Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Annual Convention of the Mississippi Economic Council, Jackson, Mississippi.

April 25, 1974

Governor Waller, all the distinguished guests on the platform, all of the distinguished guests in this audience, and all of those who, I understand, are outside and are able, not to be here, but can hear on the loudspeakers:

In answer to that very generous introduction by the Governor of this State, I can only say that I am proud to be the first President in history to address the Mississippi Economic Council, and after this kind of a reception, I am sure I won't be the last one to do it.

As a matter of fact, as I looked at this huge auditorium, I thought I had never spoken in a place where I had so many people behind me.

And I want to pay tribute, incidentally, to not only the members of the council who are going to have lunch, I understand, if I don't speak too long, but also to your many guests, I understand, from the high schools, the colleges, the other fine institutions. Particularly, I thank the Mississippi State University band for playing "Hail to the Chief."

Just so I don't get in any trouble with some of the other colleges and universities --I know places like Millsaps--I went to school with a fellow from Millsaps. And believe me, as a Washington Redskins fan, I know what Archie Manning did to us in the New Orleans Saints game. And to all of those in this great State, whether it be from "Ole Miss" or Mississippi State or one of the other universities or colleges, let me say, if you ever find a good quarterback who can throw and who can run and who is young, call me, not George Allen. We need that kind of a quarterback or fullback.1

1 Archie Manning was quarterback for the New Orleans Saints professional football team. George H. Allen was head coach and general manager of the Washington Redskins professional football team.

This also gives me an opportunity, in responding to the Governor, to pay tribute to the Mississippi delegation in the Congress of the United States. Sometimes, those who are served by their Senators and Congressmen have to be told by someone from outside what really great men they are.

I want you to know that having served with these men for 5 years--most of them--I can say that no State in the Union is represented by men in the Congress of the United States who more vigorously speak up for their States and for the Nation than has the State of Mississippi.

Senator Jim Eastland, the President pro tem of the Senate, as you know, the fourth ranking office in all of this great country.

Senator John Stennis, when they write profiles in courage, he will be there.

And since I can't mention all of the bipartisan delegation in the House of Representatives, I will just refer to my good friend, Sonny Montgomery. And having said "bipartisan," let me tell you something about this delegation that I have seen through the years.

I have found that we have had many very, very strong, tough votes and debates over these years when America's power was being tested, but more important, America's character and America's will and its determination and its sense of destiny. And I can assure you that whenever the issue was the honor of America or the strength of America or respect for America, Mississippi spoke as one voice for America and not for any one party.

And in these times, that is the kind of representation that we need in the Congress, in the Senate--be it Democrat or Republican. In these times, you can be proud that you have that kind of representation.

I realize that this is an anniversary for you, too. This is the 25th anniversary, I understand, of the Mississippi Economic Council. And on such an occasion, a proper theme, therefore, is for me to not only look back but also to look forward to the next 25 years.

And particularly for those who are younger, those who will be the new Senators and Congressmen 15, 20, 25 years from now, for all of those who have your lives ahead, let's look back a moment and see where we have come and where we have been and how we have withstood the trials that we have been through.

I remember the end of World War II. We came out of that war, and we thought, with the United Nations, with all that the world had been through, that this would be a new era of peace, and yet it was not. In these past 25 years, this Nation has gone through two very difficult and very unpopular wars--first in Korea and then in Vietnam. And in these past 25 years, this Nation has gone through five recessions-not depressions, but recessions--in which the economy did not produce at full production.

And in this period of time, particularly in the years of the sixties, this Nation has gone through a period of unrest--social unrest, racial unrest--in which, at times, there were explosions on our college campuses and our university campuses and in our cities. And over and over again in those 25 years, if you read the newspapers and the magazines and listened to television, you would hear those who said, "America has seen its greatest days. America cannot see itself through this crisis. We cannot go on to be a great nation. We are tearing ourselves apart."

Those were the pessimists, but they were wrong. They were wrong then, and they are wrong today. America's greatest days are ahead of us, because it is not the easy times that test either an individual or a nation, it is the hard times. And America has withstood the hard times and has come through even stronger each time.

