Nationwide Television Speech of the Vice President Originating at Los Angeles, CA
Good evening. May I first tell you how much I appreciate your giving me some of your precious Sunday night television time.
I learned, it was about a week ago, when I was home and my 12 year-old daughter Julie said she was going to be glad when the campaign was over, so she could get back to some of her favorite programs, and particularly those of you who listen to "GE Theater" this hour, my special thanks.
However, I do know that all of you recognize that the issues of this campaign are tremendously vital to every family in America, and tonight I want to discuss the most important issue, the most vital issue. It is the issue of how we keep the peace without surrender, how we extend freedom throughout the world.
Nothing is more important than this. Nothing, I find, concerns Americans more in the 49 States I have visited up to this time in this campaign than this issue that I am going to discuss tonight.
Now, in discussing it up to this time in the campaign, we have had primary emphasis on these aspects.
First, I have indicated the necessity for the United States to be militarily strong enough that, regardless of what any potential enemy may have, if he should strike us with a surprise attack, we would have enough left that we could knock out his warmaking capability.
This is necessary so that we can be the guardians of peace.
I have also indicated that it is essential that the United States move ahead economically, move ahead so that we can retain the great advantage we presently have over the Soviet Union in the economic area.
And then I have emphasized the necessity for a firm, but nonbelligerent diplomatic policy. In discussing diplomatic policy, I think we have learned from President Eisenhower the guidelines the next President should follow.
The first one is that he must learn from history. That's why President Eisenhower did not draw a line excluding Quemoy and Matsu from our defense zone in the Pacific. He knew that was the mistake that led to the war in Korea. The second guideline that President Eisenhower has followed is that we must know our opponents or our enemies.
That's why President Eisenhower refused to apologize or express regrets to Mr. Khrushchev, because he knew that if he did so, that it would not satisfy him, but it would only encourage him to ask and demand more.
And the third guideline - and I think perhaps this is the most important in this critical time - is that the President of the United States must always be coolest in a crisis. He must never shoot from the hip. He must never be rash or impulsive. That's why President Eisenhower has followed a policy with regard to Cuba, of quarantining them diplomatically and economically, rather than a policy advocated by some of direct Government intervention in that country.
The latter policy sounds good, but the President knew that if he did that, that he would lose, in effect, our allies and friends throughout the world.
Now, as far as these three policies are concerned, our diplomatic policy, our military policy, and our economic policy, they are all essential if we are going to keep the peace, and keep it without surrender.
But, my friends, they are not enough, and too often we assume that this is all that is required, if we are to accomplish this objective. They are not enough because all that we do with military strength and economic strength and diplomatic firmness is to hold the line, and we need more than that. The world needs more than that. America must give better leadership than that.
We must not have this "sword of Damocles" hanging over our heads for the balance of our lives and our children's and our grandchildren's lives.
So what can we do? What can we do to extend freedom throughout the world? What can we do really to build a peace in which men can live in safety, without the current fear that we all have of a nuclear disaster? It is to this point that I wish to direct my remarks tonight.
First, I think it is essential for us to recognize what America really means to the world. Too often we have a tendency to think of America solely in terms of our great military strength and our economic and diplomatic 'policies. We forget that our Communist enemies also have military strength, they also boast of economic power, and of course they follow diplomatic policies to their suit.
As far as we are concerned, it is essential that we emphasize the kind of strength that we have, that they do not have, and that is the moral and spiritual strength of America, that is the idealism of America.
What are those ideals? They are the ideals that caught the imagination of the world 180 years ago in the American Revolution. America then was a weak country militarily, it was a poor country economically; but it was one of the strongest nations in the world in its appeal to peoples of the world, because America stood then for the right things. And today we stand for the right things, the great ideals that are bigger than America, that are as big as the whole world itself.
What are those ideals? Our faith in God, our belief in the rights of men, our belief that the rights that men have to freedom and justice belong not just to us but to all men, and that those rights come not from men but from God and cannot be taken away by men. These ideals are what America stands for, these ideals are what we must emphasize in our foreign policy if we are to win the struggle for peace and freedom, if we are to launch and win effectively a great offensive for the minds and the hearts and the souls of men.
