or in a completely different field, but related, take Kansas State and its football team.

As some of you may have noted, I am somewhat of a football buff. Just 3 years ago, the Wildcats had a dismal 7-year record of 8 wins and 60 losses. But there was a dogged spirit here, a determination, a readiness to learn new ways---and when Vince Gibson came to the campus it was that spirit, that determination, that "Purple Pride" that he helped translate into the "Purple Power" of today.

As for myself, I doubt that I would be President today if I had not learned from the lessons of defeat in 1960 and 1962-and I hope that I can be a better President because of those lessons.

I cite these examples not only to suggest that we here today have something in common but also because this pattern of playing by the rules, of losing some and winning some, of accepting the verdict and having another chance, is fundamental to the whole structure on which our liberty rests.

There are those who protest that if the verdict of democracy goes against them, democracy itself is at fault, the system is at fault--who say that if they don't get their own way the answer is to burn a bus or bomb a building.

Yet we can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time. No one can have his own way all the time, and no one is right all the time.

Whether in a campaign, or a football game, or in debate on the great issues of the day, the answer to "losing one" is not a rush to the barricades but a study of why, and then a careful rebuilding--or perhaps even a careful reexaminaticm of whether the other fellow may have been right after all.

When Palestinian guerrillas hijacked four airliners in flight, they brought to 250 the number of aircraft seized since the skyjacking era began in 1961. And as they held their hundreds of passengers hostage under threat of murder, they sent shock waves of alarm around the world to the spreading disease of violence and terror and its use as a political tactic.

That same cancerous disease has been spreading all over the world and here in the United States.

We saw it 3 weeks ago in the vicious bombing at the University of Wisconsin. One man lost his life, four were injured, and years of painstaking research by a score of others was destroyed.

We have seen it in other bombings and burnings on our campuses, in our cities, in the wanton shootings of policemen, in the attacks on school buses, in the destruction of offices, the seizure and harassment of college officials, the use of force and coercion to bar students and teachers from classrooms and even to close down whole schools.

Consider just a few items in the news:

--A courtroom spectator pulls out a gun. He halts the trial, gives arms to the defendants, takes the judge and four other hostages, moves to a waiting getaway van--and in the gunfight that follows four die, including the judge.

--A man walks into the guardhouse of a city park, pumps five bullets into a police sergeant sitting quietly at his desk.

--A Nobel Prize winner working on a cancer cure returns to the cages of his experimental rats and mice to find them vandalized, with some of the animals running loose, some thrown out of windows into the sea, hundreds missing. Just think, years of research which could have provided some progress to bring a cure to this dread disease destroyed without reason.

--A police patrolman responds to an anonymous emergency call that reported a woman screaming. He arrives at the address. He finds the house deserted but a suitcase is left behind. He bends over to examine it. It explodes, blows off his head, and wounds seven others.

These acts of viciousness all took place not in some other country but in the United States, and in the last 5 weeks.

America at its best has stood steadfastly for the rule of law among nations. But we cannot stand successfully for the rule of law abroad unless we respect the rule of law at home in the United States. A nation that condones blackmail and terror at home can hardly stand as the example in putting an end to international piracies or tensions that could explode into war abroad.

The time has come for us to recognize that violence and terror have no place in a free society, whatever the purported cause or the perpetrators may be. And this is the fundamental lesson for us to remember. In a system like ours, which provides the means for peaceful change, no cause justifies violence in the name of change.

Those who bomb universities, ambush policemen, who hijack airplanes, who hold their passengers hostage, all share in common not only a contempt for human life, but also the contempt for those elemental decencies on which a free society rests--and they deserve the contempt of every American who values those decencies.

Those decencies, those self-restraints, those patterns of mutual respect for the rights and feelings of one another, the willingness to listen to somebody else, without trying to shout him down, those patterns of mutual respect for the rights and the feelings of one another--these are what we must preserve if freedom itself is to be preserved.

There have always been among us those who would choose violence or intimidation to get what they wanted. Their existence is not new. What is new is their numbers, and the extent of the passive acquiescence, or even fawning approval, that in some fashionable circles has become the mark of being "with it."

Commenting on the bombing 3 weeks ago at the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Journal recently said:

"... it isn't just the radicals who set the bomb in a lighted, occupied building who are guilty. The blood is on the hands of anyone who has encouraged them, anyone who has talked recklessly of 'revolution,' anyone who has chided with mild disparagement the violence of extremists while hinting that the cause is right all the same."

