Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President of the United States at the Polish Union Hall, Buffalo, NY
Governor Rockefeller, Senator Keating, Congressman Pillion, Mr. Kowal, Mr. Radwan, all the distinguished guests on the platform and this wonderful audience here: I want to say first that my wife, Pat, and I have greatly enjoyed this, what I would call, interlude in campaigning to come here to what you refer to as the East Side, to come here to this hall and to participate in this program. I call it an interlude, because we feel that this is a meeting that comes from the heart, and we have felt it from the moment that we arrived here. We feel it in the eloquence of the introduction, in the statement by the chairman, in the statements made by Mr. Kowal, and also, of course, in the presentation of the flowers, of the gift that I received, the two little girls standing here, one sitting on my lap, the other making the talk to the audience.
I want to say something about the one that stood on that stool here and spoke to this great audience a few moments ago. She's a very pretty girl, and that probably means that she will be married and probably grow up and have a fine family, but I'll say this: here is a girl that I predict some day is going to run for something and win. She will be a Congresswoman, a Senator, or something. She's really good.
You know, I see many people in public life, and I have never seen a grown person with more poise than this little girl, and I certainly was very happy to see her and also her costume.
Now, as you know, I later on am going to speak in a meeting which will be held, which I know many of you will attend. However, there were some thoughts that I did want to convey particularly to this group in this meeting in view of the background which you share and in view of the interest you have.
Governor Rockefeller, incidentally, stated very eloquently and effectively and vigorously some of the things that I feel deeply. I would like to expand on them a bit, however. I would like to expand on them in the context of personal experience.
You know, when you who are voters are confronted with a choice in a presidential campaign or a congressional campaign, I imagine it's very difficult sometimes for you to decide which man to vote for, which man can you believe, which one can you trust, which can do the job, because, for example, my opponent, if he were to come before a group like this, would say, "I'm for what you people believe in," and those of you who, of course, would be interested in the situation in Poland, a country from which many of your fathers and mothers may have come or from which even you may have come, might say, "well, after all, if he's for these things, and the Vice President is for these programs, who can produce?"
I mean: which ones are we to believe? Which ones are we to trust? And that is, of course, why we have elections, because the people sense these things, you know. You can feel it deep within you. You know from the experience of the men; you know from what they have said and what they have done all their lives.
And I'm not here to say that my opponent lacks the qualifications to deal with these problems. I am here to talk to you about what I believe and what I feel, and I begin, first, with a personal experience, one which is related to something that I feel very deeply in my heart.
We saw this little girl and the other one who sat on my lap in their costumes, costumes going back to the great colorful and magnificent Polish tradition. You know what it made me think of? It made me think, as I am sure it made you think, of how rich a country America is. What do I mean by the most productive nation in the world, and what do I mean by richness? Oh, I don't mean the richness of our factories, the fact that we are the most productive nation in the world, and we are. I don't mean the richness that comes from the fact that we have the best wages and the highest standard of living, and that we're the best fed, best clothed people in the world, but I mean the richness as far as our people are concerned.
You know, we're a people that derives our culture, our music, our customs, our clothes, our background, everything, from all the peoples of the world. Who are Americans? Americans come from all the continents and all the peoples.
We're a very rich country, and it's this great diversified picture of the whole of America that we must never forget, and it also reminds us, when we see something like this, that if we want America to continue to be a great country, our doors must always be open to people from abroad who can enrich our land, as it's always been open in the past.
It means if we want America to continue to be a great country, we must fight with all our might against those forces of hatred and prejudice that would divide us on any ground except those grounds that are legitimate in a political campaign. It means that, in other words, we must recognize that all Americans must go forward together in progress, leaving none behind.
These are the things that I thought of, as I am sure you did, as we attend this meeting today. And then with the references to Poland, a reference made to the trip that my wife, Pat, and I took to Poland - I remembered it, as I have often recalled it in the speeches that I have made, and I recall it very briefly to you here today. This is something again that you cannot describe in words. This is something you have lived through. It's something that has left a mark, a feeling in your heart that will never leave and that, therefore, will affect your attitude on the problems concerning this area of the world, that will forever stay there, because you have been through it. You have seen it. You have felt it.
