Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Dinner in Bel Air, California, Honoring the President

July 21, 1974

Roy, Mrs. Ash, and all of our very distinguished friends:

I am very grateful, certainly, for those words that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget has just spoken. And I speak not only for myself but for Pat and for Tricia and Ed, for his remembering them as well.

And I am particularly grateful that he gave us the opportunity on this trip to California to meet a number of people who we have known for a great many years. In fact, most of you are about as old as I am. And when I think of the campaigns going back 27 years and see some who were even here then, I realize how long we have worked together and fought together for good causes.

I want you to know, too, that the only regret I have on such an occasion like this is that we can't have the opportunity to sit and chat with each of you, as we have here at this table. But when there are 150 people, you can have only one table for 8, and consequently, that opportunity is denied us.

And I suppose that many of you out there, all of whom, of course, we met in the receiving line, wonder what we talked about.

I would normally say that on such an occasion that when you see the President of the United States and his wife at a table with six other people, well, they talk about the very things you are talking about--what happened at the Bohemian Grove1 before you came down, you wonder whether that swimming pool is really there under you or not, and you hope the boards don't break because that is a swimming pool you are all sitting on there, you know.

And you wonder about the fact that Roy Ash is probably the only person in this great city or in this Nation who has his own tent.

He owns the tent. I mean, he doesn't rent it, he owns it himself, he constructed it. That, among many other reasons, is one of the reasons we made him Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But tonight, it would be of interest for you to know that as you saw two or three members of the White House Staff come up and speak to me, that we had had some very serious international problems over the last few hours--I should say, the last several days.

And at this time, it appears that there are some very hopeful signs and that a very positive announcement will be made, perhaps before we finish this dinner, be made from Washington in the State Department.

I will not indicate to you what the nature of that announcement is, except to say this: that in this rather tragic struggle, it could have been much more tragic and would be if it were to be allowed to continue between two friends and allies of the United States, arising over Cyprus.2

This struggle is one that could only be averted by the leadership of the United States of America. This is true in all parts of the world today. American leadership is the key to whether or not nations that could be at swords' point, nations that could be engaged in war against each other, may find a way to get along, to avoid war, and in this instance, of course, our goal has been, as you have noted, to attain a cease-fire between Greece and Turkey before it exploded between these traditional enemies in times past, but two nations that have been friends and NATO partners over the last 27 years. This certainly is a goal that we are rightfully dedicated to, both from the standpoint of the great NATO alliance but also from the standpoint of two nations involved.

And so, I hope that this announcement, which will be made in Washington within the next few minutes, is one that will be followed by the action that we all desire, a cease-fire, and then the process of developing again a friendly relation between two nations who are our allies and our friends and, of course, are essential to the whole great NATO alliance which is the cornerstone of America's foreign policy and the free world's foreign policy in all of Western Europe.

Now, so much for the serious things that we talked about. There were many other things as well, but since we are off on this track for a moment, just let me say that as I look back over the 5 1/2 years that Roy has referred to--and as a matter of fact, he really counts those days; I hadn't realized that it is just 2 1/2 years, but you see, he keeps the budget and he knows all about that sort of thing--but I realize as we look at America's role in this potentially explosive struggle between Turkey and Greece, the role that we are playing and will continue to play, that looking back over the past 5 1/2 years that all of us, as Americans, regardless of our partisan affiliation, can be proud of the role America, our country, has played in making this world a safer and better place for all people on it, not just for ourselves.

I don't refer just to the event that means the most to most Americans, because it--our friends and our families and so forth, I mean the ending of the war in Vietnam, the fact that our young people are not being drafted, these are things that we all understand. But difficult, long, arduous as that terrible struggle was, we have to realize that other developments have occurred over the past 5 1/2 years that will have far more lasting and far greater effect in terms of building a peaceful world than simply ending that war on the kind of a just and honorable basis that was essential if we were able to continue to play the role of world leader.

I refer, for example, to events that didn't seem possible 5 1/2 years ago: the new relationship with those who rule over one-fourth of all the people of the world, the People's Republic of China; the new relationship with the Soviet Union in which we now have had three summit meetings--a fourth one to be scheduled next year--and in which--while we still recognize that with the Soviet Union, as with the People's Republic of China, we have great philosophical differences, differences that are not going to be changed by any kind of agreement that we may enter into--that nevertheless we have been able to develop and are developing means whereby peoples with different governments, different systems of government, different principles, different ideals, can settle those differences peacefully and can work together rather than against each other to build a more peaceful world.

