Richard Nixon photo

Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President, Airport, Rochester, MN

October 08, 1960

Now, on an occasion like this, when you're standing there in the sun and when even those visors don't keep it all out of your eyes, a speaker has somewhat of a problem in trying to determine the things that would be of greatest interest to you in the small amount of time that we have.

And, so, I would like to hit just a few points as quickly as I can and to pick those issues that are of the greatest interest to the people in this audience.

First of all, I want to begin with the test of the standard that I think the people of Minnesota and the people of the Nation ought to follow in electing a President of the United States this year.

Those of you who heard the television debate with Senator Kennedy last night will remember this question came up right at the end. The question was: Should a man or a woman, a voter, vote the party or the man, in effect? And I was asked the question.

Senator Kennedy's answer to that question or the proposition that he attempts to maintain is that the party is what is important. I say that when we elect a President of the United States, particularly this year, 1960, in which he is to be not only President of this country, but the man who has the responsibility for leading the free world, it isn't enough just to vote for the party label, that what we should do is to put America first and vote our country rather than our party - and I ask all of you to do that.

Now, I say that for that reason. I say it also because that has been the tradition in America. We have had great Presidents who have been Republicans and some who have been Democrats, but our people sense somehow the kind of leadership the Nation needs in critical periods of its history, and I present our case to you today not in terms of simply voting for me because I am of the same party - in other words, look at my label and don't look behind it - but I present the case in terms of, consider what I stand for; consider the programs that I and my party will be putting into effect, and then do what is best for America, and then we will respect that decision because it will be the best decision for America.

Now, in considering those things that you want for the Nation, there are a number of them that I know will be uppermost in your minds. I would just like to list a few of them here today, let you know where we stand, give you an indication where our opponents stand, and then you can make an intelligent choice.

First, what do you want in America? What do all of us want? We begin, I think all of us, with the desire that we have progress in this country. That's the kind of a people we are. The people who made America are not a standstill people. We want to move ahead, and we don't want to leave anybody behind as we move ahead.

So, as you judge the two candidates and their programs, judge us in terms of the proposals that will spell progress for America. You want programs under which we can have continually better jobs, at higher wages. You want programs in which we will have better schools and better housing, and here in this great center of medical education and treatment, we want programs in which our medical care for all segments of our society can constantly be improved, and where everybody will have the opportunity to get the medical care that he needs.

All these things we would like in the way of progress in America. I say to you today that I stand for programs that will produce progress in these areas. I believe they will produce more progress than will the programs advocated by my opponent. They are different from the ones he advocates. The fact that they are different, however, doesn't give him the right to say, as he did when he was in Minnesota, that I and my party are against medical care for the aged, that we are against better schools, that we are against better housing, that we are against better conditions of employment for our people. All that I can say is that when he says that he is simply talking in terms of the promises he makes, and if he had produced anything in his promises, he might have a right to talk, but he hasn't done a thing yet and he has nothing to recommend him to elect him President of the United States on the basis of the special session.

It is very easy to talk about all the programs you're for, but when they had the opportunity, as they have had the opportunity during these past years, they were not able to move forward in these areas in which they have talked.

Now, let's look at some of these programs, and particularly one that will be of great interest to this audience here, the program of medical care for the aged.

We stand for a program which recognizes this program, recognizes it because we know that all of our families in this country want to see to it that our older citizens not only are well cared for, but that they have the opportunity to get care particularly when illnesses of serious nature strike.

Now, in this connection we have two programs offered. We have one offered by my opponent which would impose compulsory health insurance on those older citizens and eventually, in my opinion, on all the people of this country, because once it starts it is bound to spread.

On the other hand, here's our program, and listen to it: It is one which will see to it that every person over 65 who wants health insurance will be able to get it, where everyone who needs it is encouraged to get it, but where no one is forced to have health insurance who doesn't want it against his will.

We believe this is the American way to handle this problem.

Now, some people might say, "But, Mr. Nixon, won't it be easier to have it the other way? Won't it be easier just to have the Federal Government take this thing over rather than to have a Federal-State program? Won't it be easier not to bother with private health insurance programs ?"

Yes; it would be easier, a lot simpler, but, my friends, you would destroy the standard of medical care because, remember, we have the best medical care in the world today. We don't want to destroy it, and speaking here in Rochester, Minn., I am proud to stand for a program that will respect the integrity, the individuality, of our medical profession and will enable them to continue to give Americans the best medical care in the world.

This is just one example. Whether it's medical care, housing, jobs, all of these areas, we have programs that will produce progress. You say, "Prove it."

Well, let's take the record. We have the record of the Truman administration, which Mr. Kennedy defends, and whose policies he would return to. We have the record of our administration over the last 7½ years. Compare the two. Schools? Well, we built three times as many as they did in 7 years. Houses? We built more than they did in those 7 years.

