Richard Nixon photo

Partial Transcript of Remarks by the Vice President, Southern Pacific Playground Park, Lafayette, LA

September 24, 1960

I want to say right here at the outset that I recognize that in this State, as in virtually all of the States of the South, if we were to count simply on the Republicans, those who are registered Republicans, to vote for us we wouldn't have a chance. I realize that the reason that President Eisenhower carried Louisiana in 1956 was that thousands of Louisiana Democrats put their country first and their party second and elected the best man for the job.

I believe that in Louisiana along with other States in the South and even in the North, this is very healthy, that there is beginning to develop a two-party system, and I want to give every support to that that I possibly can.

Today I want to direct my remarks not only to the Republicans who may be here. I want to direct them particularly to the Democrats who are here, and in directing them to the Democrats, I'm going to do it in this way: It seems to me that when we elect a President of the United States the standards that we apply are quite different from those that we usually apply to local office. When we elect a President, the history of America has been that sometimes we have elected Republicans, sometimes Democrats, and that some of our great Presidents have been Democrats, some have been Republicans. Why has this been the case? Because the American people realize that where leadership of America is concerned, leadership of the whole free world, it is essential not to think simply narrowly in terms of party labels or personalities, but to think in terms of the Nation itself, of what the men stand for rather than the label they happen to wear, what is beneath that label, what really do they believe, and it is that point that I want to discuss with you.

To all of you, to Republicans, to Democrats, to independent voters in this audience, I say: Will you listen to me today, listen to what I stand for, and then make up your minds that whether what I believe is what you believe or whether what I believe is closer to what you believe than what my opponent believes.

Now, of course, I realize a good lot of my Democratic friends here will say, "Now, just a moment, Mr. Nixon. You are suggesting we not be loyal to our party."

I have an answer to that. I say that those who adopted the Democratic platform in Los Angeles at their convention forfeited the right to ask thousands of Democrats, millions of them, in this country to be loyal to their party and to vote the Democratic ticket this year.

I say further that what we adopted in our platform in Chicago is closer to the views of Democrats in not only the South, but in California, where there are many more Democrats than Republicans, incidentally. It is closer to the views of those Democrats than is the case of the platform the Democratic Party adopted in Los Angeles.

Now, to that point, then, I wish to speak and, in speaking to it, may I say, incidentally, that a platform to me means something. I am sure it also means something to my opponent. I consider him to be a man of honor. I consider him to be a man who meant what he said when he stood before his convention and said, "I endorse the platform and I intend to carry it out."

I think he would resent as much as anybody in this audience would resent the statement of his chairman in this State to the effect that he had been assured that on one issue, on oil depletion, that Mr. Kennedy's position was not in agreement with the Democratic platform.

I want to tell you what I think about that issue. I am for the current oil-depletion allowance because I think it is the way to build America. From reading the Democratic platform, I think it is against it; but I say this: If Senator Kennedy is against it, if Senator Johnson is against it, they ought to come to Louisiana and Texas and tell them they're against it or that they're for it, one way or the other.

Now, let me turn to what I believe and what our platform stands for. There are things in our platform that many in this audience will not approve. I know that. You remember some of our delegates to the convention from Louisiana didn't like it a bit and they used their time-honored right to stand on their two feet and say so at the convention.

I want to talk about one of those issues right at the outset. It is the very difficult issue of civil rights. In talking about that issue, I talk about it as one who has deep convictions on it, as you know, and I believe in talking the same in the North, in the South and the East and the West . The people are entitled to have that from a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

As I look at that issue, I believe that we must move forward to make progress. I believe that it is not just a southern problem. I have been in the North and the East and the West. It's a problem there, too, and all of us must work together to make progress in providing equality of opportunity for all Americans.

There are many reasons, my friends, why this must be done, but we had an eloquent reason yesterday. To have Mr. Khrushchev come to the United States and to have this man, who has enslaved millions and who has slaughtered thousands, point the finger at the United States and say we were doing wrong in mistreating people in this country certainly gives us a reason then to move forward on this issue so that we do not give to the Communist leaders any arguments against America and what she stands for around the world.

I know that it is difficult, but I pledge to you that in this field we will make progress and that men and women of good will, working together, can solve this along with the other difficult problems with which we are confronted.

Point 2: Speaking of what I believe in, I think it is tremendously important that a candidate for the Presidency particularly make it clear that he, if he is elected, is going to be President of all the people.

I will not and I cannot go before a labor organization and say I'm 100 percent for everything they're for and I am going to do what they say when we get in.

I will not and I cannot go before, as I did yesterday, a farm organization and say, "I'm going to be for everything that you want when I get in."