I could refer also to more recent events. Many of you followed the trip to the Middle East. And I think most Americans perhaps were rather surprised to see the great outpouring of real friendship for the United States of America that was apparent every place that we went, not just with Egypt Cairo and Alexandria-where in the space of 2 days, there were perhaps 6 to 6 1/2 million people by most estimates out, but in all the other capitals that we visited, Saudi Arabia, Syria-Damascus, the oldest inhabited city in the world that has been inhabited continually-and of course, Jerusalem, and then finally in Amman, Jordan.

The fact that an American President-and here it was not just the man, it was more than that, it was the United States of America as the leader of the free world--that we have after so many years of difficulty with many of these nations were received in that way, tells us something about America's role in the world.

Let me put it quite bluntly. We have made our mistakes in foreign policy over the years. Looking at this century, when we consider the four wars in which we have been engaged, we can be proud that the United States has always fought to defend freedom and never to destroy it.

We have always fought to keep the peace, to bring peace, and never to break the peace. And consequently, the United States, in all parts of the world, is respected. The United States, in most parts of the world, is not only respected but there is real affection for the American people and for our government. And in any event, we are not feared, not feared in terms insofar as any fear that the United States would use its great power and its great wealth for the purpose of conquest or destruction or breaking the peace.

As we look back over those events and as we look at the current problem that we have in the Mediterranean, I would only suggest this: that we Americans are a very impatient people. We like to think that there is an instant solution to every problem, and we are impatient when we get a war over with; peace, isn't it wonderful, we can just take it for granted.

We must recognize that for the balance of our lives, for the balance of this century and, perhaps, well into the next century--and no one can look further than that, but certainly well into the next century--a strong, responsible United States of America is indispensable if peace is to be kept in the world. There is no one else that can play that role. There is no other nation in the free world that can take up that great responsibility, and so we have that responsibility.

We believe over the past 5 1/2 years that we have met it and met it reasonably well. We think more progress has been made in that period toward building a peaceful world than has been made in any similar period, certainly in this century and probably in this period of modern civilization.

There is a chance now, a very real chance that due to the profound changes that have been made--the new relations with the People's Republic of China, the new relationship with the Soviet Union, the beginning of a peaceful era in the Middle East--that as a result of these profound changes, the chance for peace to survive on a world basis is better now than it has been at any time in this century.

And yet, anytime. that we say that, when we have an incident like the one that has occurred over the past few days involving America's friends and allies, it shows us how fragile that structure is. It shows us how much it needs constantly to be tended. It shows us how important it is that not only the United States of America but particularly the leadership of the United States of America assume the responsibility of world leadership which is ours and never back away from it because that might be the easier course.

It also explains something else that I think is very important that Roy has touched upon tangentially, at least, and that is apart from the man, the Office of the Presidency must never be weakened, because a strong America and a strong American President is something which is absolutely indispensable if we are to build that peaceful world that we all want.

This brings me to one other point that I want to mention here tonight, particularly in Roy's presence and in the presence of so many other people in the Administration who are out here with me, and it is very simply this: that in order for the United States to play the role it does in the world, we not only need the military strength, we not only need the diplomatic skill, but essential to that role is an America that maintains the position of world leadership, and this we have without any question.

We can argue about whether we are number one or number two in this or that or the other area, but economically the United States is the wonder of the world. We can say that despite the problems we have--the energy crisis through which we have passed and are still passing to an extent, the problem of inflation, which is a world problem incidentally--and having met with most of the world leaders recently, I can assure you that I wouldn't trade their problems for ours anytime, as difficult as ours are. But in order to maintain that strong economy, it is necessary to have responsible leadership, and it is necessary to make some very hard decisions.

Roy Ash is one of those men that has to make a lot of them. He is a man that has to say no, no to a spending program that might help some of the people, but would raise the cost of living for all of the people. And when we have to make, as we will, some very hard budget decisions in the next few weeks and months, it will be necessary for us to veto some spending bills that the Congress is inevitably going to pass, far exceeding our budget. Just remember we do that not because we like to say no to some good cause, but because the greater cause is the whole problem of inflation which affects every person in this country. We are out to win that battle, and we can't win it unless we start right with the Government of the United States itself.

I can assure you that with the leadership of men like Roy Ash and Herb Stein, who is here tonight, and the rest, we are going to set the example in Washington of fighting the battle of the Federal budget so that people can win the battle of the family budget at home.

