Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President at the Friends of Nixon Breakfast, Cocoanut Grove, Los Angeles, CA
Now I would like to talk very concisely and briefly, if I might, about the major problem of our time. I would like to talk about it in personal terms, personal terms because, to put it in political terms, would be not appropriate, I think, and not particularly helpful.
The major problem of our times, as we all know, is keeping the peace without surrender. This we all know is overriding. We can have everything else, the finest breakfast clubs and everything else in the world, and it isn't going to make any difference if we're all atomized. So, peace and freedom - major problem.
Now, how do we do it? Let me get one thing very clear. Jake Javits was extremely kind in what he said and Tom Kuchel was kind in what he said. There is no disagreement among the Republicans and Democrats of this country about the desire for peace and the desire for freedom and opposition to certainly anything which would destroy the freedom of this country. There is no disagreement, also, may I say, between the two candidates for the Presidency on the issue that Jake Javits has suggested. I make this clear, because I believe it. I believe certainly that my opponent and I, while we differ, I think, perhaps as to the means we would use, we share the same concerns, using a word that is rather familiar to our Quaker friends, the same concerns. We want peace. We want certainly peace with justice. We also want equality of opportunity for all of our people. We want, of course, progress in this field of human rights. These things we all believe. I believe that he does, and I would trust that you also would believe that I do.
So, let's start with that. The question is: How do we achieve it? And here we do have disagreement. I mentioned, for example, the fact that my background is Quaker on my mother's side. I say on my mother's side. It was one of those usual family problems. My father was a Methodist; my mother was a Quaker. They got married and compromised and my father became a Quaker too. So, that's the way it worked out.
In any event, peace without surrender. You know, among those who are my most strongest critics with regard to the policies of the Eisenhower administration and the things I stand for are my Quaker friends. They say to me, "Mr. Nixon," - or Dick - if they know me better, or Richard - They say, "Why is it we cannot stand for a position in which we will be more trusting of Mr. Khrushchev?" For example, they say on disarmament, when he was here in the United States making these fantastic proposals, "Let's disarm. Let's do it on trust, we don't have to - " and then later on we can work out all the agreements. "Why don't we do that?"
Then I say to them: "Why do you say this?"
They say, "Because we want peace." And they say, "Don't you realize you're standing in the way of peace, because you don't have trust. You're not trusting your fellow man."
And it's hard; it's hard to hear that from people you know give their lives to peace, that love it, love it above anything else in the world.
And then other times they say to me: "Why is it that you take a position, a position that, with regard to this whole field of diplomacy, we have to be firm Why can't we go, shall we say, in dealing with the Communists - why can't we treat them as we would want them to treat us? Why don't we, in other words, make a concession here and there? Wouldn't it bring peace a little further? Why do we have to be," as they say, "so firm in standing for the positions that we have around the world?"
And, so, I want to say here today why strength and firmness are principles of peace - principles of peace.
Now, let's look first at strength. The United States today is the strongest nation in the world. It's got to remain the strongest nation in the world. We've got to pay anything that's necessary to do it. We have got to pay anything that's necessary to do it, and I can assure you that if I have anything to say about it, if there is any doubt on any score, whether it's in the case of the deterrent or striking power or anything that we want that is necessary to maintain absolute level of superiority, that will come first first above everything, first above the desire to cut taxes, to cut the debt, anything else. Why do I say that, I, a Quaker, coming from a line of people who feel so strongly the other way, or the other way, at least., they seem to? I'll tell you why. Because I know that we're the guardian of peace. I know that when there are men in the world on the loose who are not for what we are, who are out to conquer the world, by any means, if necessary, by war, if possible, by any means, if necessary,
including war, and Mao Tse-tung says that over and over again even now. He says a third world war might bring a Communist world. When you're confronted with people like that, we have to have a strong force which can be a guardian of peace. Why? So long as we are stronger than they are, this deters them from using their power, (1) either to start a war, or (2) what is more likely, using it for blackmail purposes at the conference table, and say, "Look, unless you do this or that or the other thing, we might do something."
So, we must never have a position where a President, Democrat or Republican, ever goes to a conference table, where Mr. Khrushchev or anybody else can say, "I'm looking down your throat." That's why American strength is essential.
Now, let's turn to disarmament a moment. People say, "Now, why is it we can't get some imaginative disarmament proposals, or suspension of nuclear test proposals? Aren't we being too rigid?"