Let me tell you what I saw and what I felt and what my wife saw and what she felt. The reference was made to Mr. Khrushchev. I remember the last day that we saw him, and then getting on the plane in Moscow and flying out of Moscow to Poland. It was a Sunday afternoon. Now remember this: the people of Poland today are driven hard. They work terribly hard. There's no 5-day week there, it is 6 days. Usually Sunday afternoon is the only time off that most of them have. Get this: the present Government of Poland was a little embarrassed by our visit. They wanted us to come in a way, but, on the other hand, they didn't want too big a reception, because Khrushchev had been there just 2 weeks before and he had gotten a very cold reception from the Polish people - a very cold reception. And the result was this: here we landed, the Vice President of the United States and Mrs. Nixon, and the Government had put out no notice of when we would arrive. They hadn't put out any notice of where our car would drive as it went through the suburbs of Warsaw. In this country, the word got around like wildfire through the underground, as it always does in a dictatorial country. And so the crowds were out. Very few at the airport, just the dignitaries, those there to welcome us, the diplomatic corps, very proper, very restrained, but the moment we left that airport, little knots of people in the suburbs leading into Warsaw, and those people - I want to tell you I have seen political campaigns where they get excited toward the last but these people - these people were feeling something in their hearts that no words will ever possibly describe.
I remember as we drove out of the airport there was a little knot of people, and somebody threw something into the car. Well, I've had things thrown at me in South America, and I wondered a minute what this was. But you know what this was? This was a beautiful bouquet of roses, and it was the first of literally hundreds and hundreds of bouquets of roses and chrysanthemums and all the flowers there.
And I asked the man riding with me, "How in the world do they do this, these people?" Many of them were poor. And you know what the story was afterward? The people of Warsaw did throw hundreds of bouquets in our car, and in the other cars, in the great Polish custom. But there was a great difference. Two weeks before the Government bought the flowers to throw and they didn't throw them. They kept them.
But this time - this time - one of the newsmen asked a little girl who had thrown some flowers or asked her father, "Where did you get the roses?" He said, "Well, this time we bought the flowers with our own money." That was the difference in the reception. But that wasn't all. The cars moved in, people cheering and shouting all the way in, and we got into downtown Warsaw and eight times the caravan was stopped by people swarming around, friendly crowds. They were cheering at the top of their voices, "Niech Zyje America - Niech Zyje Eisenhower." And the car stopped and I looked into their faces and they grabbed my hand and some of them kissed my hand and Pat's, and then, I looked into their eyes. You know a lot of them were smiling and laughing for joy, but over half of these people, grown people were crying. With tears streaming down their cheeks. And that was the way 250,000, a quarter of a million people, welcomed the Vice President and his wife to Warsaw.
Now, why? We hear a great deal these days about what America stands for. We're the strongest nation in the world, and that's true. We're the richest nation in the world, that's true. But the people of Poland were not cheering me and Pat because America was strong and because she was rich. Khrushchev had bragged about that kind of strength. But that's all that he had. The people of Poland were cheering us not because we were famous, because we weren't to them. They were cheering because America stood, for them and for all the world, for something more than atheistic materialism and military strength. We stood for ideals - for a faith in God, for the belief in the rights of men, for the belief in the rights of all nations to be independent, for recognition that the freedoms which we enjoy here belong not just to us but that they belong to the whole world, and that America from the time of her foundation has stood for those freedoms, not just for ourselves, but for others, too, and that
America today stands not just for holding the line against aggression, not just for fighting communism and keeping it out of the United States, but that America can, and, as Nelson Rockefeller has indicated, does stand for extending freedom, extending it to all the world.