And so today, I want to address this great audience on two subjects---one of which is particularly of interest to you because of the nature of your organization-where our economy is and where it is going. And the other, which should be of interest to all of you because of our concern about the future of our young people and of the next generation, and that is, what are the chances to keep the peace that we now have after so many years of war.

Let me look at the economy a minute with you. And I am sure out here in this audience we have lots of experts who may have differing views about it. I can only give you the best judgment that I have from the economic advisers, not only from the Administration but from outside, who look at the American economy today, analyze it, and wonder where we are going. Let me put it in perspective by saying this:

When we talk about the difficulties America has been passing through, the energy crisis, the inflation that we have had, due primarily--two-thirds of it in 973 was as a result of higher food prices and higher energy costs--when we look at those difficulties, we think we are the nation that has the most difficult time, and they are difficult times in that respect.

But when I was in Paris just a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet the leaders of great nations and small nations, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President and Prime Minister of Italy, the Chancellor of Germany, the President then of France, who succeeded temporarily, until the new. election is held, President Pompidou, and of course, the President of the Soviet Union, Mr. Podgorny, and in addition 35 other heads of government and heads of state. And as I talked to each of them, I want to tell you I learned one thing: We have problems, but there is not one of them who would not trade his problems for whatever problems we have.

America today has more opportunity, more prosperity, more freedom than any nation in the world.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, that does not mean that we look at the problems of inflation, the problems of energy, the others which confront our Nation and say, "Well, whatever they are, there are other nations that have it worse than we have."

That isn't enough. That isn't the American way, because when we have problems , we analyze them and we do something about them. That is the American spirit. It is what made this country in the beginning, has kept us going throughout our 200 years, and will keep us even greater in the future.

So, let us examine, first, the problem of the economy, where it is. As we know, in the first quarter of this year, we have had an economic downturn, primarily related to the problems of energy and also characterized by inflation, inflation which began in '73 due primarily again to energy, as I have indicated, and to higher food price costs.

Under these circumstances then, as we look at our economy, we wonder, what is the prospect for the second quarter, for the third quarter, for the fourth quarter. And here it is as we see it today:

First, the problem of inflation is a most nagging one. That problem, however, is not going to be solved by putting this economy under the straitjacket of Government controls from Washington, D.C. That would be an awfully easy answer for a President to give.

But we have tried that way, not only this Administration and others. And it works for a time, but in the end we pay a bigger price in higher prices. That problem also is not going to be solved by simply spending more, because while you can spend more yourself into an inflation, you can't spend yourself out of inflation.

So, that means as we look at the problem of inflation, that whenever we make decisions in Washington with regard to what your Government spends for the Federal budget, that affects your family budget. We must spend what is necessary to keep our economy on the move. We must spend what is necessary to deal with such problems as disasters, that the Governor has referred to, and we will. But I can assure you, too, that we will be responsible, responsible because we must remember that a sound policy in Washington, where the Government spends only what is necessary and not more, is essential if we are going to be able to control the fires of inflation that presently are eating away at us.

What, then, is the answer, long-term, as far as inflation is concerned? You know what it is: more production--more production of food--and here the prospects are good. A record agriculture year in which Mississippi, a great agriculture State, now primarily an industrial State-which is an indication of a change in 25 years that has occurred in this State--Mississippi is playing its great role in that respect. And so, that means that as we have more production of food, that the rise in food prices will tend, as we go through the balance of the year, to level off. That is one good sign for the future.

And then the other problem is that of energy. Here again, it is a problem of whether or not we have the supplies to meet the demand.

The other day I was talking to the Chancellor of Germany. I was asking him how much it costs for a gallon of gasoline in Germany. He said, "$1.40 and we are willing to pay it." Now, of course, as far as we are concerned, we believe the prices we pay for gasoline are too high now because of what we have been through in the past, and they are.

We believe that some of the profits that are made are windfall profits and that the Congress should tax them, as I believe the Congress eventually will, but let us remember this, too:

The answer to getting our energy prices under control is to produce more, and that is why it is essential for the Congress to deregulate natural gas so that we can have more gas all over this country and reduce the price of energy for all Americans.

That is why we have also called upon the Congress to change the environmental restrictions, temporarily at least, but long enough so that the investment will be worthwhile, so that we can extract and use the resource which we have two-thirds of the free world's, and that is our coal resources, which are in the ground.

