Richard Nixon photo

Excerpts from Remarks by the Vice President, Central High School, Bay City, MI

September 20, 1960

I would like to talk tonight not only to the wage earners, union members, and nonunion members of Michigan, but to the wage earners of America, and that's most of us, incidentally, 67 million wage earners in America. I would like to talk to you in terms of why I believe what we stand for, the men on this platform, is best for you, not only at the national level, but at the State level as well.

Now, in speaking to you, I am not going to say what my opponent was reported to have indicated and said when he was here speaking in Detroit on Labor Day. I do not say today to you - I do not make a commitment - that everything that union leaders or the union movement, so-called, is for I am for, that everything they oppose I am against. He was reported to have said that, and the next day a release was issued of an endorsement in the papers for him by Mr. Reuther's organization, indicating that in all the time he had served in the House and Senate there had been 33 key votes and that 100 percent of the time he had voted for the things that the union leaders of the CIO were for and against the things they were against.

I'm going to tell you tonight that I will not say that I am for what the union leaders are for in Michigan or any other State 100

percent. I'm not going to say what the farm leaders are for, the Farm Bureau, the Grange, or any other farm organization I'm for 100 percent. I'm not for what the business leaders are for 100 percent. And I'll tell you why. A President of the United States has to be President of all the people, and he must belong to no one group 100 percent. He must be 100 percent for all the people.

There are many of the things that the union leaders in this State and nationally are for that I am for, many of the things that

business leaders are for that I am for, but there are also things which as a President I would have to be against.

I recall, for example, the experience I had in settling the steel strike with Secretary Mitchell. Dave McDonald, the head of the Steelworkers, wanted one thing and Roger Blough, the head of the U.S. Steel Co., wanted something else; and I, as Vice President of the United States, couldn't give either of them all that they wanted, because, while they would have liked it, as far as the country was concerned, it wouldn't have been good. So, in the end, I had to make a recommendation, along with Secretary Mitchell, which satisfied neither the union leaders nor the management leaders, but which did do the best job for the American people in settling the strike that should have been settled on a fair basis.

And, so, I say to you tonight that I feel that it would be my responsibility - and I will feel completely independent in that

responsibility - to stand for what is best for all Americans, union members, non-union members, all of our people, whenever a problem comes before the Chief Executive of this country.

Let me put the case, as I would like to put it, and, as I indicated I would put it a moment ago.

Why do I say that the wage earners of America - the wage earners - why should they vote for our ticket?

I'll tell you why. First, because of our record.

My friends, put yourself in the position of the head of the family in this country, a wage earner. What do we want? What do you want?

Well, the first thing you want is a job. All right, in terms of jobs, there are more jobs available in the United States today than ever in the history of our country. They pay higher wages than ever before in the history of our country. There is better security with those jobs than ever before in the history of our country, and all of that under an administration which we have had for the last 8 years.

What else do they want? The wage earners of America want the jobs in which their income is real, in which it goes up so that it can buy things, not income simply that is inflated.

Look at the record there. The charge has been made that this administration has been against the wage earners and that the

former administration has been for them, but look at the record. Did you realize that in the 7 Truman years the family income of the wage earners of America went up just 2 percent in 7 years? In the 7 years of this administration its gone up seven times as much, 15 percent, and I say the wage earners of America like 15 percent up in 7 years better than 2 percent and they're not going to go back to leadership which would bring them back to 2 percent again, as they had under the previous administration.

But our wage earners, of course, are not interested in just their jobs and in their security. They are also interested in progress, in a better life constantly for their children than they have had for themselves. As my dad always used to tell us when we were growing up in our family, he said, "I don't want to go back to the good old times because I remember how much worse they were than we are today." He said, "We want something better for you than we have had," and that's the way all Americans feel. So, on this issue of progress, I want to tackle that one head on because some charges have been made in that

respect that ought to be answered and the record set straight.

The charge has been made that under this administration, America has been standing still, that we have made no progress and that we've got to have a change in Washington so that America can move again. Well, my friends, let us look at this administration that is supposed to have been standing still in the field of progress. First, take schools. All of us want better schools for our children. How many schools were built in this administration? I'll tell you how many. Not only more than were built in the 7 previous years under Mr. Truman, but we have built more schools in this administration than in the 20 years before this one. So, that's progress in that area nobody can deny. That's not standing still, and I think that all of you will agree with me on that point.

I could make similar comparisons on hospitals. I could make similar comparisons on other public facilities in which we have

seen more progress in these 7 years than in any administration in history. So, America has not been standing still in that field.

