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Remarks at a "Salute to the President" Dinner in New York City

November 09, 1971

Governor Rockefeller, Governor Meskill, Governor Cahill, Senator Javits, Secretary Rogers, all of the distinguished guests here at this dinner, and all the distinguished guests at the other dinners on this closed circuit television:

I know that these dinners have been advertised as a "Salute to the President." I think I should return the salute, and tonight I would like to salute several of those that you have heard, and also those that are at the other dinners.

First, I want to salute the really biggest contributors. I don't mean those that bought the most tickets--you were big contributors, too---but the really big contributors to this dinner tonight are people like Bob Hope and the other celebrities all over America. You gave your money; they gave time we couldn't possibly afford to buy. Thank you, Bob Hope.

I also would like to salute all of those who have participated in these programs, not only at this dinner but at the others that are on this closed circuit throughout the eastern seaboard: to Governor Rockefeller and his fellow Governors, to the Senators, the Congressmen, to those all over this part of the country who have made such a contribution, and, of course, to my fellow members of the Cabinet.

May I also say that New York can be proud of the fact that not only are you so well represented here at this dinner, but that your own Senator, Jim Buckley, is speaking in Dallas at the closed-circuit television there.

Finally, of course, I want to salute the people here, all of you who have contributed so much, who have bought these tickets. What you have done is to have made this event, these dinners across this Nation, the biggest event of its kind in a nonelection year in America's history in either party.

I congratulate the chairmen of the committees, John Rollins, Bunny Lasker 1 here in New York, all over America, and all of you who have helped to work on the dinner and, of course, those of you who have purchased the tables, the tickets to make this event a success.

Now let me speak about the event, if I can. This is a great event. It is also a great time in the history of a country. As you know, we have just entered the Bicentennial Era of the United States of America. In 1776, and now in 1976, 200 years later, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of America's birth as a nation.

At such a time, it seems to me--and at even an event like this, when ordinarily we would talk in more partisan terms-that this is a time to look to the future, rather than to the past. This is a time in which we speak not just of the next election, but more of the next generation. This is a time when we do not speak of a Republican agenda or a Democratic agenda, but the agenda of America for the future of America. This is the time for that.

As we think of this event and this time, we realize that such a time and such an event deserve a great cause. I submit to all of you in this room, all of you on television, that we have such a cause tonight.

Three years ago I recall speaking in New York during the election campaign at such a dinner as this. At that time the challenge that we confronted was a very great one: It was to end a war in which there was no end in sight. And now we have a different challenge: It is to win a peace in which peace is in sight. And that is a great challenge for Americans and a very different one for us.

Governor Rockefeller has spoken very generously of the initiatives that we have undertaken for peace. You know our goal. It is more than simply peace in the sense of the absence of war. It is more than simply ending one war and trying to avoid another one. But it is to build something that Americans have not had in this century: a full generation of peace, and then beyond that.

This, in truth, is a great goal. The first step toward that, of course, is to end the war in which we are presently engaged, and we are doing that in a way that will contribute to that lasting peace. And then we are taking other steps, other steps that look far beyond, beyond the elections, beyond even the turn of the century.

Governor Rockefeller referred to the trips to Peking and to Moscow. No one should be so naive as to assume that these two journeys are going to settle great philosophical differences between our nation and theirs. Those differences will remain, and peace will not be a reality simply because there has been a meeting at the highest level.

But I think we can say this with regard to such meetings between the leaders of the United States of America and the leaders, on the one hand, of the Soviet Union and, on the other hand, of the People's Republic of China: With continued confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China there would be an unacceptable risk of war in the years ahead. With negotiation between the United States and the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, there is a chance for peace, and we owe it to future generations to seize that chance and that is what we have done.

But as we think of that peace, let us remember that great as the challenges of war are, the challenges of peace can even be greater, because once peace comes, and even as it comes, there is a tendency to let down. There is a tendency for a great people to retreat from responsibilities in the world, and that would only lead to increasing the dangers of another war. That is why at this point I speak of the challenges of peace in several respects.

First, particularly now, at a time that we are attempting to negotiate a limitation on nuclear arms, it is essential that the United States maintain its military strength at an adequate level. We must do this because of the accident of history. We did not ask for this responsibility, but it is ours, whether we want it or not. Because of that accident of history, what happened in World War II, the United States is the only one of the free nations that has the strength or the potential strength to carry the responsibilities of freedom. If we do not carry those responsibilities, the possibilities of keeping peace in the world will be greatly diminished.

It goes beyond simply maintaining military strength at home. I know how easy it is for Members of the Congress--I was once in the House; I was once in the Senate and I know how easy it was then--to try to find a reason to vote against those programs of mutual assistance for countries abroad, foreign aid for countries that needed aid, aid for the purpose of helping other countries to help themselves, to create a more stable world.2

There are no constituencies for foreign aid. We know that. But let us recognize this: If the United States at this particular time should determine that it will discontinue its programs of mutual assistance for countries abroad--helping them so that they can help themselves--it can only mean that the world will become much more unstable, that the dangers of war in the world will greatly increase, and that the United States will no longer be a world power respected in the world, no matter how strong we are at home.

That is why tonight I speak of the challenges of peace, not only in maintaining our strength at home but in meeting our responsibilities abroad. This is above partisanship, because Republicans have joined with Democrats through the years to see that these programs--whereas they have no constituencies in this country-because they are essential to maintain the peace of the world, that these programs are continued, and I trust they will be, by this Congress.

