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Partial Transcript of the Remarks and Question and Answer Session of the Vice President at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

October 14, 1960

The VICE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Dr. and Mrs. Topping, the distinguished guests here on the platform, distinguished guests in the audience in front of me, and all of you distinguished people, and the most important people, the voters here, the first voters, in the colleges who are represented at this meeting, it is, indeed, a very great honor not only for me, but as Dr. Topping indicated, for Pat, my wife, to be here on this campus. This is the first opportunity, I was telling Dr. Topping, that I had ever had to really get a feel of the campus of the University of Southern California.

I recall being once at a law school convocation many years ago when I was in the Congress, but certainly to see this great throng today on this, I can say, beautiful California day without smog, is a great thrill, I can assure you.

And I know that the format of this meeting is one that will be of interest to you. when I was in college, and I know that here your minds are going to say, "Here it comes," but when I was in college I remember that what I resented as much as anything else was to have a speaker who claimed to be distinguished or was introduced as distinguished, to come in and say what he wanted you to hear; in other words, to spoon feed the audience with his pet ideas.

Now, I have quite a few pet ideas, as you can imagine. On the other hand, I know that you have a lot of questions which you would like to ask of both candidates.

Dr. Topping has indicated to me that the preferred format is to give each of the candidates an opportunity to speak for 10 minutes or so, and then to have questions for the balance of the period of another 30 minutes or so, and I am delighted to have that opportunity. Both Senator Kennedy and I have had considerable experience in answering questions, as you know, in the past few days, and this will give us some practice for the next debate.

So, consequently, I will make my opening remarks brief. I will keep within the 10 minutes, and the president of the student body will have the opportunity, I understand, to put the questions to me that he will also put to Senator Kennedy next week.

Two or three items recommend themselves to me which I know will not come up in the questions. It's very seldom that a candidate has an opportunity to say anything about his wife without it being considered to be a purely political reference in a political meeting, but since I'm on the campus of the University of Southern California, I think this will be of interest to you. You know, the standard way to build up candidates is to point out their backgrounds, those particular features of their backgrounds that are distinguished. You may have a distinguished war record, or maybe you've been born in a log cabin, or maybe, as in my case, your father built the house you were born in. Well, whatever the case may be, they also, the speaker introducing you - not today, of course, but usually they go through a rigamarole about this man worked his way through school, and he worked his way through law school, and the like. In my case, that, of course, could appropriately be said. Seldom are these things, of course, referred to as far as the candidate's wife is concerned, and although I'll catch it for reporting this, I'm going to tell you

something about my wife, since she is a distinguished alumna of this school.

It is true that I did, to an extent, work my way through Whittier College and Duke University Law School, through the benefit of a scholarship. They gave lots of them, incidentally. It wasn't because of any particular ability, I can assure you, but I did have considerable assistance from my parents, who were able to help out to an extent.

As far as Pat is concerned, she also worked her way through school, the University of Southern California, but it was a very different situation, a situation that I know some of you here who are working your way through or who are getting help from your parents will appreciate, because her mother died when she was 12 years old, her father when she was 17, and, so, not only did she have no help from home, she had to earn it all the way.

And, consequently, that proves who really ought to be running for President. Pat should be running rather than I in view of that background.

A second point that I would like to make is this: Your first voters, I am often asked as I travel about the country, about the relative understanding and sophistication of the young people of today, college and university students, as compared with the days that I was in school. Now, you would obviously expect me to say, "Boy, they've slipped and they're going to the dogs," and all that sort of thing, but I can tell you that one of the most inspiring things about this campaign has been to see the tremendous interest in college and university audiences in not only the issues of this campaign, but in the affairs of the world. There are things, I am sure, that can be said critically of American education today at both the primary and secondary and the higher education level, but one thing certainly that cannot be said in criticism is this: Tremendous progress has been made in interesting our college and university students and, for that matter, our high school students, in political matters, and also in interesting them in their responsibilities in the world community.

And a great deal more, I can assure you, about the great issues in this campaign than I knew about the issues of the campaigns of 1938 and 1940, in which I was a first voter, after having finished the Duke University Law School, and that certainly is to the credit of the institutions which you are attending. Its a credit to American education generally, and certainly it speaks well for the future.

Another point that may not be raised in a question I'll touch upon briefly: People often say, "What do you advise a young man or a young woman who wants to enter political life? What should he take? What kind of subjects should he concentrate on?"