Or let's take human rights, because our wage earners have a deep feeling, as they should, and we're proud that they all have that feeling, a deep feeling for their fellow man, and they believe in equality of opportunity and they want it to become a reality so that all of our young people will have an equal chance at the starting line. What about equality of opportunity? It has been charged that the executive branch of this Government has no interest in equality of opportunity, that we've really given no leadership. My friends, what is the record? First, two civil rights bills, both sponsored by our administration, our executive branch, were passed in this administration, the first legislation in 70 years in that field. But, beyond that, in getting more job opportunities for people of all backgrounds, without regard to their particular background, race, Creed, or color, in providing more job opportunities, in providing opportunities in education, in every field, I say tonight there has been more progress in this

administration, and we are proud of it, than there has been in 50 years before this time.

That's not standing still, and the American wage earners and the American people know it, and they are going to vote that way on November 8 because they know what the facts are and what the record is.

And now you may say: "What of the future? Where are we going to go? Are we going to stand on this record?"

And my answer is: A record is never something to stand on. It's something to build on. We do have the best living in this Nation that civilization has ever produced. We do have the finest education in the world today in America. We are ahead of all the world in science. But, my friends, in all of these fields we can and we will move ahead under the leadership that we will give in this next administration.

I want to tell you why we will move ahead further and faster and more surely than will our opponents. It's a very simple reason. Because we will tap all the resources of America to do it. We will not simply say that the answer to progress is to put the responsibility on far-off Washington. We will say that the way to get the greatest progress in America is through government policies which stimulate the creative energies of a hundred and eighty million free individual Americans. That is the way to progress in America.

And, so, again I say whether you consider jobs, whether you consider the record, whether you consider the future, we have a better case to offer, not only to the wage earners, but to all Americans.

Now let us look at the most important issue of all, and I'm sure that some may wonder what possibly could be more important than good jobs for ourselves good schools for our children, better health care, and the answer, of course, is: What is more important than all these good things is being around to enjoy them. I say to you tonight that the greatest responsibility of the next President of the United States will be to keep the peace for America and to extend freedom throughout the world.

And, believe me, I say, on the basis of talking to hundreds of thousands of people in these last 10 days all over America, that there is no question but what they believe this is the great issue. It is true in Hawaii and it is true in Maine. It is true in Alabama and Georgia, just as it is true in Michigan. It's true in California, and it's true in New Jersey. The people know this is the great issue, and I want to discuss it tonight also because the wage earners of America feel this issue just as do all the people of America.

Why do I believe that our leadership is the leadership that can best keep the peace and extend freedom ?First, because of our background of experience. I will not comment on my own. That is for you to decide. But I will comment on my colleague's and my running mate's. He will be a partner with me in working to strengthen the instruments of peace, in working to extend freedom, and, my friends, I can say tonight that there is no man in the world today who has done a better job and who has had more experience in standing for peace and standing in behalf of freedom against the Communists than has Henry Cabot Lodge, our candidate for Vice President of the United States.

What kind of leadership will we give you? First, we will keep America, as she is today, the strongest nation militarily, as

well as economically. Why? Not because we ever want to use that strength against another nation, but because we realize that in dealing with the men in the Kremlin this is the language they understand. We realize that the best guarantee of peace for ourselves and for our friends is to be stronger than those who threaten the peace, and the only ones who threaten the peace are the Communists who have said over and over again that they intend to conquer the world by any means that they may have to use. And I say to you - and I pledge to you - that America's strength will come first above every other consideration, and I am sure the American people will support policies which will see that that is done.

What other policies will we follow? We will see that the diplomacy that we have in these critical years will be just as strong as our military and economic power, as strong and, I might add, as wise, because if you do not have wise and strong diplomacy your power can mean nothing at all.

Let me give you an illustration. You recall the Paris Conference which Mr. Khrushchev blew up and said it was over the U-2 flights which the President had ordered for the purpose of gathering intelligence information with regard to Soviet power. After the conference was blown up, there were some who criticized the President for his conduct. Some of them said, on the one hand, that the President didn't answer hard enough. They said, "When Mr. Khrushchev insulted him he should have come back and hit him right back the same way." But the reason the President didn't was a very good one, and it was this, and all Americans will understand it: When you are confident of your strength, when you know you are right and have faith in the rightness of your cause, you don't answer insult by insult, but you maintain the dignity of your country, your office, as did

President Eisenhower.

And also a President of the United States must never indulge in the luxury of simply engaging in a war of words to satisfy his own personal anger because he must always remember that in doing that he might risk heating up the international atmosphere to a point which would result in a nuclear explosion.

But there is another extreme which the President must also avoid, and there were other critics after this conference, as you recall, and they went to this extreme: They said, "Well, the President didn't do enough to save the conference. Maybe he could have saved it by expressing regrets to Mr. Khrushchev for what had been done, by apologizing for the flights."

