Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Reception for Campaign Workers

January 21, 1969

In speaking to all of you here this morning, I think you should know how this little gathering was set up.

What we had planned was to have a few friends in, particularly those who would be going back to faraway places-to California, Florida, and the rest--and also those who had worked in the campaign headquarters in New York and also in Washington.

Well, the party began to grow, as you can see. Everybody got together. We think it is wonderful. It is more than we expected, but we are so glad to have you here and to welcome you to your house. It is ours, too, but it is yours, and we are glad to be here.

We are also very glad to have the Vice President and his wife here. I feel that with him by my side, we are going to be able to provide some direction and leadership to the Nation that the Nation wants and that the Nation needs.

I am particularly happy to have him here because when I went over to my office--I was over there quite early this morning--I found that the desk that I have in my office is the Vice President's desk. I took it out of the office down there.

The reason that I took that desk, incidentally-and you will be reading this in the papers tomorrow--was that for about 50 years it has been the desk in the Vice President's office. It was there when I was there for 8 years. It was the desk that Woodrow Wilson had used when he was President.

I had always liked the Wilsonian background, and also liked the desk itself. The President has always been given a choice .of the various desks that he can have. That is one of the prerogatives. So I took the Wilson desk, and I think he has the Jefferson desk.

We had hoped and expected this morning, too, that we would have a chance to give you some refreshment of some sort. I think there will be something down in the other end of the room.

We had hoped, too, that we could have a chance, at least, to talk with everybody here, to have one of those nice little chats. I see so many people here that I would just love to sit down with and really find out how to settle Vietnam and a few other things, but that will come.

I think perhaps more than anything else what I wanted you to know was this: that a President has to make a determination, a very important determination, as to who will be the first guests in the White House. Naturally, your first guests have to be and should be the members of your family, so I had members of my family yesterday, about 200 or 300, and we had a nice affair here just before the inaugural ball.

The second group, of course, that you want in are members of your family that are not related but who are members of what we call "the official family." That is this group. By "the official family" I mean not only people who worked in campaigns, as all of you did, people who helped out, as all of you did, but people I have known going back over the years. I see so many here, some of those who entertained during the course of the campaign. I know that some of you are here.

Wasn't that a great group that went to those inaugural balls and put on the programs for it? I really thought they did a wonderful job.

I think perhaps the best way I can describe it is by one of my favorite stories that I got out of studying the various inaugurals and the backgrounds which involved President Buchanan.

As you know, he did not go down in history as one of our most distinguished Presidents, probably because he was followed by Lincoln, and the comparison was difficult for anybody. But in any event, Buchanan became President at an older age--he thought it was older--at a later time than he had expected or wanted. Consequently, he felt at that time that the office had come to him too late. He was disappointed that it had come so late.

It is reported that as he was driving down from the Capitol to the White House, he made a comment to this effect: that all of his friends that he wanted to reward had died, and all of his enemies that he hated and wanted to punish were now his friends. I just want you to know you are all our friends here.

There is a lot of business, of course, that has to be undertaken today. We are going to have the first meeting of the National Security Council. I have already been through quite a few state papers, signed some more appointments, and a few other things--no pardons yet, though.

As far as business is concerned, I can assure you that nothing on this first day, the first day of being officially in the White House, will mean more to us than to be here with our friends. We are grateful for your friendship. We are grateful for your support.

We want you back here in this house on other occasions when it won't be quite as crowded as it is, when we will have a chance to at least see that you do have some refreshment and a few other things.

I can only say that this is a great house. It has a great history. It has a magnificent presence, as we walked through it for the first time, with nobody in it at all.

But what really makes the house, what really gives the feel to this house, is the presence of people for whom you have affection and people you love. This house right now, I think, means more to us than it will ever mean in the future, because you are our friends and our people. We are thankful to you and we wish you the very best.

The Vice President has to go up to open the Senate. I used to have to do that for 8 years. I don't want to make him late, but I wanted him to see this house and have an opportunity for you to see him, because he was a great campaigner in this last campaign, believe me.