What about income? We find the income of our wage earners, 67 million, has gone up 15 percent in those 7 years, whereas in the Truman 7 years it went up only 2 percent.

I say: Whatever guide you want to take, we have made more progress in this administration than in the previous administration. So, there you have a clear test - the policies we advocate, the policies they advocate. Ours work and theirs only constitute promises which won't work.

Now, why is it ours work? There's a very fundamental difference in our approach. They say the way to progress in every instance is to turn the problem over to the Federal Government. If you've got a problem, whether it's schools or housing or medical care, they say set up a huge Government program; spend a great deal of money, billions of dollars; weaken the States' responsibility; take away the responsibility of individuals; it's too complicated; have all the Federal bureaucrats run the program.

That is their platform up and down the line. Now, how do we answer it? We say the way to start, if you want to get the most out of this great country of ours, is not by putting the primary responsibility on the Federal Government. We say the way to greatness in America is not through what the Government does, but what the American people are allowed to do - and that's what our programs do in every instance.

We encourage our people to handle these programs. And it's because we do inspire, we do stimulate, individual enterprise, and because we do encourage at the State and the local level the solution to these problems that we have produced in the past and will produce in the future greater progress, a better life for our people, than their programs will.

Now, there's a difference, however, which I should point out, and this is one you must have in mind. Sometimes people have said to me, "Now, Mr. Nixon, how can you possibly say your program in the field of housing and health and education will produce more progress than theirs? After all, they're going to spend a lot more money than you are."

And I concede that. They do. They are going to spend more money. As a matter of fact, they will spend billions of dollars more for all of their programs than we would spend, but remember this, my friends: It isn't Jack's money they're going to be spending, but your money. Just have that in mind.

And as you remember that, I say that if we can have programs that will produce progress by spending less of your money, that's a lot better than to have programs that promise progress but won't produce it by spending more of your money.

I say that it's the responsibility of anybody in public office, and particularly a man in the President's chair, to represent all the people and to see to it that not one dollar of your money is spent in Washington that isn't necessary, that every dollar is spent that is necessary for our defense, for the other areas, but that where we can do the job for less, we should do it for less.

So, this is your basic point. If you want higher taxes, if you want higher prices, don't vote for us because that is the way they will move with their programs. I say that ours are programs which will do the job by spending less and do a better job.

This is your great test that you must apply in this domestic field.

Now, let me turn to the other subject that I think is of primary concern, and it's the most important of all - most important of all because all of us realize that we can have the best housing and health and medical care, the best programs in the field of social security that we can imagine, and it isn't going to make any difference if we're not around to enjoy them. We're thinking now of the future of not only ourselves, but our children, and I say to you today that the most important test that you must apply to the man who is to be elected the next President of the United States is this: Is he qualified, by background and experience, in judgment, to lead the free world - to lead the free world and to keep the peace without surrender?

This is what Americans want above everything else and what the world wants, and this, I say, is the test you must apply to me and my opponent. Now, obviously, I'm going to tell you today that I believe our team, Cabot Lodge and I, can do a more effective job of keeping the peace without surrender and extending freedom than can our opponents; but, again, how can you test us?

Well, look at our record. We have been part of the Eisenhower administration for the last 7½ years. We have had the opportunity in that 7½ years to work with the President on the great decisions which have kept the peace in that period.

Now, I know there's been a great deal of criticism of the President's record and of our record, but, my friends, all of you know the truth, and the criticism will not obscure the truth, and the truth is this: That under the leadership of President Eisenhower we got this Nation out of one war, we've kept it out of other wars, and we do have peace without surrender today, and we want to continue that kind of leadership tomorrow and in the years ahead.

Now, what are our qualifications? Our qualifications are, in addition to our background to which I referred, that both of us know the men in the Kremlin. We have sat opposite them at the conference table. I know that sometimes our opponents have said, well, our opportunities to talk to these people have been merely debating with them.

Well, my friends, let me say this: We're going to be debating with the men in the Kremlin and the representatives of communism for many, many years to come, and I will say, as far as I am concerned and as far as my colleague, Cabot Lodge, is concerned, that I think we've done pretty well handling them up to this point, and we'll do pretty well in the years ahead if you will give us the opportunity.

Let me turn to another charge that has been made. I know it has been said that America has lost its prestige. You heard something to that effect last night. It's been said that we find all over the world the Communists have the initiative, that we've been standing still, that this administration has been following a policy of retreat and defeat.

Well, now, let's nail that for what it is. First of all, as far as this item of prestige, I think it was best summed up by Senator Kennedy, at least the charge was summed up, when he said in New York just a few days ago that: "I'm tired of reading in the paper," he said, "what Mr. Khrushchev is doing. I'm tired of reading in the paper what Mr. Castro is doing." He said, "I want to be able to read in the paper what the President of the United States is doing."

