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Remarks at a "Salute to the President" Dinner in Chicago, Illinois

November 09, 1971

Mr. Vice President, Governor Ogilvie, Senator Percy, all of the distinguished guests, Members of the House, State officers, others at the head table, and all of the distinguished guests here in the audience in Chicago, all of the distinguished guests at all of the other dinners who are on this telecast across the Nation:

I was saying a moment ago to the chairman of the dinner and to Bill Fetridge 1 that it is somewhat embarrassing to sit and listen to salutes to the President of the United States, if you happen to be the President of the United States. I must say, however, that I know that the custom in military circles--and I have had some military service many, many years ago-is to return a salute. I am very honored to do that tonight before my remarks on the occasion of this dinner.

I want to salute, first of all this evening, the bigger contributors. By "the bigger contributors," incidentally, I don't mean those who bought the most tables. You gave a lot of money. But what I do mean are people like Bob Hope and Art Linkletter and others across this Nation, celebrities appearing at 20 dinners. They gave their time, time that we could not possibly afford to buy. I salute them tonight along with you.

I salute, too, as all of you do, the other speakers on this program. You have seen some of them on the closed-circuit television: Governor Reagan from California, and the Attorney General, and, of course, you know others that are appearing across the Nation. And here tonight you have heard our great national chairman, Bob Dole.2 You, of course, have heard the Governor and Senator Percy.

There is one in particular that I would like to salute tonight, and in saluting him, I can do so in a very personal way. It is often said that the job of the Presidency of the United States is the most difficult job in the world. As one who has served both as President and as Vice President of the United States, I can tell you that the job of Vice President of the United States can in some ways be more difficult than being President of the United States.

May I say tonight that I know that all of you will agree with me that this country is fortunate in having as its Vice President a man who is loyal, a man who is courageous, and a man who is competent in handling his duties at home, and a man who with great dignity and great ability has represented America in 25 countries, since he has been Vice President, abroad. So tonight we join together on his birthday in saluting the Vice President of the United States.

Then finally, of course, I do want to salute those of you who are the contributors, those of you who did make these dinners a success across the Nation. I think you will be interested to note that in checking the statistics, I find that for a dinner in a nonelection year, this is the most successful dinner that either major party has ever had in history. We congratulate you for making it possible. We congratulate the dinner chairmen, wherever they may be, and all the dinner committees, and, of course, all of those who contributed so much.

So this is a great event, and a great event at such a time as this, it seems to me, calls for a great cause. I believe tonight that we have a great cause. Let me put it in historical perspective.

It was 3 years ago, just before the elections of 1968, that I addressed, along with others, dinners across the country. At that time we faced a great challenge. The challenge was to end the war in which no end was in sight. Three years later, we face a different challenge, and our challenge today is to win a peace and win a peace which is in sight, and that is a big change for America and the world.

Senator Percy has already commented upon what we have done in bringing the American involvement in Vietnam to an end and bringing it--and this is vitally important--to an end in a way that will contribute to the cause of a lasting peace in the Pacific. That is one step toward our goal--a goal which is much greater than simply peace in terms of the absence of war, a goal which is much greater than simply ending a war in which we happen to be involved, a goal that Americans have not been able to realize in this whole century: a full generation of peace.

Ending the war in Vietnam is one step toward that goal, but looking further down to the end of the century, other steps must be taken now, steps which will see what the dangers are or might be 10 years, 15 years, 20 years from now. And that is the reason why I am making these journeys, one to Moscow, one to Peking.

I have no illusions, and none of you should have any illusions, that these trips and these meetings between the heads of governments of these three great powers-the United States, the People's Republic of China, and the Soviet Union--will mean that the differences between our countries will end as a result of these meetings. Our differences are profound, profound in their approach and their difference with regard to domestic matters, and profoundly different in their approaches to international affairs.

But, on the other hand, we face this choice, putting it quite bluntly: We face the choice that continuing confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and between the United States and the People's Republic of China, could run the risk of war.

