Richard Nixon photo

Excerpts of Remarks by the Vice President at Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN

September 12, 1960

Since this is more or less the first formal appearance of the campaign, I think it is an appropriate occasion for me to indicate to you the kind of appeal I expect to make during the course of this campaign, not only to the people of Indiana, but to the people of this Nation.

Now, I realize in this great crowd today the great majority of you are Republicans. I realize, too, that Indiana has traditionally been and is now a Republican State, with a Republican Governor. To speak to this audience, perhaps the safest thing and certainly the most productive thing politically to do, for me to do, would be simply to say I'm a Republican, Indiana's Republican. Vote Republican.

I do not say that today. I could say it. I do not say it for a reason. Not because I am not proud of my party and believe that the Republican Party deserves to continue to lead the Nation and the State of Indiana, but I do say it because I believe that the issues in this campaign, the decisions that the people of America will make this November when they elect a President and a Vice President are bigger than any party. They involve the future of America, and I say to all of you today, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, don't just vote your party line. Consider the candidates; consider their experience; consider their background; consider where they stand on the great issues, and vote for them on the basis of which candidate you feel can best provide the leadership that America and the free world needs in the critical years of the sixties. This should be the test for Indiana and America today.

And now, of course, the next question some might well ask: "Well, Mr. Vice President, what issue should we be thinking about? How should we judge the men for President, for Vice President, as we make this decision in November?"

There are a lot of decisions I am sure will be in your minds, but I can say to you that there is one, in my opinion, that is more important than all the rest. I stand here in front of a monument which symbolizes that issue. This monument, of course, represents Indiana's affection for and respect for the men who have fought in our wars, and I say to you that the greatest responsibility of the next President and the most important issue that you should have in your minds as you vote for the next President is this: Is he qualified by experience, by background and on his stand on the great issues before the world? Is he the one that is best qualified to keep the peace for America without surrender and to extend freedom throughout the world?

This is the great issue of our time.

And, so here today, in these next 8 weeks of this campaign, I and my colleague, Mr. Lodge, will present our case to America primarily on that issue because we believe it's the most important issue.

We want you to know where we stand on it, what kind of leadership you can expect from us.

Let me tell you in a word, if I may why it is of such transcendent importance.

I don't mean that issues such as what kind of Government will see that we have the best job, the best schools, the best medical care, social security, are not important. Oh, I know how important they are. I know how important it is for you to keep the family budget and have enough money at the end of the month to pay the bills, and I'm proud of the record of this administration in which today we have more Americans earning more, spending more, saving more, with a better life than we've ever had in our history. I'm proud of that record, and we have a program that will produce greater progress and greater prosperity on those issues for America in the future, I can assure you.

But may I say it wouldn't be enough to rest our case there because, you know, you can have the best jobs, the best social security, the best medical care that we can possibly imagine, and it isn't going to make any difference if we're not around to enjoy it.

And, so, I say peace without surrender, the extension of freedom, this is the great issue.

Now, if I may turn to that issue for just a few moments and tell you why I believe you should consider what we have to offer and possibly make your decision for our ticket rather than the other, first, our record. You've heard a lot of criticism of the record of this administration in the past few weeks. It's appropriate that those who disagree with it criticize it. They say that we failed here and we failed there, and all other places around the world, and I can only suggest this:

We have had difficulties in the past 8 years, but let's never forget that under the leadership of President Eisenhower we have ended one war; we have kept this Nation out of other wars, and we have kept the peace without surrender for America for 8 years - and we're proud of that as we stand here today.

Now, of course, the critics understandably aren't satisfied with the reply I've given, and they go on to say, "But, Mr. Vice President, you forget today we are losing this struggle. America is slipping. We're second in the world. We're second militarily."

You've heard that said, haven't you?

"We're second economically. Our scientists are second best."

A couple of high school reporters asked me before this program: "What about education in America ?"

And my answer was: "It's first in the world, but there are many who will say that we have slipped behind the Soviet Union in education as well."

Science, education, military strength, economic strength - we hear the charge made that America is second, and I want to answer that charge today, and I want to answer it right on the record.

There are things wrong with America. There are weaknesses that we have, and it's the responsibility of the opposition and the critics to point up the weaknesses so that we can correct them, but in pointing up the things that are wrong about America, let's not overlook the things that are right about America, and when we consider the things that are right, my friends, just remember this: America is the strongest nation in the world militarily. We have the most productive economy, far ahead of the Soviet Union, with the ability to stay ahead for years to come. We have the best education in America overall and overall we're ahead scientifically. In other words, those who say that America is second best just don't know what they're talking about.

And I say to you that today we can be proud that this country is first in the world in the areas that I mentioned.

Proud? Yes, but not complacent.

It's very easy to get complacent when you're running ahead in a race; but were in a race, as I have often said and as you know, a race in which the enemies of peace and the enemies of freedom are attempting to catch up and pass us.

I have seen what they are doing. I know what their efforts are. I am confident we can stay ahead, but we can stay ahead only if we do not become complacent, only if we get the best out of the American economic system, out of our educational system, only if we always base our policies on this principle; America shall never settle for second best in anything.

This will be the guideline of America.

And, so, on that score, may I say, as I stand before you today, I'm confident of America's strength today. I'm confident of what America can do in the years ahead, provided that Americans know the problems, face up to the challenge, and stay true to the principles that have made this country great.

Now, if I might turn to one other point that I think should be covered on an occasion like this, what should be our diplomatic policy in these years ahead?