And I can only say I have seen these proposals over the years, and the United States could not have been more tolerant. We have not only gone an extra mile - we have gone an extra 5 miles - on the tests, on disarmament, but on everything else, but every time we come to a blocking point, the blocking point is no inspection, no inspection. And so, again people say, "Now, just a minute." They say, "Why don't we take the initiative?" And you hear the best-intentioned people, and let me say this: The people who take these positions do them not out of bad motives but good motives. That is the sad thing about it. They want peace so badly they would do anything to get it, and they would do the wrong things, the things that would bring war, because they say, "Why do we set an example for the world?" They say, "What's the example ?" I say, we take the initiative, we take the initiative in disarmament and that will put them on a spot so they will.
Let me say this: The moment the United States ever reduces its strength without having a complementary reduction in strength by our opponents, it means we increase the risk of war, rather than decrease it, because, remember, strength in our hands is an instrument of peace, but a superiority of strength among the enemies of peace is an instrument of war and so that's why the United States in taking a position of, say, "Yes', we'll disarm with inspection, but we will never disarm without," is standing for peace and not for war.
And those who say, "Look, take a softer position or take a more flexible position" - they are the ones who are standing for the war position.
So, again I say, strength, firmness, are essential. Let's apply it again to the little argument that Senator Kennedy and I had last night about these islands in the Pacific. Let's consider just a moment what it's really all about.
Here, 5 years ago, a decision was made in the U.S. Senate. The decision was to give to the President of the United States the power at his discretion to defend Formosa, and to meet any attack which he considered to be an attack on Formosa.
Now, at the time the debate was taking place there was also a debate raging about the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, because the Communists were saying these islands are steppingstones to an attack on Formosa. The Nationalists said, if the Communists attack these islands, it is preliminary to an attack on Formosa.
So during the course of the debate, some very well-intentioned Senators, a very small minority, but well-intentioned Senators, put an amendment. They said, "It's all right to defend Formosa, but let us draw a line and say we will not defend these little islands out here, only 50,000 people there, just a couple of pieces of rock. Why include them? They're harder to defend. We'll just defend Formosa."
Now, they thought when they put in this amendment that they were serving the cause of peace, but the Senate rejected it. It rejected it by a vote of 70 to 12. A majority of the Democrats, a majority of the Republicans voted to say we won't draw a line. We won't tie the President's hands. We're going to say to the President of the United States that he can determine to defend these islands if he considers this is an attack on Formosa.
Now, who was right? Who was wrong? It happens that my opponent was in the small little band that said we'll draw a line. We won't defend them. Well, the best proof of who was right is what has happened in the last 5 years. For 5 years it's been the policy of the United States to say to Mao Tse-tung and the Communists, "Look, as far as the United States is concerned, we're not drawing a line saying that we're surrendering these islands to you. We're saying that if an attack is made you must take your chance that we will react to it."
What's been the result? Oh, they've shelled them. Yes. But, on the other hand, they haven't launched an attack. And I say if a policy has worked for 5 years, this isn't any time to change it. This is no time to say to the Communists, "Now, look, we're going to turn these islands over to you," and I'll tell you why it is no time to change it. Because the moment in dealing with a dictator that at the point of a gun you give him something that he's after, it doesn't satisfy him; it only whets his appetite, and he's after something else, and the point is: When are you going to stop him?
Of course, again my well-meaning, peace-loving friends, and I couldn't have more affection for them, and yet more concern about their attitudes, they come to me and they say, "But, Mr. Nixon, what if Mr. Mao Tse-tung says all he wants are those two islands?" Hitler said that. All he wanted was the Sudetenland. All he wanted was Austria. All he wanted was Danzig. All he wanted was the Rhineland. And the West said, "Well, it's just this much, peace in our time, on and on and on, and then he eventually wanted something that we couldn't let him have, and, so, we had war.
As the President has often said, in these councils, he said - and he speaks with pretty good authority on this, I think - in this very debate, when it was occurring, he said, "If you ever start the policy of surrendering territory that is free at the point of a gun to a dictator, the problem is, When are you going to stop?"
And the point is that with a dictator, since it does whet his appetite, he gets this, and if it works there, he tries something else, and then the time comes when America must stand up and war comes. And, so, I say, then, staying with our present position is the way to peace. Changing our present position invites aggression and invites war.
