Richard Nixon photo

Partial Transcript of Remarks by the Vice President, Jefferson County Courthouse Plaza, Louisville, KY

September 21, 1960

I have been doing a lot of traveling, as you know. This is one of three States we'll visit today. In fact we started in the morning in Michigan. We've already had a meeting in Indiana, in Fort Wayne. After we leave here, we go over to Missouri, to Springfield, and so it goes for the balance of the week. As a matter of fact, beginning on Monday of last week, when we started our intensive campaign in Indianapolis, we've been all over this country. We've been in California, Oregon, and Washington in the West. We've been down in the South, in Texas and Virginia. We have been in the Midwest, in Illinois and in Michigan. We've been in the East, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I think you folks here perhaps will be interested in what our reactions are of what we have seen, for just a moment, if I may.

First, we've been tremendously inspired by these great throngs of people like this one; but, may I say, John, and may I say to the mayor of this city, who so graciously met us at the airport, that I don't think any welcome could exceed in size or enthusiasm the one Louisville, Ky., has given to us today. We know that welcome comes not only from the members of our party who are going to vote for us, but also from the members of both parties who may be considering voting otherwise, and that is in the fine American tradition. We want to give you our case, and we are so glad that you give us the opportunity to talk to you, as we do today.

Now, what do we find about America? You know, the thing that has impressed me most about this trip today is this: All over this country we hear so much about how different we are. The northerners and the southerners look at things differently, they say, and the people, for example, in a labor organization will look at things differently than those who happen to be in a management organization, and the people on the farms, for example, at a great farm meeting that I spoke to in Iowa, don't see things like the people in the city do. My friends, it's true that we Americans have some differences - North, East, West, and South. Our accents are a little different. I went to school down at Duke, and I can tell a difference between a Kentucky and a Tennessee accent. You've got to be pretty good to do that, incidentally. Our accents are different, our customs are different and sometimes we have different attitudes, but, believe me, the things that Americans agree on, the things that unite them, the great principles, the ideals of this country that unite Americans are infinitely greater than all the things that divide us on a regional or a class or any other basis; and certainly, as I stand here in front of this great statue of Thomas Jefferson, I would say that the ideals for which he stands and for which he stood belong to all Americans and not just to one party, and I am proud to say that our platform adopted at Chicago is much closer to the principles of Thomas Jefferson than the platform adopted in Los Angeles - and that's why millions of Democrats are going to vote for our candidates.

But may I also say this: What did I find to be the issue above everything else that people are thinking about? What is the major question that the people of this country will be answering when they vote on November the 8th? You know, it's the same everyplace you go. It's the same in Hawaii and the Far West as it is in Maine, down East, and it's this: It's the question of which of the two candidates for the Presidency and the two candidates for the Vice Presidency can best provide for America and the free world the leadership that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world.

Why is it that this is the issue that everybody agrees is the major one? I'll tell you why. We're all concerned about other things. We want good jobs and we want good security in our old age. We want better schools for our children. We want better health. All of these things we want, and all of these things I'm proud to say we stand for in our party; but, my friends, you know, just as in every audience I have spoken to, regardless of where they may be, we could have all these good things at home and it isn't going to make any difference if we're not around to enjoy them. So, the first responsibility that you have, regardless of the party, as you vote on November 8, is this: Consider which of the candidates, which of the programs, can best lead America in the paths of peace without surrender and toward freedom for all the world.

Obviously, I'm a little prejudiced on that question, but I would like to talk to you about it, if I can, for a moment now.

I think that if we're going to have peace and if we're going to extend freedom the first thing we must do is to examine those who threaten the peace of the world. And who are they? Not America. Not any of our allies in the world. Not the great countries of Asia and Africa or India, where John served so ably as Ambassador with his wife. But the only threat to the peace today is the one presented by the international Communist movement whose representative is presently in New York City at the U.N.

Now, since this is the only threat to the peace of the world, if you're going to have peace, since this is the only threat to the freedom of the world if we're going to have freedom, we must have policies that will deal with Mr. Khrushchev and his colleagues effectively.

What kind of man is he? I think I know him reasonably well. I think I know his colleagues and I know their philosophy, and the first thing we must remember - and the next President must never forget this - is that these men do not react like the leaders of the free world, Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Adenauer, Mr. Eisenhower, and the others. They have an entirely different philosophy because, you see, they have one obsession above everything else, and that is to conquer the world, to conquer it by force if necessary, by other means, if possible, and, therefore, we begin, if we want peace and if we want freedom, with men who are determined to conquer the world who respect only power. We must see to it that they are never in a position where they think they could start a war and gain by it.

And, so, what does this mean that the first ingredient of American policy must be? It is this: America must continue to be what she is today - the strongest nation in the world militarily - and we must continue to pay whatever is necessary, whatever that cost may be, to maintain that strength.