Diplomatically, the United States, as the President indicated at Baltimore this morning, must always be ready and willing to sit down at the conference table and discuss disarmament, to discuss any differences that we have with any other nation in the world, because we must work for peace constantly; but on the other hand, let's remember, as the President also said this morning, when it comes to disarmament we must never forget that we can take nothing on faith, because America must never give up any of its own strength unless we know that the potential enemies of freedom and of peace are also reducing their strength at the same time. In other words, we can have disarmament only with inspection, with the guarantees which the President has insisted upon and which we will insist upon in the next administration as well.

And in the negotiations that we have, as far as these guidelines are concerned, may I suggest these other things should be remembered as well; we must be firm in our dealings with the Soviet, as I have indicated, but we must be nonbelligerent.

You folks all recall the conference at Paris which Mr. Khrushchev blew up over the U-2 incident, and I'm sure some of you recall some of the criticism that was leveled at the President at the time. It came from two sides. Some people said, "Well, the President was too soft with that fellow. After all, Khrushchev had insulted him. He called him every name in the book. Why didn't he strike back at him while he was there and stand up for the prestige of the office of the Presidency?"

And may I say the President was right in the way he acted. It's very easy to answer insults with insults, but when a President of the United States engages in a war of words with Mr. Khrushchev or with anybody else, what he does is to risk heating up the international atmosphere to the point where we can set off a nuclear disaster.

And, so, our President and the next President must be firm, but he must not be belligerent because he must remember that in his conduct he must do nothing which would risk a nuclear cataclysm which we are trying to avoid.

And then the other point that I would make, and the other extreme, is this: there are those who said, "Oh, the President - wasn't a question of his not being firm enough, but after this conference came to the point that it was about to be blown up, why didn't he try to do more to save it, couldn't he have expressed regrets? Couldn't he have apologized, for example, to Mr. Khrushchev?"

And let me tell you why the President couldn't do that.

First, because it wouldn't have worked.

I know Mr. Khrushchev, and I know when you're dealing with a man like this that when he engages in the kind of activities he does, the wrong thing to do is to make concessions to him, because those concessions will never satisfy him. They will only lead him to demand more.

And may I say, in addition to that, that, as far as the President of the United States is concerned, may the time never come when any President of the United States feels that it is necessary to apologize for attempting to defend the security of the United States.

And, so, in this diplomatic arena, in the areas I have spoken about, we have difficult times ahead. We must have a President who will be firm, who will not be belligerent, and we are going to have difficulties in the years ahead, but we can avoid the twin dangers of appeasement and surrender on the one side and war on the other side if America can be strong militarily, strong economically, and strong also in our faith in our country and in ourselves.

And now, if I might bring to my friends and my neighbors here in Indiana one last thought that I am confident is very close to your hearts and is also very close to mine today - how is this struggle going to come out? Are we going to be able to keep the peace? Is the cause of freedom going to be extended? My answer is: I believe that we are going to keep the peace because freedom can be extended. I believe it not only because I have confidence in the strength of America, because I believe we will have leadership which will have the wisdom to do the right thing for America, but I believe it, too, because of what I have seen around the world, among the peoples of the world, in their attitude toward America and toward the principles for which we stand.

My friends, the people of the world in Indonesia and Japan, in Ghana, in Latin America - the people of the world - are on the side of peace and are on the side of freedom.

Oh, you hear about American prestige being low, and there are those who will stimulate riots which would make it appear that way, but never forget the people on the side of peace. The people are on the side of freedom, and this is true not only on this side of the Iron Curtain; it's true in Poland, where I saw an example of it with a quarter of a million people on the streets, on a Sunday afternoon, shouting, "Long live America." It's true even in the heart of Siberia, where I saw people talking of peace and friendship.

And my friends, if the people of the world are on the side of peace, if they are on the side of freedom, then we're on the right side because that's what we are for.

And, so, I leave you today with a message of faith, not one of complacency, because the road is not easy, not one on which I can promise that our taxes will be reduced, not one on which I promise you that our defenses can come down, that America's responsibilities abroad, economically and otherwise, are going to become less, because they are not, but one where I tell you today that I know we're on the right side because the people of the world want peace. They want freedom. They want justice, and as we stand and fight for these things we can and we will prevail.

And, so, my concluding remarks today are these: in this great audience are people who are Republicans who are Democrats, who are independents. I appreciate your giving me the time to speak to you as I have today about this great issue, and I say to you: consider what I have said.

I say to you: think of America, think of the kind of leadership you think America needs. Think with confidence and with faith, but without complacency, and then, may I say, that if you are convinced, and only if you are convinced, that the ticket that I am proud to stand for today will best provide the leadership that America needs - then whatever your partisan affiliation, go out and practice America at its best, not just by voting, but by working and talking for the candidate of your choice, working and talking as you never have before, because the stakes are high.

America needs the best decision that its people can make, and this means that all of you must participate as intelligently, as effectively as you can.

If you do that, you will give an example for all the world to see of democracy, of freedom in action, and for that, may I say - for that example here today - I thank you.

For the many times that I have come to Indiana and you have welcomed me and Pat, as you have today, I thank you.

For that wonderful vote in the primary when we didn't even visit the State, we thank you.

But, above all, we urge you: go forth today and in these next 8 weeks - if you believe in our cause, vote for it, but work for it and talk for it, remembering you're not just working for a man or for a party, but you're working and voting for America and for peace and justice for all peoples of the world.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Excerpts of Remarks by the Vice President at Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project