And Roy, we thank you for your leadership and all that you have meant in this respect. Now, before you cheer too long, you must remember that you may be writing Roy a letter one of these days saying, "Why did you cut this program or that one?" Remember, we told him to, and you applauded it here tonight. And he will not do anything, you can be sure, unless I am backing him, and I will back him all the way, just as he backs the Administration.

Let me just conclude with two personal thoughts. One, as we stand here in this beautiful home in Bel Air, I think of the sacrifice that men like Roy Ash and his wife and his family have made to come to Washington to serve there. Obviously, it is a financial sacrifice, but also it is a personal sacrifice. I haven't been to the Ash home in Washington, but I can't imagine it is like this. It is probably very nice, but it couldn't be like this.

And I think, too, of the dedication of people that have done that. There are many in this room that I could mention who have served in this Administration: Dave Packard is over here, Bob Finch, Herb Klein, Charlie Thomas, Fred Russell, and others.3 They are legion. But what is vitally important for us to all remember is this--we think in terms of those that hold the highest office, the Presidency of the United States and all the glory, even though it has sometimes many very great burdens, burdens which we assume without any complaining about them, because that is part of the job--but we have to remember that for this government of ours to work effectively, it takes men and women of great dedication, willing to sacrifice a great deal, willing to take a lot of unfair criticism, which they do, if they do anything worthwhile, to come to Washington and do a job.

And I just want to say that I have been very proud of the people we have had in our Administration for their dedication. I have been proud of the hard work they have put in. When people, say, look at our record in the field of foreign policy or look at what we have accomplished in this or that or the other area, I can just assure you this: It isn't done simply by one individual, it is done because there are hundreds of people in the top leadership and, of course, thousands throughout an administration, many of whom I never get a chance to meet and thank personally, who are also working.

And so, I pay a tribute not only to Roy, to his family, but to all of the other Administration families who are here tonight, and my thanks to them.

And finally, to all of you: I mentioned that we go back a number of years--I look around here, and I don't see any of you looking a bit older than I remember when I campaigned the old 12th Congressional district out through San Marino in that area, and some who live there, I remember. Then, when I campaigned the State of California for the United States Senate and I met most of you then if I hadn't met you before, in 1950, and then of course, the Presidential campaigns, the Vice President campaigns and the rest.

You wonder sometimes, and I am often asked, you know, how do you really take the burden of the Presidency, particularly when at times it seems to be under very, very grievous assault. Let me say, it isn't new for it to be under assault, because since the time we came into office for 5 years, we have had problems. There have been people marching around the White House when we were trying to bring the war to an end, and we have withstood that, and we will withstand the problems of the future.

People wonder, how does any individual, in these days when we have very high-pressured campaigns, usually, in the media and the rest, taking on public figures, how does an individual take it, how does he survive it, how do you keep your composure, your strength, and the rest?

Well, there are a number of factors. First, you have got to have a strong family, and I am very proud of my family. But the second thing is, you have got to have also a lot of good friends, people that you have known through the years, people who write you, who call you, or who see you and say, "We are sticking by you." And I can assure you that no man in public life--and I have studied American history rather thoroughly--has ever had a more loyal group of friends, has never been blessed with, certainly, a more loyal group of friends who have stood by him through good days as well as tough days than I have.

And I am just very, very proud to be here among our California friends and to say from the bottom of my heart for all the years past and for all the years to come, thank you very much.

1 The Bohemian Grove was a redwood grove in northern California owned by the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and site of the club's annual encampment.

2 On July 20, 1974, Turkish troops invaded the island of Cyprus in response to the ouster, on July 15, of Archbishop Makarios, President of Cyprus, by troops of the Cypriote National Guard led by Greek officers. A cease-fire agreement was reached on July 21 between the governments of Greece and Turkey, after which further negotiations on the situation were held in Geneva, Switzerland, under the auspices of the United Kingdom.

3 David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense (1969 1971; Robert H. Finch, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare ( 1969 1970) and Counsellor to the President (1970 1972); Herbert G. Klein, Director of Communications for the Executive Branch (1969-1973); Charles S. Thomas, Chairman of the National Tourism Resources Review Commission (1971 1973); and Fred J. Russell, Under Secretary of the Interior (1970- 1971) and Ambassador to Denmark (1971- 1972).

Note: The President spoke at 8:27 p.m. at the home of Mr. Ash.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Dinner in Bel Air, California, Honoring the President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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