But let me turn now to other challenges, challenges not in the military field, but challenges in the economic field. And here in the great city of New York--New York, New Jersey, Connecticut--this great financial capital of the United States, it is appropriate for me to speak at least briefly of the economic challenges that America faces, infinitely greater today, because of the irony that as the dangers of war are reduced, as negotiation replaces confrontation, the challenges of competition economically enormously increase.

Look around the world today. Compare it to what it was 25 years ago. Twenty-five years ago the United States was preeminent economically in the world. With 7 percent of the world's people we created and produced over 50 percent of the world's wealth. No one was our competitor in the world.

Now, today, 25 years later, much of it as a result of our very proper and generous assistance to those that were defeated in World War II, as well as those who were our allies, we have new competitors, strong competitors: Western Europe, joining together in one of the most powerful economic blocs that the world has ever seen, a strong competitor, whereas it was not one 25 years ago; Japan, prostrate 25 years ago, now the third most powerful economic force in the world; the Soviet Union, of course, the second strongest economic power in the world and, of course, a super power in terms of its nuclear power; and the People's Republic of China, not yet strong in terms of its economic productivity, but with 750 million capable people with the potential of being as strong as it wants to be, because of their potential power.

So we see the world a very different one--one in which the United States cannot rest on its laurels; one in which the United States cannot afford inefficiency, not economically, not governmentally, not spiritually or morally. To meet this challenge of peace it is necessary that the United States have first a new economic policy, one that will build in this country something that we have not had since the Eisenhower years of 1955 and 1956: a prosperity without inflation, and with full employment without war. This we can have, and this we can build.

It means, in addition, developing the economic strength of the United States in such a way that we can compete. We cannot afford the luxury of inefficiency any more if we are to compete with the new economic super powers that are developing in both Asia and Europe. And it is essential, therefore, that American business and American labor, working together, meet that challenge and meet it effectively, if we are to maintain the economic leadership of the world which is essential, incidentally of course, for our military and, even more important, our diplomatic leadership for peace.

Then, when we speak of America's being ready to meet the challenges of peace, we must also look to the necessity for America to have a government which speaks to this time and not simply to the time 200 years ago, or 100 years ago, or even 25 years ago.

We must realize that our cities are in trouble, our States are in trouble--not just New York City or New York State, but every major State, many of the small ones as well. And that is why this Administration has offered new programs of reform. They are historic. They are revolutionary. They are controversial. And they have not been acted upon by the Congress.

Whether it is revenue sharing, which will revitalize local or State government, or whether it is welfare reform, which is vitally needed in this country to get rid of a system that is now one that deserves condemnation all over this country, or whether it is in the case of government reorganization, the first government reorganization of significance that has really taken place since this country began, or whether it is in the field of reforms in education and health in all of these areas we offer programs of reform, not just for the sake of reform but because again in this period of challenge, in this period of competition, America cannot afford to be inefficient. We can only afford the best.

And what do we find? A majority of our Governors, Democrat or Republican, a majority of certainly our mayors, a majority of our county officials, a majority of the American people are for these reforms, and it is time that the Congress of the United States reflect the people of this country in being for those reforms as well.

There is one final area that I speak of. It is particularly appropriate to speak of this area again to these dinners here in New York and across the whole Atlantic seaboard, representing, as you do, the business and professional leaders of your communities in so many respects.

As we read the pages of history, we find those pages strewn with the wreckage of great civilizations in the past who lost their leadership just at the time that they were the richest, and at a time when they had the capability of being the strongest. They lost their leadership because their leader class failed to meet the responsibilities and the challenges of the time. They, in other words, turned away from greatness. They grew soft. They did not welcome the opportunity to continue to lead, which was their destiny at that time. And those civilizations are forgotten except as they are read about in the pages of history.

Here stands America today. There are students of government who say that America today, at the height of its power militarily, at the height of its wealth economically, with enormous world influence, may be entering its last era, not because of our military strength or economic poverty-because we are not afflicted with either of those problems--but because America's leaders, in all areas of life, have lost the will, have lost the drive, have lost the competitive spirit which a great people must have if they are to remain great.

I want to say to this audience here tonight: I speak to you as one grateful for your support in the past, not just of a party but of a cause and of candidates, many of them represented in this room; I speak to you tonight also as one grateful for your support of these dinners, and I know that you have been most generous in that support. But more than your money, we need your leadership; more than your money, we need your faith in America. We need you to go back to your communities, to stand up for this country, to stand up for those values that have made America great, and to stand for that kind of leadership that sees that America at this time does not turn its back on the responsibilities of leadership in the world. That is the challenge that we have.

In the 1770's America met that challenge. America met that challenge when Americans were brave enough to win greatness. And now, in the 1970's, let us see to it that Americans have the courage to meet the challenge by not turning away from greatness. I believe that is the challenge of our time. I believe that is a cause worthy of this magnificent event.

I say to you, my friends, this is a time when America has the opportunity, as it approaches its 200th birthday, not only to have a new era of prosperity without war and without inflation, but a new era of freedom and justice and opportunity such as we have never had before. And more than that, it is a time when this new, strong, young, vital America can lead the whole world to a period of peace such as the world so desperately needs. This is our challenge. Thank you for helping us meet it.

1 John W. Rollins, Sr., was national chairman of the dinners and Bernard Lasker was chairman of the New York dinner.

2 A statement by Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler on the Senate's rejection of the foreign aid bill was released by the White House on October 30, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 1457).

Note: The President spoke at 7:28 p.m. in the Imperial Ballroom of the Americana Hotel. His remarks were broadcast live on closed circuit television to a series of similar Republican fund-raising dinners in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York, Gov. Thomas J. Meskill of Connecticut, Gov. William T. Cahill of New Jersey, Senator Jacob K. Jayits of New York, and Secretary of State William P. Rogers.

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

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