I will not do that for a business organization. I won't do it for any organization because the President cannot belong to any group in the country. He's got to belong to all the American people and be able to represent all the American people.

Now, there are some other things I deeply believe in and I want to talk to you about them now.

I believe in this country. As in the introduction, I have reason to believe in it because I know that when we speak of opportunity that anybody, regardless of his background can get to the top in this country. I know it's true, and may I say that I want that to be true for all of our people - and, above all, I want America to move forward. I don't want her to stand still.

I happen to believe we have had tremendous progress under the leadership of President Eisenhower, but, my friends, when. we have a great record you never stand on it. You build on it. We must move forward - better jobs, better living conditions, better security for our old people. We must move forward as well in providing better schools, better hospitals, all the things that spell progress for a people who are as vital and as forward looking as the American people.

In talking about these good things, I know that many people will say, "Well ,now, just a minute, Mr. Nixon. You said you were going to tell about the difference between these two platforms. Aren't your opponents for all these good things too?"

The answer is: "Of course." All Americans - my opponent and myself - want a better life for our children than we have had for ourselves, but there is a great difference in the road we would take to get there, and that is what I want to talk about now.

This is the great difference between the Democratic platform. and the Republican platform. This is the reason why I say that those who believe in the party and the principles of Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson simply can't stomach the economic policies that were adopted by that party in Los Angeles.

Why? Because they say that the way to get all these good things that we want - better jobs and better housing and better schools and the like - is to turn, in the first instance, to Washington, D.C. Washington shall adopt the plans and the programs. We will have a tremendous infusion of Washington money and also a great infusion of Washington control and power over the people of this country.

Whet do we say? Our answer is that the way to progress in America is not by increasing the size, not by increasing the

functions of the Federal Government for the purpose of getting progress, but to recognize that the way to the greatest progress is for the Federal Government to do those things which the State government and individuals can't do or won't do themselves. Only when the job can't be done at the State level and the local level and the individual level should we run to Washington, D.C., to have it done. We say, in other words, my friends, that the way to progress in America is not by strengthening the Federal Government, but by strengthening your local government, your local responsibility and the State government of this country.

We say that the way to progress in this country, in other words, is not through expanding the size of the Federal Government, but that it is through expanding opportunities for a hundred and eighty million free individual Americans.

This, we say, is the way to progress in this country.

In other words, instead of putting less responsibility on people, we think our people want more.

So with these views, I say, as I have outlined them, the difference is clear. We have on the one side the advocacy of more power in the Federal Government over the people of the country. We have on the other side the advocacy of progress. How? Through the traditional American way of putting responsibility on individuals and through strengthening the State and local governments.

This is the key issue. This is the one that I present to you today, and I say that any Democrat in this audience who knows his party, who believes in the principles espoused by Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson, will find that the issues on which I have stood are the issues which those men have also advocated.

Now I want to turn to one other point, and this is the most important one of all.

I suppose many would wonder what could be more important than a good job, a better school system or better health care - and, of course, the answer is: Being around to enjoy them.

So, the great issue before the country, the thing that most of you all of you, should have on your minds above everything else as you elect the next President of the United States is this: Which of the two candidates for the Presidency can best provide the leadership for America and the free world that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world?

This is the great issue of our times.

I want to tell you what we have to offer. First, we have our record.

My friends those of you who voted for President Eisenhower, and those who didn't. I think will be grateful to him for many things: but, above all, the American people will be grateful to him because this man, who was a great leader in war, has been one of the great leaders in peace. This is the man who ended one war, who has kept America out of other wars and who has given us peace without surrender today, and Americans approve of that record and I am proud to be running on it today.

So, on the record, we ask for your support on this great issue. We do also on experience.

I noticed as I came in here - some for Nixon; some for Lodge. The man who introduced me did much too good a job for me to try to elaborate on that. I can talk of the man who is my running mate, and I will say this about him: Whatever your party may be, I don't think that any man in the world has had more experience or has done a better job standing for peace and freedom against the men in the Kremlin than Henry Cabot Lodge, our Ambassador to the United Nations.

My friends, he will work with me as a partner in this great enterprise. We will work together in strengthening the instruments of freedom around the world, and we offer to you our experience as well as our dedication and our program, which I now discuss.

What is the program which will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom?

First, one essential for such a program is that America must continue to be and must be prepared to pay the cost to accomplish its objective.

America must continue to be the strongest nation in the world militarily so that we can discourage any opponents of peace from ever starting anything anyplace in the world. I pledge to you that this we will do.

Second, the American economy, the most productive in the world, must not stand where it is. We must find every possible way to strengthen this economy so that it moves forward to even greater heights and that the Soviet Union never is able to realize Mr. Khrushchev's boast that he made to me when I was in Moscow: "We're going to catch you, Mr. Vice President. We're going to pass you, and when we pass you in our economic strength we're going to wave and say 'come along and follow us; do as we do.'"

