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Remarks to Participants in the Heritage Groups Nationalities Conference of the Republican National Committee.

October 30, 1969

Mr. Vice President, ladies and gentlemen:

In accepting this resolution and in accepting it for the Vice President and myself, I do want you to know how grateful we are for your support in the 1968 campaign, and also how grateful we are for your presence here today in the White House.

Your very eloquent remarks give me an opportunity to respond briefly as to the significance of this group, a significance that goes far beyond your partisan affiliations. We are glad you are supporting the Republican Party and the Republican candidates. I realize, however, that those in your groups cover Democrats and Independents, all of those who are interested in what our party and our administration stand for.

What we stand for is something that America needs. It is something that those who love freedom in the world want. It is this that I think brings you together here in support of us during this administration.

You mentioned the fact that there were 29 different nationalities here. I am delighted that there are that many. Of course, there could be more, because when we think of the United States of America and what makes it a great country, one of the primary factors is that we have drawn upon all of the peoples and all of the races and all the nationalities of the world, and that has made us richer--richer in the diversity of our people, richer in our customs and richer in many other ways, one in particular that I am going to mention.

When I speak to you, I speak as one of you, too. I should point out that the Vice President, from time to time, feels that he is very much in touch with the Heritage Groups, or as it is sometimes called, as an ethnic group, because of his Greek background.

Now, I don't happen to have a Greek background, but I am very proud to have the Vice President with his Greek background in our administration, and he has done a great job for this administration.

I think you should also know that my great, great grandparents did not come over on the Mayflower. I remember when I was in grammar school, I was a student of history, and there was a very fine teacher who was on one occasion telling us about the background of the United States, and of those magnificent people who came over on the Mayflower, the early Americans.

I went home that day--I think I was in the fifth grade--and talked to my father a bit about it because he also had a great interest in politics and that sort of thing.

I said, "I note this background of the United States and I also note that many people could point to the fact that they were sons and daughters of the American Revolution." I said to my father, "What about us? What are we?"

He thought a moment, and he said, "We are Heinz--57 varieties."

Of course, he was right. My mother was an Irish Quaker. My father had an English, German, and Irish background. My wife's mother was born in Germany and her father was Irish. So you see, I am one of you, too, and most Americans are.

What I want to say is, the name you have selected for this group is very appropriate. I don't like the term "ethnic group." That separates some Americans from others. The word "heritage" is something else again, because the heritage of America is very rich and it is rich for the reasons that I mentioned; it is rich because it draws from the peoples of the world.

In this room we see so much wealth-wealth in the diversity, wealth in what you have contributed to America, contributed in terms of your backgrounds, the arts, and in so many other areas, and also, as I mentioned earlier, in one respect above all others.

In these days when people look at the United States of America and wonder about whether or not there is that degree of patriotism, patriotism in the best sense, love of country that we ought to have, I more than often find that those who love America the most are those who adopted it, those who love America the most are those who come from backgrounds from other nations, because they know from having either been in another country or having been only one generation from another country, much as they loved the other country or their mother's or their father's country, they know that anyone who lives in America, lives in America even with all its problems, is the most fortunate person in the world. This is the place.

It is that message that I hope we can get across through the Heritage Groups. This administration wants to work with all Americans. We want to work particularly with those in this group who have been so kind to come to the White House this morning. We are proud to have your support. We only hope that in this administration we can follow those policies that will make everyone who came to America proud that he chose this country, that can make everyone who has a background from a different country thankful that America is his country.

This is what I believe. It is what you believe. It is the great factor that will bring us on to greater victories in the future.

Just so that the Irish and the Germans and the English backgrounds do not rule out the other American heritage, I think we ought to hear from one with a Greek background.

The Vice President.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Introductory remarks by Laszlo C. Pasztor, Director of the Heritage Groups Nationalities Division, and concluding remarks by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1514).

Richard Nixon, Remarks to Participants in the Heritage Groups Nationalities Conference of the Republican National Committee. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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