They are there, they should be mined, they should be used, and that will help on the energy problem. That is why we should move forward, not only in these two obvious areas but in also developing our own oil and gas reserves, wherever they may be, on Federal property or otherwise.

And that is why, looking down the road, we should develop our great sources of nuclear power which, in the years to come, will replace some of these other elements of power. We, the Nation that found the secret to the breaking of the atom, are far behind in this area. It is time for us to go forward on it, because the generation of the future will bless us for having done so.

That is why we must go forward with legislation that will allow the development of deepwater ports so that when we import, we can import adequately, at adequate prices and reasonable prices, the fuel that we need.

Now, I do not say this to lecture my friends in the Congress who are behind me, because I believe all of them support these proposals that I have made. I do not say this in order to lecture the Congress, but I only say this: We have a great goal in mind. And that is this: Let America never go through again what it did in October or November last year when some other nation was able to cut off our energy. Let us be independent of any other nation where that is concerned.

That does not mean that we won't be glad to purchase their energy at proper prices in the years ahead, and we shall. But it does mean that a nation that has the resources in the ground, that has the resources also in its technology--I am referring to nuclear power, for example-that when we have the resources to be independent of any other nation, let's say that we shall be independent in 1980, and we will do it. That is a great goal for America and one we can achieve.

Now an economic prognosis for the balance of the year: First quarter showed a dip, primarily energy-related. Second quarter predictions are we will level off. Third quarter, fourth quarter, the economy will begin to move forward again.

What is this based on? It is based on the fact that except for two very major items, automobiles and housing, this economy is enormously strong. It is strong, for example, in the agriculture area. It is strong in many other consuming and producing areas. But in automobiles and housing, we have had the downturns to which I have referred and which are a primary cause of the problem we presently have.

But what are we finding now? Automobile production is beginning to go up, not fast, but the predictions toward the end of the year are for a good automobile year--not the best, but a good one. Housing starts are beginning to go up, not as much as we would like, but I will announce within e weeks programs of Federal activity in this area which I think will stimulate that industry which is so essential to a strong and prosperous America.

So, that is why today I will say to you in making the prognosis on the economy, we have been through what I believe is the lowest point in the downturn. We now can look forward to the leveling off. Toward the last half of the year we will see this economy moving forward again and moving upward.

The major problem is inflation. That we will all have to fight together. And we shall fight it through more production, we shall fight it by keeping down the costs of Government where we can, and we shall fight it also through responsible policies in the dealings between labor and management. And I see the year 1974, at the end--and now it is very difficult for us to look that far ahead---but at the end that we will look back and say '74 was not our best year, as were '72 and '73, but it was a good year. I will say and I will flatly predict that '75 will be a very good year. And I say today that '76, the 200th anniversary year for America, will be the best year in America's history, the most prosperous, the most free, not only in terms of prosperity, however, and freedom and opportunity for all of our people--a great goal that you are working for here in Mississippi and that we must all dedicate ourselves to---but it will be a year in which America will not only be prosperous but will have prosperity without the cost of war, and that is a great goal. We can achieve it by the year 1976.

Now, having referred to prosperity without war, let us take an overview of the world for a moment, see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

We have just ended the longest war in America's history, 12 long, difficult years. For the first time in 25 years, no young American is being drafted for the armed services, and everyone is indeed thankful for that.

But let me say, I would hope that Mississippians, who have been in the forefront always in fighting the battles for this country as volunteers, will, many of them, make the decision to serve as volunteers in our Armed Forces, the peace forces. We need you, and it is a proud service to be in, whether it is the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force of the United States of America.

And finally, with regard to the long and difficult war through which we have been, how we ended it was important. I know that sometimes people say it didn't make any difference, just get it over. But America had to end it in a way that we did not lose the confidence of our allies, the respect of those who were our adversaries, and at least some feeling of respect from those who were the neutrals. And that is why ending it in a way that the people of South Vietnam have an opportunity to choose their own way without having a Communist government imposed upon them against their will--that was right. We can be proud of it.

