Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Ball Benefiting Six Drought-Stricken West African Nations.

November 30, 1973

Mr. Ambassador, Mrs. Willoughby, all of the distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

This is an occasion in which my wife is the special sponsor, as I understand, but where I have the opportunity to join with the Ambassador and the other Ambassadors, to join with their wives on this occasion, and I simply wanted to have the opportunity to say that to bring the Ambassadors from the six countries that are affected by this terrible natural catastrophe, to bring them together, and also to bring together the people in the Washington area--and I hope from around the country as well--in this good cause, is something that we think is most worthwhile.

We hope it may not have to happen again, but we think the fact that we do meet together on such an occasion as this tells us something very special about Africa, it tells us something very special about America, and it tells us something particularly special about those who are the wives of our Ambassadors, and also the wives of the political people here in the room.

I have traveled often to Africa. I am proud to have been there as Vice President, and also when I was out of office. And my wife has traveled to Africa, as well, since I have been in office as President. It is my desire to travel to Africa again, as President, at some time over these next 3 years.

At this time, however, we all join together in a salute to those who are pouring out not only their money but, more important, their hearts to those who are suffering from the drought in the six countries that are affected.

I know that in the world we live in today, where we read of a recent war in the Mideast, where we hear of the troubles that we have in the world, and particularly our problems at home in such areas as energy, that the problems of the countries involved here seem so very, very small, and we do not think of them. But I had the opportunity to talk to one of the Presidents of one of the nations involved, and also to talk to some of the ambassadors from these nations, and the heartrending stories of what happens to the children, what happens to the families in these areas where, after living in an area which was poor before, becomes almost unbearable because of the drought that they have suffered, the lack of water which has killed the cattle, which has deprived them of the very necessities of life. All of this has brought home to me, as I am sure it has brought home to all of our special guests tonight, this truth:

Sometimes we think we are deprived of this or that. We have to drive a little slower, we have to turn down our thermostats, perhaps we don't have the ornamental lighting that we would like to have, because we don't have the energy sources that we expected to have in this particular year. That is in America. It is also, in a greater extent, in Europe and in other countries in the world. But in the six countries involved here, we have more than that.

It is not simply sacrifice, it is real suffering. And it is suffering that touches every family in those countries, and it touches, particularly, the children of those countries. That is why it is significant that the sponsors of this ball are not the ambassadors, but their wives, not the President, but his wife, because the women of America, of Africa, of the whole world, their hearts, particularly, are touched by such a tragedy.

And I simply want to say that I think it is a great tribute to all of those who are the sponsors of this Desert Ball that they have drawn on the resources of this Nation's Capital and of this whole country, have drawn on those resources to contribute some money. Yes, I understand that it is $50 a plate, and probably the meal isn't worth that much, even with the inflation, but on the other hand, with the entertainment that you have, this splendid orchestra, the entertainment that will follow, perhaps it gets pretty close to the $50, but that isn't really the point.

What this event shows, far more than money, is that the heart of America goes out to those who suffer every place in the world, but particularly to those who suffer in this part of the world, perhaps the greatest suffering of any people at any time in our time in the world. And it is the heart that really matters far more than the money. America is a rich country, America is a strong country, but when it counts, America has a very big .heart, and tonight we all prove it. And I thank you on behalf of all the American people by demonstrating to the people of these countries that they are not forgotten. Even with our problems, which seem to be so very large, we realize that our hearts go out to those whose problems are infinitely greater. We wish we could do more. We help with our money, but most of all, we help with our hearts, and we will do more, we can assure you, Mr. Ambassador and all your colleagues.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:14 p.m. in the Sheraton Hall of the Sheraton-Park Hotel.

In his opening words, he referred to Ambassador Samuel Edward Peal of Liberia, dean of the African diplomatic corps. Mrs. Ann Willoughby was the general chairman of the SOS [Six of Sahara] Desert Ball.

The proceeds from the ball were donated to the six drought-stricken West African nations of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Ball Benefiting Six Drought-Stricken West African Nations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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