Now, the political science teachers are going to hate me, perhaps, for what I'm going to say right now, but, while I think political science serves a very useful purpose, if you have to choose between concentrating on specializing in political science and exposing yourselves to the full to the humanities in the broadest sense, economics and philosophy and history and literature, emphasize the humanities. I say that because these are the times that you can really get the broad understanding that you will never be able to get later. These are the times that you can read and have the time to read that you will never have later, and you can get the opportunity to specialize much later. You can learn about political science by participating in political organizations, and I would say certainly a political science course under the very able people who instruct you in our colleges and universities is worth while, but particularly to those who want to enter public service, if I could leave just one note - Remember, that while the broad background in the humanities and history and literature would seem to be very remote from the problems of Ghana and Cuba, from the problems of what we do about health care and what we do about the filibuster, remember those are the courses that will give you the judgment and the depth that is needed to react properly and intelligently to these great issues when they come before you years later, if you happen to enter public life.

The last point that I would make is this: I want everybody here to certainly feel the necessity for, as I put it, going into politics; I don't mean all of you should run for office. We've got pretty much competition as it is, but I do mean by that that both of our major parties have room, and a lot of room, for new blood and new leadership. My party needs it; and the other party needs it, too, and I would only say that if you do go into public service, the rewards financially, obviously, are not going to be particularly good, but the rewards in other ways, of course, are ones that cannot be measured by money. But I'm not speaking of just going into politics as a vocation. I am speaking also of it as an avocation. It isn't enough today, for example, for a man or a woman just to be a good doctor, a competent lawyer, a successful businessman. People who have had the opportunities that you have had to the best educations in the world, and make no mistake about it, when we hear these things about how Soviet education is ahead of us in this field or that, America today has the best education in the world, barring none, overall, and we're going to continue to maintain it the best in the world - and let's make no mistake about it.

But it isn't enough for a man or a woman, as I say, who is a competent technician in his field, immensely successful, to say, "Well, I have rendered my service to my profession." Those who have had the experience that you have had simply have to raise the tone of the political life of your communities, of the State, and the Nation.

You know, you often hear mothers, for example, say, "I don't went my son or daughter to go into politics, for reasons which we would all recognize." Now, the only way that can be changed, of course, is for people who are not in politics on a full-time basis to get into it, to see to it that you do at the precinct level, at the other levels, at the local level, see that the political organizations bring to the top the best men and women that we have - and that's the final point that I make. America today can settle for nothing but the best, and my plea to all of you here, whether you're Democrats or Republicans, is this: It is not enough in this campaign to vote as your fathers did or as your mothers did. It isn't enough to vote as someone else may tell you to vote. It isn't enough to vote on the basis of the label you may wear or I may wear. It isn't enough because I'm a Republican and you're registered as a Republican and to vote for me as a Republican. What counts in electing a President in this critical year 1960 is: which of the two parties has produced the man who should come to the top? I'm not going to tell you today and I will not say in this campaign that I am the man. I will present my qualifications, but I do feel it's essential that the American people put the country first and the party second in electing a President in this year, 1960.

My 10 minutes have expired, according to the light up here, and your questions are now in order from your president, the president of the student body, I understand.

President STEIGERWALT (president of the student body of the University of Southern California). Thank you, Mr. Nixon. On behalf of the University of Southern California and the first-time voters of the Southern California area, we do have several questions we wish to put to you. Our first one is this:

What are today's practical differences between the Democratic and Republican parties?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I cannot hear the question up here because of the echo. What did you say?

President STEIGERWALT. What are the practical differences--

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. As I understand, the question is: What are the practical differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party?

Well, the first part of that answer is that you would have to describe which Democratic Party you're referring to. And that, of course, answers the question in a very much broader sense as well.

The parties this year must be judged by their platforms, and, therefore, that means that, as you look at the Republican Party, you look at the Republican candidate for President and his platform; you look at the Democratic candidate for President and his platform, and make your decision on that basis.

Now, there are a number of differences that have been drawn out in the course of these debates. I will not try to elaborate on those points at this time.

I say again today, as I have said in the past, that the difference as far as general goals are concerned, the good ends, as I would like to put them, that there are no differences between the Democrats and the Republicans of whatever persuasion they may be. I mean by the very general sense that all Americans want a better life, for example, for America. We want progress, better schools, better housing, better medical care, better jobs. We also want a world of peace. We want a world of peace with justice.

The question is: How do you reach these goals? Now, for example, if I can use an illustration I have often heard the word "liberal" used, and usually you will find that college and university students like to think that they are liberals, and when people ask me: "Are you a liberal or a conservative?" my answer is that those words have been so contaminated and so corrupted that again you have to define your terms.

Let me give you the definition of liberal that I think all of us will subscribe to. As a matter of fact, it's Franklin D. Roosevelt's and this makes it bipartisan, and I agree with him. He said that a liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life.

A liberal is a man or a woman who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life.

And, so, we're all liberals in that sense. We all want a better life.