But, you see, that's only a beginning - military strength. In addition to military strength, you've got to have the right kind of diplomatic policy, a policy that is strong, a policy that is geared to meet men like Mr. Khrushchev.

And again what kind of policy should it be? It has to be firm. It must never make a concession without getting a concession in return. You must never assume again that he is going to react like the leaders of the free world.

Let me give you an example. You remember the Paris Conference that Mr. Khrushchev broke up when he said, "I'm breaking it up over the U-2 flights that President Eisenhower ordered in order to get intelligence information about their war preparations against the free world." After that conference there was a lot of criticism of the President on two scores. Some folks criticized him on the ground - they said, "You know, the President shouldn't have taken all that abuse from this fellow. He shouldn't have stood there, as he did, and taken that abuse. He should have answered his insults just as good as he received."

I want to tell you why the President was wise and right not to talk back in that way. First, when you're confident of your cause, when you know you're right, when you're confident of your strength, you never lose your dignity by getting down in the ring and answering insults with insults.

And, second, we also must remember that no President can have the luxury of losing his temper when he's dealing in these important international conferences.

Believe me, it's hard to hold your temper when you're talking to a man like Khrushchev. I know. But here again President Eisenhower knew, our next President, our next Secretary of State, our next Vice President must know, that never must we engage in a war of words with our adversaries which might heat up the international atmosphere and cause us to end up in another kind of war.

So, on these two counts, the President was right and his critics were wrong.

But all the critics weren't that way. Some were another way. They said," No one can question the President being perhaps not as hard as he might have been with Mr. Khrushchev." They said, "Why didn't he do more to save that conference? Why couldn't he," as some suggested, "have expressed regrets for these flights or apologized for them? And that might have saved the conference."

I'll tell you why he couldn't do that. [Cries of "No."]

He couldn't do that for reasons you have already indicated you know: (1) Because no President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, can ever express regrets for attempting to defend this country against surprise attack; but (2) there's even a more fundamental reason. Those who suggest that expressing regrets would have saved the conference show a terribly naive attitude about the Communists and how they react because when you would have done this it would not have saved the conference. It would not have satisfied Mr. Khrushchev. It would only have whetted his appetite and Americans have learned - and we must continue always to remember - that when you're dealing with a dictator you must never make concessions without getting something in return because that is not the road to peace. It is the road to surrender or even to war.

So, therefore, the President was right again in that respect.

And then we have a more recent example of how our next President and how the American people ought to conduct themselves in the diplomatic arena. Mr. Khrushchev is here at the United Nations, and he's going to say some things that we don't like while he's here. He's going to do some things that we don't like. He's going to say those things and he's going to do them in order to provoke us, in order to divide us. Some people have expressed concern. They have said, "Mr. Vice President, it's a terrible thing that this fellow is over here. It's really going to hurt America." My friends, it is going to hurt America only if Americans lose their heads and lose their maturity and if they allow him to divide us and this we will never do while he is in this country or at any other time.

How should we react? I'll tell you how we should react. We should react, as we are as a nation, knowing that we're in the right, confident of our strength, with faith in our system.

Oh, I know Mr. Kennedy suggested last night he was going to continue to point up the weaknesses of the United States even while he is here. That is his privilege. Just let me say this: When we point up the weaknesses of our country, something that is one of the strengths of a great country, this is the way we correct them; but when we point out those things that are wrong about America let us not overlook the things - and there are many more things - that are right about this country.

And I say to those critics who, during this period, will be saying "Ah, America's military strength is shaky," and they point out the things that are wrong about our military strength: Let's never forget the truth. And you know what the truth is, and Mr. Khrushchev knows this and must be told it again. Militarily, we are today - and we will continue to be in the future - the strongest nation in the world. This is the truth.

We hear about the things that are wrong about our economy. "Oh, we're slipping. Mr. Khrushchev is going to pass us by."

I remember what he said to me when I was in Moscow. He said, "Oh, Mr. Nixon, we're behind you now, but our system is better than yours." He said, "We're moving faster than you are and we're going to pass you by, and when we go by we're going to wave and say, 'Good-bye. Come on and follow us and do as we do.'"

Incidentally, I know one story that went around at the Moscow Fair about one of those who went to the Moscow exhibition. A Russian wrote in a book: "Dear Mr. Khrushchev, when you go by the United States, please let me off. I don't want to go with you."

But in any event, using another analogy, when Mr. Khrushchev was in India - John, you will remember this, and Lorraine - he made a very interesting comment that you folks down in Kentucky with your great Derby will appreciate. He said, "You know, this competition between the United States economically is like a horse race." He said "The United States is riding an economic system that is an old broken-down horse, lame in two legs and not too good in the other two, whereas we are riding a fresh young vigorous horse and, while we're behind him now, we're going to pass the United States."