And now, my friends, how do we do that? We cannot do it, as you know, by a great war, a war which would destroy not only the Polish people who have suffered more by war than any people in Europe, one out of every four Poles having been killed in World War II by both sides, the Russians and the other side as well.
We are not going to do that way. We know that. But people say: "If you're not going to do it by war, how else? How else is the solution?"
My friends, the tyrants of all time have underestimated the strength of moral and spiritual ideals. They have underestimated the strength of faith, and through the centuries those who have believed in freedom have brought down the tyrants - and it will happen again. It will happen in Poland. It will happen throughout the world.
Now, as we do it, though, these are the things America must do, and I will summarize them briefly for you today. First, we must keep our contacts with the brave people of Poland. How do we do that? This means exchange, in every way that we possibly can, and stepping it up to the extent the Polish Government will allow it. This also means helping the people of Poland - not just the Government, but the people - with our agricultural surpluses and other things that we have done - and, incidentally, about a half a billion dollars' worth of help has gone from America to Poland. But the main thing is to remember that the purpose of this help is to reach the people of Poland so that they keep in their hearts the hope that liberty and freedom will come to them and so that they will know that America has not forgotten them, and this pledge we will continue to live by. We will continue our contacts with the people of Poland. We will continue having our leaders go to Poland. We will continue having our people go there so that they will know we have not forgotten them, and we will continue at the diplomatic level some things that I think all of you will agree with.
The people of Poland must recognize - as must the people of all the Iron Curtain countries - that the United States will never make a deal with Khrushchev or anybody else which imposes slavery upon them.
And I would like to say to some of those young fellows carrying the signs out there that it was not a Republican administration that made the deal that put Poland where she is, and we never will make such a deal.
But may I also say that this is not a Republican and a Democratic issue. I say Democrats and Republicans alike are ashamed of that deal and we're going to support people who stand against it in this campaign.
There's another thing we must do. We must not only never make a deal that will give Khrushchev what he wants - that means the status quo - leaving him alone so that he can do what he wants on our part of the world. This he must not have; but, in addition to that, we must never in our dealings with him allow him to push us around.
Now, what do I mean by that? What do I mean? That's why the suggestion, a very well-intentioned suggestion, but so naive, made by my opponent that President Eisenhower could have apologized to Khrushchev for defending the United States was so wrong. That's why the suggestion, and it's again a very naive and well-intentioned suggestion, that the United States should surrender some islands of freedom at the point of a gun is wrong. It's wrong - why? People say, "Well, there are only a few people on those islands," and that's true. "They could be moved to Formosa." People could say, as he did, "They're just a couple of worthless rocks in the Pacific."
Well, just let me say this: Look at what that does to people who want to be free. They'll say, "Here goes America again trading away the rights of free people at the point of a gun." We're not going to do it. We stopped that in 1953. We're never going to do it again, and after 1960, we are going to continue to lead that way in the future.
And so I say to all of you, Democrats and Republicans alike, if you want hope for the people who want to be free, you have in Cabot Lodge and me two men who know Mr. Khrushchev, who will not be taken in by him, who won't apologize to him, who won't make a deal with him that will sell other people into captivity and who will always stand for freedom throughout the world.
If, in other words, you want hope, we believe we have the program that will extend freedom, extend it without war, extend it through our diplomacy, through the strength of America's economic power, but also primarily through the strength of our great ideals, those ideals that caught the imagination of the world 180 years ago and that live in the hearts of every American, that live in the heart of everyone in Poland, in my opinion. These are the things I believe in, and again I say: I don't question but that my opponent says that he believes in it, too, but I submit to you I have been through it; I have seen it; I have felt it, and everyone who saw what I saw on the streets of Warsaw, anyone who saw those Hungarian students and workers come across the border from Hungary in the middle of the night, as I saw them 3 years ago, anybody who has seen that, you can be sure, will take the stand that America wants to extend freedom throughout the world.
Thank you very much.
Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of the Remarks of the Vice President of the United States at the Polish Union Hall, Buffalo, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273991