We can be proud of the young men who served for that cause and achieved it, and we can be proud, too, that for the first time in 8 years, every American POW has returned from abroad and is at home. And as one of them said when he came home, standing tall and erect--he said, "Thank God we came home on our feet and not on our knees." We can be proud of that fact as well.

But ending a war is not enough. That has been the American failure in this century. We fight wars and fight them well when we have to do so, although we love peace. But we ended World War I, and then we thought we were going to have peace, and the sons of those that fought in World War I had to fight in World War II.

And then we thought we had peace after that long and difficult war. And the younger brothers and even the sons of some of those who fought in World War II fought in Korea.

And then when that war was ended by President Eisenhower in 1953, we thought, "Well, now this must 'be the last one in this century." But the younger brothers of those that fought in Korea, and even some of their sons, fought in Vietnam.

We must not let this happen again. And that, Governor Waller, as you said so eloquently in your introduction, is what our foreign policy is about today.

Why do we talk to the Soviet Union leaders? Why do we talk to the leaders of the People's Republic of China? Because we agree with their philosophy? No, they don't like our philosophy; we don't like theirs. But taking, for example, China, one-fourth of all of the people in the world live in China. They are among the ablest people in the world. They are not a super power today. They will be, 15 years from now. And far better to have the United States talking to them now than waiting until then. That is why the opening to China is so important to peace in the world--not just now but in the generations to come.

Why do we talk to the leaders of the Soviet Union when we are both now approximately equal insofar as our nuclear power is concerned? Not because we agree in all of our interests around the world, because some places they are adverse to each other, and not certainly, as I have indicated, because our philosophies are the same, because they are not, but because both sides recognize a simple fact of life: that the leader of America--whoever he is--and the leader of the Soviet Union--whoever he is in the foreseeable future--if he ever resorts to the use of nuclear war, will be committing, in effect, national suicide for his own country.

That must not happen, and that is why we are negotiating a limitation on nuclear arms. That is why we are trying to negotiate, in addition, a limitation on and a reduction of forces in Europe, on a mutual basis.

Having referred, however, to these things, let me say that in order for the United States to play this role, a great and a proud role of peacemaker in the world, in order, for example, for us to play the role that we are playing in the Mideast, where in that troubled area of the world that has not known peace for 25 years--they have had four wars in 25 years; as a matter of fact, it probably hasn't known it for 1,000 years--the chances that our initiatives there to bring an era of peace to that troubled area of the world will depend on America's leadership.

And let me tell you what that leadership entails. First, it entails strength. I refer, first, to military strength. By that, I do not mean military strength in terms of the arrogance of power in which we attempt to push others around. That is never the way we want to use it. We can be proud that in the wars that we have fought in this century, we have never used our strength to destroy freedom, but only to defend it. We have never used our strength to break the peace, but only to keep it. And the other nations of the world know it.

Strength in the hands of America is a good thing for those who love peace in the world, and let's keep America strong.

And I would strongly urge, never send an American President to the conference table with any other leader of the world as the head of the second strongest nation in the world. Let that be a goal for Americans to remember, too.

It requires also, if we are to exert this kind of leadership that will build a generation of peace, economic strength. I have referred to that already. And that economic strength is going to come. It is going to come from depending not on government enterprise--government plays a role--but on private enterprise. That is why, for example--if I may use just one example in a field not completely related to your businesses--as far as medical care is concerned, we need a new program, one in which everyone in this country who needs it will have health insurance, but in which no one is forced to have it if he doesn't want it.

But also, let's have a program that does not raise taxes. Let's have a program that is not run by the Federal Government, because when I have a doctor, I want that doctor working for me and not for the Federal Government.

Putting it in a larger perspective, let's look at energy. You have heard about our Government .energy program. It will cost $15 billion. We are going to put at least that much in it over the next 3 to 5 years, and that sounds like a very big program.

That is bigger, we can say, than the Manhattan Project. It is as big as the space project. But that isn't really the whole of it. It is only the tip of the iceberg. Because, while the Government will be spending $15 billion, did you know that over the next 10 years, private enterprise, to achieve our goal of becoming independent as far as energy is concerned, private enterprise will be spending $500 billion. That is many times bigger than the Manhattan Project and the space project put together. It will give an enormous boost to the American economy.