Well, my friends, if he would just Stop talking and start reading, he'd find out what President Eisenhower has been doing.

Now, it's true he isn't doing some of the things that Senator Kennedy wanted him to do apparently. He didn't apologize or express regrets to Khrushchev for making the U-2 flights, and I think the American people agree with him on that.

It's true, too, that he didn't make a fool of himself at the United Nations, as Khrushchev did, and we can thank God our President is a man of dignity and maintained his dignity throughout this period there, too.

It's true, too, he didn't try to muscle into the Congo, but that we tried to maintain the independence and security of this country.

All these things are true, but if I might go further, may I say that, looking to the future, under the leadership we will give, we will keep this Nation the strongest in the world. I'll tell you why. Because we know the men in the Kremlin. We know that unless we're the strongest in the world, we may be in a position where they will be able to blackmail us at an international conference, and this must never happen. So, you can be sure that under our leadership America will be strong and, as I indicated last night, I am one who will insist that, as we maintain our strength, the American people will support whatever is necessary to keep the freedom and the peace that we enjoy.

Second, we will not only keep this country strong at home; we will see that the economy of this country moves forward, moves forward because we must maintain the lead we have over them in this economic field.

We must never let Mr. Khrushchev make good on his boast that he's going to catch us and, my friends, he never will. I have seen the Soviet Union. I know what their system is. He says he's going to catch us in 7 years. He won't catch us in 70 years provided we remain true to the great principles that have made America the country that it is today and we will lead you in that direction.

We will keep the diplomacy of this country firm and strong, and in that connection with all of the talk about retreat and defeat might I suggest that it has not been this administration that has been retreating. We find that it was the previous administration under which 600 million people went behind the Iron Curtain and whether it's in Quemoy or Matsu or anyplace else there will be no retreat or no defeat under the leadership we will give to the American people in these next 4 years.

The last point I would make is this: I've been talking about our good life at home and how we can make it and can and should make it better. I've been talking about the necessity for America to be strong militarily and economically. But my friends above everything else and this I say with the greatest conviction based on my travels abroad and on seeing the United States at home, if we're going to win this struggle for peace and freedom we Americans have to realize, deep down inside, what this struggle is about. We've got to know what we stand for. We've got to know what we're fighting for.

It isn't just that we're trying to keep our own security. It isn't just because we're trying to hold the line against those that would attack freedom throughout the world. What America stands for is something that goes clear back to the earliest days of our history. It goes back to the Declaration of Independence. It goes back to the Constitution. It is a faith that was in the hearts of the people of America then. It was a faith that was in the hearts of the people, millions of immigrants, who came to this country and who saw the Statue of Liberty as they came in. And what is it? It is that America stands for more than military strength. It stands for more than economic strength.

That's all the Communists believe in - might. We believe in right. And what are those things? Oh, they're talked down by the materialists and the militarists. They're underemphasized and underestimated, but they've always made that mistake. What makes America a great country, my friends, is that we do have great ideals, and that's our faith in God, our belief in the dignity of all men, regardless of their background, our belief in the rights of men to be free, our belief that all nations have a right to be independent, and our belief that these great ideals belong not just to us, but they belong to all mankind.

This is what America stands for. This is what we came into the world for, and these are the beliefs that you, the people of this country, must strengthen. You must strengthen them in our schools, in our churches, in our homes, so that the young people of America will have a burning idealism.

When I visit the Soviet Union, I see a sign in every factory, "Work for the Victory of Communism." I visited pioneer camps with strutting, goosestepping Russian children, working for the victory of communism. They're working for the wrong, and working hard, and we have to have a conviction and a faith in the right and work the harder for it, but that must come from our people - and, as you strengthen the moral and spiritual fiber of this country at home, then the President of the United States can lead the forces of freedom and peace, and lead them to victory without war abroad.

That's what we want to do. That's what Cabot Lodge and I are asking for the privilege to do. We don't tell you it will not cost sacrifices for us and our people, but we do tell you this: It is worth fighting for. It is worth living for. This is a great country, and let me tell you, anybody who runs her down, anyone who doesn't understand the greatness of America, simply hasn't seen, not only this country, but countries abroad, and because freedom is something that is precious, because it means something to us, and because you realize it when you see people, as I do, in Poland and Russia who don't have it, America has a mission, a mission to extend freedom throughout the world.

This is the kind of leadership we want to give, not stand still, not smug, not being satisfied, but moving forward and extending the great American ideals which we enjoy to all the world.

And, so, with that, I thank you for coming. If you believe that we can provide the leadership that America needs, if you believe these men on our State ticket are the men who are the best men, regardless of party, then I say to all of you here: Go out and spread the word through this State of Minnesota, because we need it. This is a close State. It's a real battleground, but we can win it if we fight - and you will fight if you realize that we're on the right side. I believe we are, and I'm sure you do, too.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President, Airport, Rochester, MN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project