We also face, on the other side, the choice that negotiation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and between the United States and the People's Republic of China, could give us a chance for peace. And we owe it to future generations to seize that chance and not let it pass by--the chance to build a generation of peace.

And so we enter a period in which the dangers of war may be less in the world, but a period in which, also, the challenges of peace, ironically, become much greater. Let me evaluate those challenges for you tonight and put them in the perspective of what some of the other speakers have already referred to.

First, we must recognize that if we are to have peace, and if we are to keep it, we must keep America strong. We are, it is true, engaged in talks which we believe may lead to an agreement on limitation of arms. But until we have such a mutual agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, it is essential that the United States maintain an adequate national defense. By maintaining that defense, we, of course, make it more possible for us to reach the kind of agreement that we need to reach, and, also, by maintaining that defense, it means doing what Senator Percy has already referred to: not only keeping America strong at home but supporting a program of mutual assistance abroad in which we help others to help themselves, rather than send Americans always to do the fighting all over the world.

Now, when I refer to the burden of defense at a time that we see a period of peace possibly arriving in the world, I know that many Americans may say, "Haven't we carried this burden long enough?" There is a tendency now, because of the long and difficult war through which we have been passing, and which is now coming to an end, for many Americans to want to lay down the burden of world leadership, the burden of national defense, and to turn to our problems at home. I understand that tendency. But I think all of us must realize that we cannot afford the luxury of laying down the burden of world leadership. The reason is that there is no other free world nation that has the capacity, that has the strength, to give the leadership in the world if the United States does not assume that responsibility. We did not ask for it, and I realize that most Americans probably did not want it. But because of the great historic developments that took place during and since World War II, today, unless the United States, as the leader of the free world, assumes the responsibilities of free world leadership, no one else in the free world is there to do it, and we cannot run the risk of leaving that vacuum in world leadership.

Let me put it in the context of a very difficult decision that I had to make over this past weekend. I had to make a decision with regard to testing a defensive weapon. It was a controversial weapon to begin with. It was, in my view, a necessary one due to the fact that another nation in the world had already tested a similar type of weapon. Under the circumstances, I considered that the national defense required that we go forward with our own test, pending the time that we could reach a limitation with that other nation limiting that kind of weapon, as well as offensive weapons.3

When it was learned that the test was to go forward, there were objections raised. I understood those objections. They were raised by people who were concerned about our environment, concerned about the possibility that this test might injure our environment. All of you in this audience know of my great concern about our environment. You know of the initiatives that this Administration has supported to protect the American environment, to preserve it, and to renew it. We are proud of those initiatives. But, my friends, unless we have an adequate program for defending the United States, we won't have any environment to protect. That is what we have to realize.

And so, in this great decision, to maintain our national defense, the purpose is not because we want war, but because this is the way that we can maintain the strength which will lead to the lasting peace that we all want. That is one challenge we face.

The challenges in the area of economics are ones that you, also, are very much aware of. We find, ironically, again, that as the danger of war recedes these challenges greatly increase. For example, you remember the period immediately after World War II. At that time the United States was preeminent in the world. No one possibly could compete with us. And yet at that time, when the United States, with only 7 percent of the world's people, produced over 50 percent of the world's goods, there was perhaps no one in America that thought that the time would come when our position of preeminent world leadership, economically, would seriously be challenged.

Twenty-five years later, look at the world as it is today. We are still ahead and we can stay ahead and we shall, in my opinion, but we are no longer in this competition alone. The great nations of Europe are joined together in one of the most powerful economic blocs that the world has ever seen. We should not resent it. We should welcome this new, strong competition.

Japan, which was prostrate after World War II, has now recovered and is now the third strongest economic power in the world and is moving forward in every area.

The Soviet Union is the second strongest economic power in the world. Mainland China, with 750 million people, is not a significant economic power today, but 750 million Chinese, inevitably, over a period of time will be a significant power in the world and a significant competitor.

So, as the world opens up, as we have competition rather than confrontation, it means that the United States, economically, must be at its best. It means that our economy must be strong, productive, competitive, and free. It means, therefore, that what we must develop is a new prosperity. That is why we need an all-out campaign to stop inflation in this country, so that we can have prosperity without inflation. That is why we need a program, also, which will produce the new kind of prosperity that all Americans want-- one in which Americans can enjoy full employment without war.