So, that's why I've called upon Senator Kennedy, his colleagues, all of whom want peace as much as I do, to stand as with the Senate in 1955, with the position that has worked, to stand with the President today, and to say that we are not going to surrender at the point of a gun to people who say that they want not Quemoy and Matsu, not just Formosa, but the whole world; we're not going to surrender an island of freedom in advance.
This is the position that we must take.
The principles of peace are these: strength militarily, firmness diplomatically. It would seem the opposite would be the case, of course. That's always true. A peace-loving person is one who would say, "We will disarm." A true peace-loving person is one who would say, "We'll make concessions," but, you see, this is the trouble. The well-intentioned people who think that they're really for peace really aren't in the long run, in fact, because the things that they would do would bring the very disaster that we do not want.
Now, if I could shift, and cover one other subject, I'll be through. So much of our discussion last night, not by our fault, but because it was primarily in the public domain, was on materialism, taxes, and all these things. You're all interested in that, of course. It was on military strength and Quemoy and Matsu. Too little of it was on what really is going to be decisive in the world struggle. What is going to be decisive. It isn't going to be America's military strength or its economic strength. These things are important, and we must always be first in both, but remember: The battle for the minds and the hearts and the souls of men will decide this struggle.
I often tell the story of what I saw in Poland - coming in on a Sunday afternoon, Warsaw, Communist government, Gomulko's government not putting out the parade route, and yet you know in a Communist country or a dictatorial country the word goes by word of mouth through the underground, and a quarter of a million people were on the streets that day, Pat and I riding in an open car, and as we came down through the streets of Warsaw we saw a sight that exceeded anything that we've ever seen in all of our campaigning and our trips to 55 countries. There they were - people cheering at the top of their voices, shouting Niech Zyje America - Long Live America. There they were, throwing flowers in the Polish fashion, hundreds and hundreds of bouquets of roses and others that these very poor people, most of them, had bought with their own money. When Khrushchev had been there 2 weeks before the government had bought the flowers. They didn't throw them. They kept them. Anyway, they were throwing flowers in the car, and the thing that was most moving - the caravan stopped in the middle of the street - and the police weren't ready for it - eight times, by mobs, friendly mobs, and as they milled around us, I looked into their faces. They were singing "May you live a hundred years," that wonderful Polish song that some of you know, and a lot of them were laughing for joy, but over half of them, I would say, grown men and women, were crying, with tears running down their cheeks.
Now, why? Not because Pat or I were famous - we weren't - as President Eisenhower would have been, and not because America was a great, strong military country, and a great rich country. Khrushchev had bragged about that when he was there and he didn't get this kind of reception; but because the people of Poland knew that America from the time of its foundation stood for something other than military strength, other than economic might, other than sheer materialism. We stood for ideals. What are they? Oh, they're very simple. They're ideals that join all religions, as I said last night in the television broadcast - our faith in God; our belief in the dignity of every man, woman, and child on this earth; our belief that the rights that men have to freedom, all freedoms, come not from men, but from God, and cannot be taken away by men: our belief that every nation has a right to be independent, and that all people have a right to be free.
These things sound like clichés, almost, as I speak them, I am sure, but, believe me, we must never feel that they sound that way, because these are things that caught the imagination of the world 180 years ago. America in 1776 and 1780 and 1785 and 1790, when we were going through the process of the Revolution, and also when we had our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, was one of the weakest nations in the world militarily. It was one of the weakest nations in the world economically, a very, very immature, primitive agricultural economy, but it was the strongest nation or one of the strongest ideologically, because we stood for something. We believed in things, things and ideals that were bigger than America, that belonged to all the world, that came to us from all the ages, and those ideals America came into the world to preserve, not only for ourselves, but, as Thomas Jefferson said, "We act not for ourselves, but for all mankind."
And, so, this is what we must remember today: It isn't enough just to keep America strong militarily. It isn't enough simply to be the richest and strongest country economically. It isn't enough just to be sure that we defend our own freedom. America must stand for the right of people everywhere to be free. We must fight to extend it, without war, and you say, "Without war, Mr. Vice President?" And people say, "You mean that the Communists will have any respect other than military strength and sheer materialism?"
And my answer is: The tyrants through history, the militarists and the materialists have always underestimated the power of moral and spiritual strength - and they will again.