My friends, he's wrong. He's not going to catch us, not in 7 years or in 70 years. He's wrong, provided we don't make the mistake of trying to get on his horse rather than staying on our own.

He's wrong. He's wrong provided we don't continue what we have been doing, making our horse and our economic system go just as hard as it can, without constantly looking over our shoulders to see what he's going to be doing.

May I say, my friends, when they talk about the things that are wrong about the economy of the United States, remember, it's still over twice as productive as his. It's still the richest country, with the best standard of living, of all of the countries in the world and of all civilizations. That's what's right about America.

And one other point I could make: We hear a lot about American prestige. We tell Mr. Khrushchev, our critics, when he comes here, they have a right to say it if they believe it, but let me say what the truth is as I see it. They say, "American prestige is at an alltime low. Nobody likes us anymore in the world and we're at fault because of the policies that we've had. They don't like us in Japan," they say, "and they don't like us in the Congo, and they don't like us in other parts of the world."

Well, let me say this about American prestige. We had a test of it just a couple of days ago in the United Nations. There was a vote about the Congo, and on that vote Russia was on one side and we were on the other side. You know what the vote was? And this would be a good score in football. It's a tremendous score also in international relations. He didn't get any votes. The score was 70 to 0, and that's a score for American prestige.

And, so, I say to you on this element of prestige: Where is our sense of values? Does Mr. Khrushchev gain prestige when in Hungary he shoots down thousands of Hungarian students and workers in the streets of Budapest? And do we lose prestige when in Cuba, where we have all the power in the world, we do not use the power, but we work through an Organization of American States to attempt to bring that country back into the paths of freedom?

Does he gain and we lose? Of course not.

Does he gain prestige when he breaks up a conference like the Paris Conference, when he blocks the road to peace? Do we lose when President Eisenhower goes the extra mile and talks for it? Of course not.

Does he gain prestige when he runs riots against the Vice President in Caracas and against a President in Tokyo? Of course not.

The answer is that American prestige today is high in the world, and it will continue to be high, for the reason - a last point that I want to make today: I have spoken of our military strength, which is essential to keep the peace. I have spoken of our diplomatic policy, which must be firm and nonbelligerent, and constantly willing to negotiate, but never willing to make a concession without getting a concession in return. But, my friends, if we are gong to win the struggle for freedom, if we are going to extend freedom, if the people of Africa and Asia and Latin America, all of them, wondering which way to go, so many of them are going to go our way, let me tell you what is more important than military strength. Go back to Thomas Jefferson. When he was President of this country, it was a very weak country militarily. It couldn't have withstood any one of a half dozen major powers. It was a very weak country economically, a very weak agricultural economy, with very little industrialization but it was one of the strongest nations in the world in its appeal. Do you know why? Because its ideals were right.

America of that day and America of today stood for what? Listen to these things. It stood for the freedom not only of Americans, but for people everywhere. As Thomas Jefferson said when the Declaration of Independence was written, "We act not for ourselves alone, but for all mankind." America stood for freedom. It stood for the dignity of every man, woman, and child, regardless of his background. It stood for the recognition that the rights that we have, the rights of man, do not come from man, but they come from God. It stood for respect for God, and all these things America stood for, and I tell you today - I tell you today - that this is what we need above everything else: Strength in the moral and spiritual fiber of this country.

So, I urge you to do this. I can't tell you that a President is the one who can strengthen the moral and spiritual fiber of America. Oh, he can help by what he says and what he does, but that must come from you. It must come from our people. It must come, this love of country, this idealism, from the home. It must come from the church. It must come from the community. It must come from the hearts of the American people. So, I say to all of you: Do what you can to make America a proud example of freedom. Do what you can to strike down prejudice wherever it exists. Do what you can to strike down anything that divides Americans on any grounds, whether it is a religious ground or a racial ground or anything like that. Do what you can so that America's representatives abroad can say: "This is my country. It stands for freedom and equality, and it practices it as well."

These are the things you can do; and, so I say to you: I am confident about the future - not only because I'm confident but because I know that the moral and spiritual ideals for which we stand are still the hope of the world. I have seen it in the eyes of thousands in 55 countries around the world.

And, finally, then, what does all this have to do about an election? I ask you for your support on this basis only today. I ask you for your support for me and my colleague if you, regardless of party, feel that we are the team that America needs to extend freedom and to keep the peace. With regard to him, may I say this: I am proud to be on the ticket with him and, as a colleague and as a partner working with me I say there is no man in the world today who has done a better job stand in for peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge, our Ambassador to the United Nations.

If you believe these things, I say: Will you go out in this State - and it's a close one; it's known as a battleground, as John can tell you better than anybody else, and we need it. We want to win it, and we can win it not only if you go out and vote, but work as hard as you can.

Thank you very much, if you do that.

Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of Remarks by the Vice President, Jefferson County Courthouse Plaza, Louisville, KY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project