And now, if I could discuss this problem in specific terms. Where is the battle taking place? First of all, we have the continents of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Here a billion people live. These people hold the balance of power in the world. And great change is taking place in these areas, because the people of these areas want a better life; they are determined to have it, and they're entitled to have it.
I have been to most of these countries, I know what these people believe deep in their hearts, and I am certainly convinced tonight that the United States and those who stand with us in the cause of peace and freedom can win - can win these uncommitted peoples in this part of the world. But we can win only if we emphasize our strength, and not simply the weakness that we may have.
What do I mean by that? Here again, the tendency too often for the United States is to present our case in terms of our military strength and our economic power. The people of these countries are concerned about who is the strongest nation and who is the richest nation, but they are more concerned about what we believe in, what we believe in as far as they themselves are concerned.
Let's look at what the Communists do. The Communists do not come to these countries as conquerers, but they come as liberators. They come as people offering progress. Of course, the cost of progress is freedom, but on the other hand they do not tell people that. That is oily the result of imposing a Communist dictatorship on these people.
And so what should our reply be? Our reply must not be simply that we are stronger than the Communists militarily, that we are richer than they are. This is not enough. And our reply must not be, "Communism is evil, and you must not accept it," because, my friends, I can assure you that if the choice the people of these countries have is between communism and giving up their freedom, and staying where they are, they will take communism, because it will offer them progress. We must not leave them this terrible choice of no progress or taking communism.
And again I say, it is not enough for us simply to say, "Well, we're going to help you, but we're going to help you only because we want to fight communism." These are proud peoples. They do not want to be pawns in a great struggle between the Communist world and the free world.
And so what should the attitude of America be? What is the image we want to present to the peoples of the uncommitted countries? And here again we get back to the basic spiritual traditions of our great Nation.
On this Sunday evening it is particularly appropriate to refer to those traditions. America throughout its history has cared for people throughout the world who were hungry, who were oppressed, who were denied freedom. And if there were no communism in the world, we would still care. And this is what we must convey to the people in these uncommitted countries, that we care and are concerned about the denial of freedom, that we care and are concerned, because they are hungry, because they are suffering from disease, and that we want to wage a great battle against disease and against hunger and against tyranny every place in the world, because those things are wrong in and of themselves, not simply because communism is an enemy whom we are fighting.
It is this message that we must convey, and if we convey it in this part of the world there is no question which way they will turn. Oh, I know I've heard people say that the leader of this country or that country in Asia or Africa tends to turn toward communism rather than toward freedom; but I have learned in talking with them over and over again that they want to be on our side, they want to have freedom and progress. The trouble is that too often the choice is, stay where they are, no progress, or give up their freedom in order to get progress.
And so again I say, let America and our friends who must help us from Europe and the other parts of the world in this grand venture - let us not leave to these people this terrible choice between staying where they are, in poverty, misery, and disease, or moving forward with communism. There is no question which way they will turn if we give them the choice that they deserve.
Let me turn now to another aspect of this problem. Not only do we have the uncommitted areas of Asia and Africa and arts of Latin America, but we also have the satellite countries of astern Europe. And here we have a great tragedy - a great tragedy that has existed since World Par II. I know what this tragedy is, because I saw it in the eyes of a quarter of a million Poles when I visited there last year.
I saw them with tears streaming down their cheeks, and they saw an American Vice President who was not famous to them, but who represented the hope of freedom, who represented ideals, faith in God, belief in the rights of men, as they saw an American Vice President ride through the streets of Warsaw, and I realized then that as far as these people are concerned, that there is no question that, even though they have had communism imposed upon them for now 15 years, that the hope of liberty, the hope of freedom still burns in their hearts.
And this is true, I know, also in Hungary, because I was on the border of Andau at Austria, and I saw come across that line, young men, young women, workers, educators, students by the hundreds, and I knew that they were coming, because, even though they had been indoctrinated in communism, it had not taken, and, as far as they were concerned, they were willing to risk even death in order to come to a land of freedom, and so here we have these satellite countries all under the yoke of oppression. What do we do about them? What can we do? We cannot, of course, encourage revolution, because revolution would lead to war, which would destroy them and us and the whole world as well, but on the other hand, we can encourage them to keep alive the hope of freedom in their breasts.