So, this we must do, then, and the next President, whether it's me or my opponent - he must lead America not simply as a strong military and economic nation, but as a nation which stands for and believes in great ideals. Now, this comes to my last point: What do you have to do with all this? You know, an easy thing to say is "this is a time for greatness, and I am the great man that can provide the leadership that America needs."
I can talk about these ideals. That will help some. As Jake Javits said, "A President has a responsibility to set a moral tone, whether it's in civil rights or conduct or anything else, but greatness comes, as far as a President is concerned - greatness is something that isn't the result of a man's ambition; it "isn't something that is simply written on a campaign poster. It's something that comes from the hearts and minds of the people of this country, and the man can only be as great as the people are strong. He can only be as great as he represents the deepest feelings, the deepest aspirations, the best ideals of the people."
What does this mean? It means that in America we simply have to have developed in our young people particularly a burning faith, an idealism, a recognition of why we came into the world, and what our destiny is, our destiny not to conquer the world, but to free the world, and that these things we will always stand for and that these principles we will never surrender.
Where does this come from, this belief in the dignity of men? It comes from the homes. It comes from the churches. It comes from the schools of America, and all of you can help. All of you must work together. And, so these are the things that I believe. My last point: I return to the civil rights point. I can stand here and talk until I'm blue in the face that I'm for civil rights, and I made this ruling and that ruling, and I'm for this legislation and that. Those things are important. Your actions - what's more important, of course, is your whole life, what you believe, from the time that you perhaps had the opportunity to hear you mother or your father instruct you in the matters of this sort.
I never forgot an incident that occurred many, many years ago when my grandfather, my mother's father, who was a very - I can say this charitably, I think - saintly man, who died when I was quite young - I never forgot the only time he spoke crossly to me and my brothers. It was a very large family, and we were having a family reunion. We had been to another church. You know, we talk about the differences between churches here, but among Protestants there are differences, among various Protestants, and I assume among various Jewish groups, and so forth.
We all have our differences. But in this case our Quaker service was quite restrained and we had attended another church that day. I don't recall what it was, but the preacher was a rather flamboyant type, a lot different, and afterward some of us were talking a little about him, mimicking him and saying he was a terrible preacher, and I remember my grandfather came into the room with us and said to us, to me particularly - he said, "Richard, thee must never say anything about a man of God unless it's something good. If thee doesn't have something good to say, say nothing."
So, this lesson lives. It stays. You believe. But beyond that, I have seen the world, and I know, taking this great complexion of Asia and Africa and Latin America - I know particularly above everything else, America can't practice one thing at home and preach something else abroad. One story to illustrate the point: I recall an incident occurring in a British colony - I will leave it unnamed - in 1953 - a magnificent city, very prosperous, clean, fine water supply, and in Asia in 1953 that was very unusual, British colony, nevertheless, and the British, incidentally do one of the best jobs of training people for independence of any, but this colony was not yet ready for independence or was not yet ready to give it. I was talking to a Chinese friend of mine who was in this colony, and he was saying - I said, "How are things here?"
He says, "Oh, it's much better than in the mainland of China." He says, "We have the best life perhaps of any city in Asia."
And I said, "Well, tell me, however, if the people had a chance to vote, would they vote to continue their colonial status?"
He smiled; he said, "They should, for their own good, because materially and otherwise they're better off, but," he said, "they'd vote 90% against continuing it."
And I asked "Why?"
He said, "Let me tell you a story." He said, "It goes all around Asia." He said, "When the British come in or the Dutch or the French or any other group, they usually build three buildings, three institutions in this order." He said, "First, they build a racetrack, and then, second, they build a church, and third, they build a club to which orientals cannot belong."
Now, I would be less than candid if I were not to say that we in this country all have the problem of equality and prejudice and the like. We can say it is a problem of far-off Washington. Why don't these characters pass better laws, but it's got to be decided here. We all have our faults. We must all work together, but I can assure you that if there were no other reason - and, of course, the biggest reason is the matter of simple justice which I tried to illustrate by my first example - that America must simply display to the whole world if she is to be the ideological leader of the world the fact that we really believe in equality, that we believe in the dignity of men, that we do not look down our noses at anybody else, whatever his race, religion, his color. If we can convey that at home by what we do this will help immensely the next President of the United States in winning the battle of freedom for all men. Thank you.
Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President at the Friends of Nixon Breakfast, Cocoanut Grove, Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273911