Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on Returning From Europe.

October 05, 1970

Mr. Vice President:

I wish to express my very grateful appreciation to you for your very warm words of welcome, and I particularly want to express my appreciation to the members of the Cabinet, the Members of the Congress, the members of the Diplomatic Corps for taking the time and the trouble, along with all of the rest of you, to come out to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome us home.

As you may have noted, we were fortunate to be received very warmly in many countries abroad, and we will always remember those wonderful welcomes. But there is nothing quite like being welcomed home again. We thank you very much for that.

The purpose of this trip, like the other trips I have taken abroad and like the trips that you, Mr. Vice President, have taken abroad, and like the trips that the Secretary of State has taken both by himself and on this occasion with me, was to strengthen the structure of peace all over the world, but particularly now in the critical Mediterranean area.

I think that we made progress in strengthening that structure. This is not the time to go into detail with regard to observations about the trip, but some conclusions, I think, are worth underlining at this time.

First, the United States, through its 6th Fleet and, along with its NATO allies, through its NATO strength, now maintains the kind of strength that is needed to meet the role that is assigned to the 6th Fleet and to NATO. That is to deter potential aggression in the Mediterranean area and in Europe. It is vitally important that we maintain that strength, the strength of the 6th Fleet and the strength of NATO.

I am convinced that these are peace forces in the best sense of the word and, therefore, must be maintained and must not be unilaterally reduced.

Second, I was very encouraged to find that all of the leaders that I talked to in every country strongly approved our Mideast peace initiative. They approved the peace initiative, and they would strongly disapprove of any breaking of the cease-fire.

Third, I was encouraged to find on this trip, as compared with my trip in February of last year, much greater understanding among the leaders that I met of our policy in Vietnam. They believed that the United States is making very significant progress in achieving our goal of a just peace in Vietnam. They are correct, I believe that events in the future will demonstrate that they are correct in this appraisal.

There is one other observation I would like to make that relates to something you, Mr. Vice President, said. You remarked about the welcomes that we received. They were most heartwarming--the enormous turnout in Spain, for example, the welcome we had in Rome, and then on Thursday at Zagreb, in Yugoslavia, and then again today, earlier today, in Ireland--hundreds of thousands of people in those two areas standing in the rain to welcome us.

As one world leader pointed out to me when I met him on this occasion, he said, "You can order the people out to give some visitor a welcome, but you can't make them smile in the rain."

This was very impressive. But I think it is important that I indicate to all of you who are listening, whether here in person or on television or on radio, what that welcome meant, the welcome in every one of the countries that we had was over. whelmingly friendly.

It was not personal for the President as an individual, but because the President represented the American people and this country, and these people who were welcoming us were indicating that they believed, the great majority of them, that the United States is a land of opportunity, that the United States is a land of freedom, and that the United States is committed to peace.

I do not suggest that there are not differences of opinion with regard to some U.S. policies abroad, but one fundamental factor that I have found in all of my trips abroad, that the Secretary of State also reports, that you, Mr. Vice President, report, is this: Whatever differences world leaders may have about some of our policies, they recognize the fact that the United States with its great power does not threaten the independence of any nation in the world.

No nation in the world fears that the United States will use its power to infringe upon its independence or to interfere in its affairs. That cannot be said of some other nations. We can proudly say it because it happens to be true. The power of the United States of America if necessary will be used to defend freedom but never to destroy it.

And one final thought: I see here today in this great audience who are gathered here in the hangar, a number of young people. As I saw the hundreds of thousands of people in the motorcade routes in Italy and in Spain and in Yugoslavia and then again in Ireland, I saw also hundreds of thousands of young people. I thought of the young generation in our own country. I thought of the young people in other countries. I thought of the young people in the countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America that I visited--and what we all want for them.

What we want for them is what this world has not had in this century, a full generation of peace.

I believe that the policies of the United States of America are working toward that end. We are dedicated to that end. I believe and I hope that history will record that this is the case, that this trip may have contributed substantially to that goal--a generation of peace for America and for all the people in the world.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8:30 p.m. at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in response to the welcoming remarks of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew which follow:

Mr. President:

The Prime Minister of Ireland described his as a land of 100,000 welcomes when he greeted you there. As we watched you during your trip through the wonderful achievement of satellite photography, we found that those 100,000 welcomes were repeated many times as you visited those ancient European capitals and watched you receive the tumultuous accolades in Madrid and also in Belgrade.

I think that tonight we could safely say that America is the land of 200 million welcomes as we greet you and your gracious First Lady on your return from such a successful mission.

But, Mr. President, I don't think there was anything in your trip that gave your fellow countrymen quite the same degree of pride and identity as your visit to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, to the gallant officers and men who patrol the southern flank of NATO. I think it was completely clear that the words you had to say there indicated that the United States intends to stand fast in its commitments to its allies. But I think the degree of restraint and forbearance and the statesmanship you displayed not only in your remarks that were delivered formally, but also in the person-to-person encounters you had as you went among the people of those great countries of Europe to which so many of us owe our heritage, indicated that America truly has a sense of dedication and purpose in the world.

I believe that as a result of your trip, Mr. President, our relations in that critical and very touchy area have been vastly improved and I think that the Congress and the people of the United States join me in this assurance to you that in no case have we felt quite the same sense of confidence in the vast experience that you bring to the Presidency and in your method of conducting the foreign affairs of our country.

I am very pleased to also state that we, your fellow countrymen, were immensely impressed with the demeanor and warmth of our gracious First Lady as she went about the important business that she had to conduct in those capitals.

So, Mr. President, we are awfully glad you are back--many of us are very glad you are back--and we hope that the profitable experience will improve the climate not only in the Mediterranean but restore a sense of peace and purpose in the entire globe.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on Returning From Europe. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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