We can encourage the degrees of peaceful change.
And, so, what we have to do here, it seems to me, is to expand the kind of exchange activities on which I participated on my visit to Poland.
And tonight I have a proposal to make, one that I would hope would be made by whoever is the next President of the United States. It is very simply this: You will recall that Mr. Khrushchev came to the United States on a state visit. We showed him every courtesy. He visited every place he wanted to go, and he also returned to the United Nations meeting recently.
You recall that at the summit conference he not only blew up the conference, but he withdrew the invitation of President Eisenhower to go to the Soviet Union.
Now, possibly the reason that he did that, very probably the reason, I might say, was that he didn't want to subject the Russian people to President Eisenhower's great appeal to the peoples of the world, and in a small way, incidentally, I know why he felt that way - because even when I was in the Soviet Union in the heart of Siberia, in the Urals, thousands and thousands of Russian people were friendly, cheering an American Vice President.
Now, what is the proposal, then? I would propose that neat year the American Government, the American President, invite to the United States the leader of each of the satellite countries on an official visit.
I would propose that we extend to that leader every possible courtesy. Let him visit, as Mr. Khrushchev did, the places that he wants to visit in the United States.
Now, in exchange for those visits, I would propose that we send our most distinguished Americans abroad. The first name that comes to mind is obviously President Eisenhower.
I have consulted with him about this proposal. He has indicated that he would be willing to take a trip to the satellite countries under these circumstances.
But he made a suggestion, a suggestion which I have heartily endorsed. He suggested so that this would be a bipartisan effort that not only he, but that two other former Presidents, President Hoover and President Truman, also be included among those to make such trips.
Now, I realize that some Republicans who are listening tonight will not like the idea of my suggesting that Mr. Truman go on such trips, and I can imagine that some Democrats who are listening would not like the idea of Mr. Hoover going on such trips.
But let me say, based on my own travels to Europe, this one thing that we must not forget: We have our differences at home, but abroad Herbert Hoover is honored as a man who has embarked on many missions of mercy, missions of mercy which have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands, yes, millions of people abroad.
And Mr. Truman is honored because of the Marshall plan, the Marshall plan which I supported and which resulted in the rebuilding of Europe.
And, so, I believe that this is a proposal which could be made. I would hope that our three former Presidents would approve it and if they would approve it, I think trips of this sort could have a very dramatic impact.
Now, I know there has been a tendency to ridicule so-called visits of this type. They say what good does it do and some suggest that all that really amounts to anything at all in the world today is power. If we're just stronger than the other side, that this will be effective in assuring that we get the kind of a world that we want. But, my friends, what are you going to do with strength? What are you going to do with power in and of itself in order to liberate these countries?
What we must realize is that if we are going to have peaceful competition, as Mr. Khrushchev has suggested, and as I believe we must have, it must be peaceful competition in ideas, as well as in factories.
And I believe, too, that it must be peaceful competition which takes place on both sides of the Iron Curtain, not on just our side of the Iron Curtain.
It must also be peaceful competition which takes place not only in those areas of materialism, which Mr. Khrushchev emphasizes, but in the great spiritual and moral values which are particularly our concern in the world today.
And, so, this proposal I make tonight. I make it because I believe it can have a dramatic effect, a dramatic effect in keeping alive the hope of liberty, the hope of freedom, the hope for peace of the people in these satellite countries.
Now, if I could turn to one further subject, I realize that in the closing days of this campaign that we all have a tendency to begin to line up on one side or the other and determine which candidate we're going to vote for.
I would like to suggest tonight that, as we make that decision, that it be made solely on the basis of which of the two candidates for the Presidency can best lead America and the free world in this critical period.
It cannot and should not be made simply on the basis of the party label that my opponent or I happen to wear. It cannot and should not be made simply on the basis of how your grandfather voted or how somebody else tells you to vote. We need from the American people - we need from them the most intelligent decision they can possibly make, because America and the free world needs the best leader that either party can produce.