We all want to build bridges. The question is: What kind of bridges are they going to be?

Now, I want to build bridges, bridges for better schools, better housing, better jobs. I want them to be built out of the strongest materials possible. I want them to be sound. I don't want a Rube Goldberg plan. I don't want one that's tied together with Government red tape. I don't want one that's going to break down in the middle so that we fall in the bottom of the chasm and then have to climb up to the top and start all over again. In other words, I want to build bridges between these various programs that are sound, that are constructive, that will work. It's very easy to say that I'm for this, that, or the other thing. The point is: How do you do it? And my view is this: That I'm what I would call a practical progressive, progressive in the sense I'm for progress, but I'm not for coming before people and saying, "The solution to all of your problems is just to turn the problem over to the Federal Government and let the Federal Government set up a huge new program, which is going to solve your problems."

So, if I can conclude the answer, the basic difference that we find in the domestic field - and the foreign policy field will come in a later question, I am sure - is this: Our opponents, as far as their platform is concerned, when you compare it with ours, whether it's schools, housing, or jobs or anything else, always have an obsession that the way to start and the place to start is with the Federal Government and work down to the people.

We say the way to start is to start with the people and work up to the Federal Government.

Now, why do I say that? I say that because it works. I say that because the last 7½ years compared with the previous 7½ years shows that we have built more houses, that we built more schools, we've had more progress in education, in health, in jobs, all of these fields, than we had in the previous 7½ years. why? Because this is an administration that has had confidence in, has had faith in, and has stimulated individual enterprise, recognizing that Government has a responsibility to lead, Government has a responsibility to do those things and to supplement in those areas where the individuals or the States cannot or won't do the job, but always pointing out that the Federal Government should not weaken the responsibility of individuals, but should strengthen it. And if I could close my answer by this: The main reason that I have such confidence in, and I put such emphasis on, individual enterprise is this: in the world struggle in which we are engaged, if we make the error of turning too much to huge Government programs which weaken individual enterprise and weaken local and State responsibility, we will weaken the fiber which I think is essential if we are to survive in this struggle.

The great advantage the United States has is that we don't tap just what the Federal Government will do primarily. We tap the energies of all of the American people. We tap the people at the individual level. We tap people working together at the State and local level, and we also have the Federal Government - a teamwork policy which produces more progress.

Now, my opponent, of course, disagrees, but in this instance, I say: Look at the record. Look also at our programs, and I believe you will find that our programs will produce more and cost less of the tax-payers' money than will his, and I think that's a good bargain for the American people.

President STEIGERWALT. Well, sir, what three issues, then, upon which you and Mr. Kennedy seem to differ, do you believe will be the most decisive in bringing voters into your camp and in each case, why do you believe that your stand is particularly decisive?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The issues which will prove most decisive are, of course, developing at the present time. They have been developed in the great debates that Senator Kennedy and I have been participating in over the past 3 weeks.

I would begin, of course, in the field of foreign policy. I think the major issue that concerns people today is: Which of the two candidates, by experience, judgment and background, can best lead the United States and the free world in this period, keep the peace and keep it without surrender of principle or territory?

This is the major issue about which people are concerned.

Now, again there is no difference about our aims. We both want peace, and we both want to sustain freedom throughout the world. The question is one of judgment. The question is one of background. The question is one of means.

I cannot speak of my own background appropriately as compared with my opponent. That is for you to judge. I can mention my running mate's, and I can only say that I don't know of any man in the world today who has had more experience or, in my opinion, could have done a better job of fighting for the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge, our Ambassador to the United Nations.

Both of us know Mr. Khrushchev. Therefore, you can be sure that our policies will be ones that will be designed to deal with him as he is, and not as somebody may wish that he were. He is a tough, ruthless, fanatical man, who follows no rules of the game, who cannot be judged by the standards of free world statesmen, and, for that reason, he is a man who must be dealt with never belligerently, but always firmly, and this is true of him and all of his colleagues.

Now, as far as the differences are concerned, one of them developed and has developed in the past few days with regard to the offshore islands. Here again the difference is in our estimate of what the Communist reaction will be, in my opinion.

Five years ago, in 1955, the Senate passed a resolution giving the President of the United States the power to use the Armed Forces of the United States to defend Formosa against any attack from the Communist mainland. During the course of the debate, an amendment was offered, supported by 12 Senators, only, including Senator Kennedy, an amendment which would have denied to the President the power to use the forces of the United States to defend the two offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, which were occupied by and still are occupied by the forces on Formosa.