You never know what a man is until you put him in the fire, and he has been through the fire, believe me. He knows how to take the heat. Since he will be presiding over the Senate, the body in this Nation's Capital where there is a rule of unlimited debate, I think we ought to give him a chance to talk as long as he wants to talk right now.

THE VICE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. President.

One thing that the President didn't mention was that that unlimited debate rule does not apply to the Vice President. He is a very silent, austere member of that honorable body.

I do want to say that it seems as if no one's desk is secure any more, Mr. President. We had one thing to warn the rest of the staff about: that their desks are not secure, either.

Whatever the President wants is what I want. I envisage that as the principal role of the Vice Presidency--to implement the policies of the Chief Executive.

Not many people have had the chance to come to the Office, to work for a man like Richard Nixon, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity. He has been a towering source of strength to me through that campaign he mentioned, which had its traumatic moments.

I think the measure of a man rests in his first actions and his thoughts, and his consideration. I believe that your presence here today gives you an accurate measure of Richard Nixon--the fact that you are here as invited guests to receive his appreciation, to which I certainly want to add mine. It is wonderful to have this chance to greet you.

As the President has indicated, I must make my way to the tender mercies of the Senate. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I know that some of you were not at the balls yesterday and, consequently, I will share with you, if you weren't listening to the morning news report, what I thought was the best crack of the day--and there were many, I am sure, which I didn't hear.

This one was Art Linkletter.1 As we walked in with Tricia, my older daughter, and David and Julie, and I made a little talk, then Art came on to respond. He said, "Well, you know, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to introduce the President because if I had introduced him, I would have done it in this way: I would have presented him as General Eisenhower's grandson's father-in-law."

Last night, you will be interested to know, we didn't have much time for dinner because we had the family reception and then we went on to the balls. We had to get into that white tie, and my neck is still hurting. Anyway, we went into the little family dining room upstairs and had something to eat.

The people who served there were the same ones who served the General, General Eisenhower, when he was President. Of course, David used to be here quite often in those days, and he is going to be here quite often these days, too.

We sat down and I wondered what they were going to serve. They brought out steak. They said from the time he was this high, whenever he came there he always wanted steak. So that is the way we are going to get Julie back. We are going to have steak all the time.

Maybe you would like to hear a word from Pat, David, and Julie. How about that?

I see so many others we could have words from. I see Jim Drury out here. We could have "The Virginian."2 Here is Pat.

MRS. NIXON. I just want to add my thanks to those expressed already, and that we hope to see you soon. You will be invited often. This time, instead of having the "big shots," so-called, we are going to have all our friends on a rotation basis. We hope to see you here again soon.

THE PRESIDENT. Just to keep the record clear, in my book all of our friends are "big shots."

JULIE NIXON EISENHOWER. I just think I will tell you about our first night in the White House.

David and I are carrying on a tradition. In 1953, when his grandfather spent the first night in the White House, David's father [John S. D. Eisenhower] was flown over from Korea as a surprise so he could be at the inauguration. President Truman had him flown over. He surprised the whole family.

David's family spent the night in the Queen's Room, so to carry on the tradition, last night we spent the night in the Queen's Room and it was a thrill.

THE PRESIDENT. I was just going to say, isn't it nice to have an Eisenhower in the White House again?

DAVID EISENHOWER. In line with what the President was saying, I remember thinking last night when John [Ficklin], the Chief Butler, came up to me and he said, "No, Mr. David, no steak tonight." Then he brought out the steak. I knew that happy days were here again.

THE PRESIDENT. We do want you to know, again, that you are always welcome in this house. We can never express in words our appreciation for your loyalty, friendship, support, and hard work far beyond the call of duty over the years.

Now we are going to have to--not "have to," but we are going to want to return it manyfold. We are going to get up early and work late and do everything we can so that this house will always be a happy house, and your home will always be a happy home.

Thank you.

1 Radio and television personality.

2 A television series featuring James Drury.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Reception for Campaign Workers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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