What corrodes a society even more deeply than violence itself is the acceptance of violence, the condoning of terror, the excusing of inhuman acts in a misguided effort to accommodate the community's standards to those of the violent few.

When this happens, the community sacrifices more than its calm and more even than its safety. It loses its integrity and corrupts its soul.

Nowhere should the rule of reason be more respected, more jealously guarded, than in the halls of our great universities.

It is the rule of reason rather than the rule of force that is the most important.

Yet we all know that in some of the great universities small bands of destructionists have been allowed to impose their own rule of arbitrary force.

Because of this, we today face the greatest crisis in the history of American education.

In times past we have had crises in education. I remember them. We faced shortages of classrooms, shortages of teachers, shortages that could always be made up, however, by appropriating more money.

These material shortages are nothing compared to the crisis of the spirit which rocks hundreds of campuses across the country today. And because of this, to put it bluntly, today higher education in America risks losing that essential support it has had since the beginning of this country--the support of the American people.

America and Americans, from the time of our foundation, and particularly those that did not have the opportunity to go to a great college or university, have been proud of our enormous strides in higher education. They have supported it.

The number of students in college today has doubled in the past 10 years. But at a time when the quantity of education is going dramatically up, its quality is massively threatened by assaults which terrorize faculty, students, and university and college administrators alike.

And it is time for the responsible university and college administrators, faculty, and student leaders to stand up and be counted. Because we must remember only they can save higher education in America. It cannot be saved by Government.

If we turn only to Government to save it, then Government will move in and run the colleges and universities, and so the place to save it is here among those, the faculty, the administrators, the student leaders. To attempt to blame Government for all the woes of the universities is rather the fashion these days. But, really, it's to seek an excuse, not a reason, for their troubles.

Listen to this: If the war were ended today, if the environment were cleaned up tomorrow morning, and all the other problems for which Government has the responsibility were solved tomorrow afternoon--the moral and spiritual crisis in the universities would still exist.

The destructive activists of our universities and colleges are a small minority. But their voices have been allowed to drown out--

My text at this point reads: "The voices of the small minority have been allowed to drown out the responsible majority." That may be true in some places, but not at Kansas State.

As a result, there is a growing, dangerous attitude among millions of people that all youth are like those who appear night after night on the television screen shouting obscenities, making threats or engaging in destructive and illegal acts.

One of the greatest disservice that the disrupters have done in fact is precisely that, to reflect unfairly on those millions of students, like those in this room, who do go to college for an education, who do study, who do respect the rules, and who go on to make constructive contributions to peaceful change and progress in this country.

But let us understand exactly where we are. I would not for one moment call for a dull, passive conformity on the part of our university and college students, or an acceptance of the world as it is. The great strength of this Nation is that our young people, the young people like those in this room, in generation after generation, give the Nation new ideas, new directions, new energy.

I do not call for a conformity in which the young simply ape the old or in which we freeze the faults that we have. We must be honest enough to find what is right and to change what is wrong in America.

But at the same time we must take an uncompromising stand against those who reject the rules of civilized conduct and of respect for others--those who would destroy what is right in our society and whose actions would do nothing to right what is wrong.

Automatic conformity with the older generation--and I say this as one of the older generation--automatic conformity with the older generation is wrong. At the same time, it is just as wrong to fall into a slavish conformity with those who falsely claim to be the leaders of the new generation, out of fear that it would be unpopular-or considered square--not to follow their lead.

It would be a tragedy for the young generation simply to pursue the policies of the past, and it would be just as great a tragedy for the new generation to become simply parrots for the slogans of protest, uniformly chanting the same few phrases--and often with the same four-letter words.

Let us take one example--one example that I know deeply troubles, and I understand why it does deeply trouble, many of our young people today: the war in Vietnam. We know the slogans. I have heard them often. Most of them simply say end the war.

There is no difference between Americans on that. All of us want to end the war. And we are ending this war through our policy.

Ending the war is not the issue. We have been in four wars in this century. We ended World War I. We ended World War II. We ended Korea. The great question is how we end a war and what kind of peace we achieve.

Because a peace now that would encourage those who would engage in aggression and would thereby lead to a bigger and more terrible war later, would be peace at too great a price.

As we look back over the 20th century, as we look at that whole record of this century, only 70 years, we in America have not yet in this whole century been able to enjoy even one full generation of peace.