Now, that amendment was defeated 70 to 12, with a majority of the Democrats and a majority of the Republicans voting against the position that Senator Kennedy took. I think the President was right. I sustain that position today. I think that Senator Kennedy is wrong in suggesting that we change that position, and I'll tell you why. It has worked. It has meant that the Chinese Communists in that 5 years have not launched an attack upon Formosa or the offshore islands of a massive type, and I say that the moment that you change the policy and, in effect, draw a line back over those islands and say, "Now, we'll surrender these to you; in effect, we'll turn them over, that this is a policy that does not lead to peace. It is one which inevitably will encourage the Communists and could lead to war. And I'll tell you why. The record with dictators is as consistent as anything in the world's history. We have to go back only to World War II. You remember Hitler. First, it was the Rhineland. Then it was Austria. Then it was Danzig. Then it was the Sudentenland, and every time they said, "He only wants this," but, after all, in the end there had to come a place when he had to be stopped.

The answer is that when you're dealing with a dictator, be he a Communist or a Nazi or a Fascist or any kind of a dictator, surrendering territory to him at the point of a gun does not lead to peace; it does not satisfy him, even if he says it will; it only whets his appetite, and it encourages him to push you further. Now, I do not want to see the United States adopt a policy at this time which will encourage a dictator, Mao Tse-tung, to push us to the point where we will get into a war, and that's why I say that this is a period over the last 7½ years in which we have not had retreat in the face of communism. This is no time to change that policy. This is a time to extend freedom, to extend it without war, and you cannot extend freedom by running backwards, and on this I disagree with Senator Kennedy, as I have indicated.

I have already indicated the position in the domestic issue, domestic policy, where we disagree. I would only add in that respect that there is a difference in one approach. It is true that Senator Kennedy's programs, his farm program, his education program, his health program, every one of them would cost more money than mine, and sometimes some of my friends come up and say, "Well, Mr. Nixon, how can you say your programs will do more? How can you say you're more for progress in these fields than your opponent, when he'll spend more?

Of course, the answer is very simple. It isn't his money or mine that he's spending. It's yours. And for that reason, therefore,

here again we get back to our bridge analogy. We want to build bridges. We want them to be strong, but we also want them to be at a price which our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren don't have to pay tolls from now until kingdom come, and, so, that's why I'm for spending as little as we can.

President STEIGERWALT. Mr. Nixon, in an evaluation of your own assets, what one ability or abilities would you say most qualifies you and best equips you to be President of the United States

The VICE PRESIDENT. That's a question that I generally would prefer not to answer. I have a different view about the Presidency than some have. My study of history has always indicated that this country has elected some Presidents, great ones, who have been Democrats and some who have been Republicans, but the greatness of the President has not been the result of his ambition. It is not something that it written on a campaign poster. It's something that comes from his ability at a particular time in history to represent the deepest ideals, the aspirations, the hopes of the people of a country.

I can't say to this audience or to any audience that I am the man who has the qualifications and the background and the like that will produce the greatness that America needs, and I think we need great leadership. I will only say this: I do know the world. I do know the dangers that we face. I do know that America is going to need an effort militarily, economically, spiritually, morally, exceeding anything we have ever had in our country's history. I feel this deeply within me. I can only say that if I have the opportunity, I will, of course, give everything that I possibly can to move America forward militarily, economically, spiritually, and morally, so that we can win the battle of freedom for the world, but whether or not that means that I have the qualifications for greatness only history will determine.

And I would say finally in that respect that that will be determined not so much perhaps by what I do - that will count - but it will be determined by what the American people do, because let's never forget this: We speak about the great periods in this Nation's history, but no President can be any greater than the people are - their spirit, their concern for public problems, their interest in the particular issue which confronts us in the world - and if there is one message I would leave with you today it is this: I think that our major problem today is to win the struggle for peace and freedom, and win it without war.

A President can lead, but the people of this country have to understand it, and they have to make a tremendous effort if the President is able to lead properly and lead effectively, and that's why I particularly hope that all of you, as you go back into your communities, will be able to inspire the people not to take a parochial view, for example, about foreign aid, that naughty name that some people like to run down. Don't take a parochial view, for example, about civil rights. "Well, I don't need to worry about civil rights, because that's a problem down in the South or that's something that somebody over in the Congress ought to do something about."

What we have to remember is that every American in this critical period has got to make his contribution and work for the victory of freedom, as the Communists are being driven to work for the victory of communism.

And if the next President can inspire that in the people of this country, he may turn out to be a great President. Otherwise, he may not.

Now, that doesn't answer the question and qualifications. It does indicate to you my attitude toward the position.

President STEIGERWALT. Mr. Nixon, I believe that we are about out of time. I would like to thank you, not only on behalf of the University of Southern California, but indeed all the first-time voters of this area.

Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of the Remarks and Question and Answer Session of the Vice President at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project