It is quite appropriate to mention that the last time we had that kind of prosperity was when President Eisenhower spoke at this dinner in 1956--15 years ago. We can have it again. We will have it again--prosperity without inflation and prosperity without war.

But if America is to meet this challenge of competition we must not only have competitive business, competitive labor, but we also must have government which is efficient and competitive and which speaks to these times and not to the times 10 years, 25 years, or even a century ago. And that is why we cannot afford inefficient government. That is why we have proposed reforms in the field of government, more historic, more revolutionary than any in the whole history of this country.

The United States must move into this new era with a government which is as efficient and able to deal with the problems of the world as any kind of a government in the world with which we may be competing. And that is why government reorganization, revenue sharing, in which this State has such a great interest, welfare reform, all the other programs, reform in education, reform in health, are so vitally important if the United States is to meet the challenge of peace in this last third of a century.

Then, finally, there is one other area in which everyone in this audience and everyone in all the other audiences who are listening to this closed-circuit broadcast can participate. I have mentioned your great contribution. I am aware of it. And certainly it is a very great one---the fact that you have been willing to contribute your money so generously so that a campaign .could be waged by our Republican State committees and county committees and national committees in the year 1972. But even more than your money, we need something else. We need your leadership.

You are leaders. You would not be able to afford this dinner unless you were leaders. You have the potential of speaking out and being listened to. And what America needs now is for those who are the leaders in their communities to speak up for America, to have faith in America, and to stand up for America in this period when America is under attack from so many sources at home and abroad.

When we look at the history of great civilizations of the past, we find that the pages of history are strewn with the wreckage of civilizations who, at the very height of their wealth and the height of their power, slipped into oblivion. Why did it happen? A close study of the history of those times will show that it happened not because of weaknesses among the masses of the people, but because the leaders in those civilizations, at a time that they were wealthy, at a time that they were powerful, became soft and weak and lost the will to greatness that a great nation must have.

Here in America we are now entering an historic period, the Bicentennial Era. In 5 years we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of American independence. And the great question which all of us have to answer very simply is this:

How will history record this period? Was it the beginning of the end of the great American experiment? Some think it may be. If that is the case it will not be because of the failure of our economy, because of our lack of military strength. It will be because of the failure of our will, of our determination, of the character of Americans and, particularly, of those who are to lead America.

But it could be written another way. Rather than the beginning of the end, it could be the end of the beginning, the end of the beginning of America as a world power with world responsibilities in which we met the challenge, the new challenges of peace, and we met it with a people who were strong and vigorous and determined and young--young in their attitudes and in their attitudes toward responsibility-as this Nation was young and strong and vigorous at the very time of its birth.

This is the challenge that I leave to this great audience across this Nation tonight. It is not a partisan challenge. It is bigger than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; it is bigger than America itself. Because whether America meets the challenge of world responsibility, of developing here at home a new sense of freedom and justice and opportunity, the realization of the American dream such as we have never had it before, whether America meets the challenge abroad which only we can meet, whether we meet the challenge of developing a new world, a new world in which nations can finally live at peace with each other--that depends on us.

I am confident, as I speak to you here. I am confident as I think of how much you have contributed, not just with your dollars, but of the commitment you axe making by this contribution. I am confident that America's leaders will meet the challenge of leadership and that we will go forward to a new era of greatness.

1 William C. Croft was chairman of the Chicago dinner and William H. Fetridge was president, United Republican Fund of Illinois.

2 Senator Robert Dole was chairman, Republican National Committee.

3 The President was referring to the underground detonation of a nuclear warhead for the Spartan antiballistic missile on Amchitka Island, the Aleutians, on November 6, 1971.

Note: The President spoke at 10:54 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel. His remarks were broadcast live on closed circuit television to a series of similar Republican fund-raising dinners in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Francisco, and St. Louis.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a "Salute to the President" Dinner in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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