So, the whole thrust, the whole purpose of this administration's foreign policy-whether it's Vietnam, or the Middle East, or in Europe, or in our relations with the developing countries or with the Communist powers--is to meet our responsibilities in such a way that at last we can have what we have not had in this century: a full generation of peace. I believe we can have it. I believe you're going to have it.

That is why, in Vietnam, we are carrying out a policy that will end the war. It will do it in a way that will contribute to a just and a lasting peace in the Pacific, in Vietnam, and, we trust, also in the world.

There are those who say that this is the worst of times in which to live.

What self-pitying nonsense that is.

I am perhaps more aware of the problems this Nation has at home and abroad than most of you. But we in America, I say proudly today, have a great deal to be proud of--and a great deal to be hopeful about for the future of America.

Let us open our eyes. Let's look around us. We see, as we look at the whole sweep of history, that for the first time in the whole history of man, it is becoming possible here in America to do things that nobody even dreamed could be done, even 50 years ago.

We see a natural environment; true it's been damaged by careless nuisances and misuses of technology. But we also see that that same technology gives us ability, the ability to clean up that environment, to restore the clean air, the clean water, the open spaces, that are our rightful heritage. And I pledge we shall do that and can do it in America.

Oh, I know the fashionable line among some: Wouldn't it be great to live in a country that didn't have all these problems of material progress?

Not at all. I've been to them. I've seen them. And I simply would like to say to you that great as our problems are as a result of our material progress, we can do things, do things for ourselves and for others that need to be done, and we must see it in that way.

Look at our Nation. We're rich, and sometimes that is condemned because wealth can sometimes be used improperly. But because of our wealth, it means that today we in America cannot just talk about but can plan for a program in which everyone in this Nation, willing and able to work, can earn a decent living, and so that we can care for those who are not able to do so on some basis.

We see a nation that now has the capacity to make enormous strides in these years just ahead in health care, in education, in the creative use of our increasing leisure time.

We see a nation poised to progress more in the next 5 years, in a material sense, than it did in the last 50 years.

We see that because of our wealth, because of our freedom, because of this much maligned system of ours, we can go on to develop those great qualities of the spirit that only decades ago were still buried by the weight of drudgery, and that in 75 percent of the world today are still buried by the weight of drudgery.

We see that we can do this in America, lift that weight of drudgery, allow the development of the qualities of the spirit, and we can do it not just for an elite class, not just a few, but for the many. All this can happen in America. The question is: How shall we use this great opportunity? Shall we toss it away in mindless disruption and terror? Shall we let it wither away in despair? Or shall we prepare ourselves, as you are preparing yourselves, and shall we conduct ourselves in a way that we will be looked back upon as the beginning of the brightest chapter ever in the unfolding of the American dream.

Making its promise real requires an atmosphere of reason, of tolerance, and of common courtesy, with that basic regard for the rights and feelings of others that is the mark of any civilized society.

It requires that the members of the academic community rise firmly in defense of the free pursuit of truth--that they defend it as zealously today against threats from within as they have in the past defended it against threats from without.

It requires that the idealism of the young--and indeed, the idealism of all ages--be focused on what can be done within the framework of a free society, recognizing that its structure of rights and responsibilities is complex and fragile and as precious as freedom itself.

The true idealist pursues what his heart says is right in a way that his head says will work.

But the final test of idealism lies in the respect each shows for the rights of others. Despite all the difficulties, all divisions, all troubles that we have had, we can look to the future, I believe, with pride and with confidence. I speak here today on the campus of a great university, and I recall one of the great sons of Kansas, Dwight David Eisenhower. I recall the eloquent address he made at London's famous Guildhall immediately after victory in Europe.

On that day, the huge assemblage of all the leading dignitaries in Britain were there to honor him.

In his few remarks, one of the most eloquent speeches in the history of English eloquence, he said very simply, "I come from the heart of America."

Now, 25 years later, as I speak in the heart of America, I can truly say to you here today you are the heart of America-and the heart of America is strong. The heart of America is good. The heart of America is sound. It will give us--you will give us--the sound and responsible leadership that the great promise of America calls for--and in doing so, you will give my generation what it most fervently hopes for: the knowledge that your generation will see that promise of the American dream fulfilled.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the university's Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kans. His address was broadcast live on radio and television. Dr. James A. McCain was president of the university.

An advance text of the President's address was released by the White House on the same day.

Richard Nixon, Address in the Alfred M. Landon Lecture Series at Kansas State University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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