My friends, Mr. Khrushchev isn't going to catch us - not in 7 years, not in 70 years - if we remain true to the great principles that have made America the most prosperous nation in the world today.

A third essential is one that may surprise you. We need military strength; we need economic strength, but above everything else America needs moral and spiritual strength if we're going to win this struggle.

Let me tell you why it is so important.

When my wife and I were in Poland, we received a tremendous reception there. Mr. Khrushchev had been there just 2 weeks before. He didn't receive this reception. There was no notice when we came to the city about our coming. The parade route was not printed, as it was here, and yet there were a quarter of a million Poles in the streets, more than he had and tremendously more enthusiastic.

Why? Why did I see people in that crowd shouting and cheering, "Long live America - Niech Zyje America." Why did I see people crying with tears running down their cheeks? Why were they throwing hundreds of bouquets of flowers at us as we went through the streets? Not because they knew us as famous people. We were not famous as President Eisenhower was famous to them. Not because we were strong militarily and economically, because Mr. Khrushchev represented military strength and economic strength. No. The reason that they cheered, way behind the Iron Curtain, was that America stands for something more than military strength, something more than economic strength. We stand for ideals that are bigger than this country, as big as the whole world as well. We stand for the ideals that the man for whom this city was named, who came across the waters in order to fight on the side of freedom, stood for. We stand for freedom. We stand for faith in God. We stand for the rights of men, and we say that those rights come from God and cannot be taken away from any man.

These are the things that Americans believe in.

This is the appeal we have to the world, and this moral and spiritual strength, my friends, must be continued. It must be

strengthened, and you have to do it.

Oh, we can help, the national leaders, by the speeches we make, but this kind of strength I am talking about - you know where it comes? It comes in the home as the child grows up. It comes in the schools. It comes in the churches.

If you forget everything else that I say today, regardless of how you vote, keep America strong, morally, spiritually,

ideologically, and America will do all right in the world in the years ahead.

I know that there are those who will tell you this doesn't mean anything; but, my friends, throughout history the militarists and the materialists have always underestimated the power of moral strength. We must never underestimate it. This is something that we have that Mr. Khrushchev does not.

This is why President Eisenhower spoke so eloquently and received the plaudits of the world at the United Nations as compared with Mr. Khrushchev who spoke there yesterday, and we have never been prouder of President Eisenhower than we were when he spoke for the whole free world at the United Nations yesterday.

Now, it is not my purpose to tell this audience there is nothing wrong with this country, no progress to be made, that this is the best of all possible countries and the best of all possible worlds. Not at all. Criticism is necessary in a free country. Criticism is necessary to find out what is wrong so that we can correct it and strengthen the country, but I would only suggest this, my friends: When we criticize those things that are wrong about America, let's not overlook the things that are right about America.

I say that in this period we all ought to remember it isn't necessary to run America down in order to build her up.

Yes. We can * * * but, on the other hand we're the strongest nation in the world - and let's tell Mr. Khrushchev that. He knows it.

We have in our economy some things we think should be improved, such as our educational system, but, believe me, we'll stack it up against his or anybody else's at any time in the world. Let's tell Mr. Khrushchev that.

When they talk about American prestige - you know, you have been hearing about the fact that American prestige is falling throughout the world - my friends, if it were falling, the first place it would show up is in the United Nations.

The football season is just starting now, and I know how interested you are in Tulane, LSU, and other universities here, in the scores of the games and the like. Well, we had a pretty good score the other day in the United Nations. It would have been a tremendous score in football, but it was a tremendous score in the United Nations. The Soviet Union was on one side and we were on the other side. You know how many votes they got None. You know how many we got I Seventy. I say 70 to nothing on behalf of the position of the United States proves our prestige is high, and we will continue it high in the years ahead.

I have appreciated your listening, standing here, as you have so patiently, and may I just conclude my remarks by saying: I would appreciate it if you would consider what I have said, if you would consider what I stand for, what my colleague, Henry Cabot Lodge, stands for, in the light of America's great problems and the needs of leadership in the world, and then if you believe, apart from your party, Republican or Democrat, that we are the men who can furnish this country the leadership that it needs, then - and only then - do we ask for your support; but if you believe it, my friends, we ask you: Will you go out and work for us? Will you go out and spread this word throughout the State of Louisiana, because we want to win Louisiana, very frankly. We want to win it just like we did in 1956, and we believe, with the support of people like yourselves, talking, working between now and election day, it can be done.

We thank you for giving us your attention so graciously.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of Remarks by the Vice President, Southern Pacific Playground Park, Lafayette, LA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project