And I'll tell you why he couldn't do that and shouldn't have. First, because it wouldn't have saved the conference. You see, this shows no understanding whatever of the kind of man we are dealing with. I know this man. I know the type that he is, and his colleagues. They understand strength. They understand firmness. But the moment you make a concession to them without getting a concession in return you do not pave the way to peace. You pave the way to surrender or war, and that we must never do.

And the other reason the President, of course, acted as he did, and should, is this: That no President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, must ever feel that he must apologize for attempting to defend the security of the United States of America from surprise attack.

What else will we do? We will strengthen the instruments of peace - the United Nations, the Organization of American States, such new organizations as may prove feasible and necessary, which will strengthen peace throughout the world. We will negotiate, yes, but always from strength, never from weakness, always insisting that we will not negotiate away the freedom and the independence of our friends any place in the world.

These things we will stand for and these things can keep the peace and will extend freedom.

And now the last point I would make is this: I'm sure that all of you will agree with the necessity for maintaining military

strength and economic strength, and firm diplomacy without belligerency, but all these things we can have and still not win the struggle for freedom, and that is what we must do. It is not enough for America, rich as we are, strong as we are, simply to hold our own. What we must remember is that the world is changing. What we must remember is that the Communists are moving all over the world to extend slavery throughout the world. They are working for the victory of communism - and, my friends, the only answer to those who work for the victory of communism is for us, the leaders of the free world, to work for the victory of freedom throughout the world.

How do we do that? We do that through the strength of our ideals rather than the strength of our arms. The strength of our

arms, our economic strength, is as nothing unless our ideals are sound and strong. So, I say to this great audience tonight: More

important than our military strength and our economic strength is the moral and spiritual fiber of America.

A hundred and eighty-five years ago America was a weak country militarily, a very weak country economically, but one of the strongest nations in the world in the appeal that it had to people all over the world. Why? Because we believed in great ideals, which were greater than America then, and even greater than America today, ideals of freedom, of independence, of belief in the dignity of man, a belief that the rights that men have to freedom do not come from men, but that they come from God. These spiritual and moral ideals, my friends, are the real strength of America, and this strength must come not just from leaders in Washington or in your State capitol; they must come from the hearts of our people, and that's why I say to all of you who are listening, wherever you may be: Do your part for America in this critical period when we can and will lead the world to peace with freedom. Do it by making America strong at home, spiritually and morally. Do it - how? This must come from

the home. It must come from the church. It must come from the community. It must come from the hearts of our people. And this means striking down prejudices wherever we see it. It means working for equality of opportunity in your own lives and in your own associations, not just waiting for the Government to do something about it. It means always letting America be a shining example for all the world to see, of freedom in action, and this will be the most powerful, magnetic force, the dynamic force that will assure victory in this great struggle in which America has the responsibility and the opportunity to lead the world.

And, in conclusion, may I say I have seen the strength of this ideal. I was very honored tonight. A choir of Polish Americans sang before I came, and I hope to hear them later in the evening. I visited Poland, as many of you know, a year ago. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon. The Government did not publish, as they did here, for example, the parade route because they did not want a big demonstration. Mr. Khrushchev having been there 2 weeks before, he didn't want to have a comparison. But you know, the word gets around in the Communist country, any dictatorial country, by word of mouth, and there were people on the streets, even more than we have seen today, a quarter of a million Poles on the streets of Warsaw that Sunday afternoon and they were cheering as you have cheered, but they were doing more. They were throwing flowers, hundreds and hundreds of bouquets into our cars and when the cars were stopped by the crowds downtown, I looked into their faces and I saw men and women, grown men and women, with tears streaming down their cheeks, and I heard them shout at the top of their voices

"Niech Zyje, Niech Zyje, America." Long live America. Why? Because America stood for more than what Mr. Khrushchev had stood for - pure materialism, pure military might - because America stood for the ideal of freedom, for the dignity of men. All of these things America stood for to these people behind the Iron Curtain, and I say tonight to you: We shall always stand for these things and, as we do, we shall meet our responsibility to lead the world, lead it in the paths of peace, of freedom and progress for all.

With that, may I thank you again for your wonderful reception here. May I thank the bands and all the choruses and all the rest who have spent hours in making this possible.

And may I urge you, whatever may be your party: Go forth from this meeting, and if you believe that our team, the State team, the National team, can best provide the leadership that is best for America, then will you go out and work for us as you never have done before, remembering that you are working not just for a party, not just for a man, but that you are working for your country and for the ideals that make America the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Excerpts from Remarks by the Vice President, Central High School, Bay City, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274036

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