And might I also suggest that this decision cannot be made on the basis of any collateral issue. I think it's particularly appropriate, for example, on a Sunday evening, to say what I have said previously with regard to religion in this campaign.
There is no legitimate religious issue in this campaign. There is none because both Senator Kennedy and I are men who have a deep religious faith. We differ as far as our faiths are concerned, but we both have faith in God. And, as I said before the American Association of Newspaper Editors, there would be a legitimate religious issue in an American campaign only if one of the candidates had no religious faith.
Incidentally, after I made that statement, I was criticized in some quarters on the ground that: After all, the Constitution did not require that any person have a religious faith in order to serve in an elective or appointive office. That is true, but it is and would be an issue if a candidate for the Presidency did not have religious faith, in my opinion, because, as I have emphasized throughout this talk tonight, whoever leads America., whoever leads the free world, must not only lead her from the standpoint of military strength and economic strength; above everything else, he must emphasize the spiritual and moral strength of America.
And on that score there can be no difference between Senator Kennedy and myself. And so I urge all of you who are listening, and Senator Kennedy has urged you, you should vote for neither me nor him on the basis of the religion that we may have. We need the best man that America can produce, regardless of his party label, regardless of his religion, regardless of any other factor.
I would also like to add a word of faith about the future. We have had so much discussion during this campaign about the terrors that would come, and they would be terrors, of course, from an atomic war; we have heard so much discussion about the necessity of standing up to Khrushchev and the Communist leaders; we have heard so much discussion about the kind of policies that we need militarily and economically and diplomatically that I think sometimes the American people may have a tendency to conclude that we are not going to be able to succeed in this grand venture to keep the peace without surrender and to extend freedom without war.
But, my friends, I have complete faith, complete confidence as this campaign nears its end that we will win in this great struggle. I have confidence, first because I have seen America. I have seen the American people, and those who say we have no sense of purpose, those who say that our people are more interested in tailfins and deodorants than they are in national purpose simply don't know what they're talking about. Ours are a great people. We are for peace. We have fought three wars and have got nothing at all out of those wars except the right to keep our freedom and our independence, and after each of those wars we have been generous. We have helped not only our allies, but our former enemies to restore themselves.
I would also like to say that in that connection I find that the American people are generous, too, as they think of their responsibilities in the world today. The American people want to meet those responsibilities. They recognize that we have a divine destiny, that that destiny is not simply to hold our own, not simply to keep freedom for ourselves, but to extend freedom throughout the world.
And, my friends, I also have faith that we're going to win this struggle because I have seen the world. I remember a conversation I had in 1953 with one of the wisest men I ever met - Raja Kapalajari, the Chief Minister of Madras in India. As he talked to me - he was a great friend of Ghandi's incidentally - he said: Mr. Nixon, there is no question about the outcome of this struggle, because communism is contrary to the nature of man. Man needs God. Communism needs God. Man needs freedom, and communism denies freedom. He says the only question is whether the forces of freedom are adequately led and whether the people who have freedom recognize their responsibilities.
He was right.
An then, too, I remember a conversation that I had, a conversation which took place in the Hong Kong colony on that same trip in 1953. My wife and I were traveling through the suburbs of Hong Kong. We saw a school in which there was a recess at the time with the children on the playground. We stopped our car. We talked to some of the children. They swarmed around us. We had a fine time, and as we were about to leave. I talked to the principal of this school who was the teacher of English in the school, and I said to him: I want to extend to you and to all of the people in this school the very best wishes of all of the American people to all the people of China.
I could see that he was deeply moved because he knew that the Communist Chinese Government had been responsible for killing thousands of Americans in Korea.
And this was his response. He said: Mr. Vice President, I thank you for that sentiment, and I am confident that the day will come when our two peoples will again live together in peace and friendship, because, he said, we must never forget we are all brothers in our hearts.
He was right, and because he was right, and because freedom lives in Poland, in China, in Russia, there is no question that we, who stand for freedom, we who believe in freedom, will win the struggle for the world, and win it without war, so that all men can live in peace and freedom and justice.
Thank you very much.
Richard Nixon, Nationwide Television Speech of the Vice President Originating at Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273786