So, the prospects for the future, as I say, for those who are young and look ahead for jobs, for more opportunity, they are good. They are good because this Nation has the right kind of an economic system. Let's never forget that, and let's never displace it. They are good because this Nation is strong in terms of its vision, and I believe this is true about the future. And that brings me to the third element of strength that is so important.

As you look over the pages of history and see what has happened to the great civilizations of the past, an ironic fact stands out and is repeated over and over again: The great civilizations of the past, and you have seen, many of you, the ruins in Athens, you have walked, as I have, at night in the Forum at Rome, and you wonder, why did it happen? And whether it was Rome or Greece or some of the other great civilizations, the ironic thing is that they decayed and they fell not when they were poor, but when they were rich; not when they were supposed to be weak materially, but it was at a time when they were strong. In other words, the time of greatest danger for a great country and society is when it is very wealthy, as we are, when it is very strong, as we are, because the tendency then is for a country to become soft, to become complacent, to turn inward from the thrust toward greatness that brought them where they were.

We must not let this happen to America. And I will tell you why it cannot and it will not happen. It cannot and it will not happen because in addition to our military strength and economic strength, the character of the American people, the spirit of the American people is strong.

I can assure you that is the case, whatever the handwringers and the doom cryers say. It is strong all over this country, and it is strong here in Mississippi.

What kind of a spirit is it? The Governor referred to that visit to Gulfport. I remember it very well. It was in 1969. I was returning from California. The war then in Vietnam had just reached its peak, and we were beginning to develop the long process that finally brought it to an end.

And someone from Mississippi, I think the two Senators and Congressmen, called and said, "Can't you stop down at Gulfport and give those people a lift?" And so our plane dropped down at Gulfport. I remember it was in the dusk of the evening, and there were tens of thousands of people there.

And you know what? They told me I was supposed to give them a lift. They gave me a lift. They were wonderful people. I remember one man I talked to--you know, you would like to talk to everybody, but you can only talk to a few. As I went down the line. shaking hands--he was a young man, a farmer, obviously. He was holding his little girl in his arms.

She was about 6 years of age. I will tell you how I can guess. She had two teeth out in front. And I said to him, "Well, how are you doing?" He said, "Well, I lost my home, I lost my barn, I lost my car, I lost my tractor, but," he said, "I got my wife, I got my little girl, and," he said, "I love my country, and I love my State, and I am going to see it through. We are going to come back." That is the spirit that made America.

My final remarks I address not to the older generation, who are here in such great numbers, but primarily to your sons and your daughters and to the younger generation represented in the balconies and behind me as well.

We often think that we live in the worst of times. We often think, wouldn't it be better if we lived someplace else or were born at a different time? Let me say to this younger generation, don't ever buy that, not about America, not about yourself, and not about the time in which you live, because you have a great future.

Our country is going to be and will continue to be the most prosperous. Our country will continue to have more progress and more opportunity for every person in this country, whatever his background, whatever his color or race or creed.

Our country is going to continue to have more freedom than any other country, but it has more than that. When an individual lives only for himself, he cannot be a great individual. When a nation lives only for itself, it loses whatever opportunity it has to be great.

President de Gaulle once said to me in 1963, when I visited him when I was out of office, he said, you know, France is never her true self unless she is engaged in a great enterprise.

America today--and this I say to our young people--we, you, are engaged in truly a great enterprise, not the works of war, but the works of peace. In your hands, in our hands, is the key to peace for America and for the world for generations to come. What we do or fail to do will determine the future of Americans, but also of 3 billion people on this Earth.

And the question is, will America, with all of its wealth, with all of its strength materially, will we have the spiritual strength, the character, the stamina, the vision to lead as we must lead, whether it is in negotiating a peace in the Mideast. whether it is in negotiating a reduction in the burden of armaments in the world, whether it is in developing a dialog with those who are our adversaries, as well as with our friends? America, in order to do that, and an American President, in order to have that kind of leadership, must have the backing of a strong and a united American people.

Let me say to you, my friends, that today that is the challenge we face. Our challenge, then, is not just for ourselves alone. Our challenge is about the whole human race.

That is not original with me. Thomas Jefferson said it much better when America was very young and very poor and very weak. At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he said we act not just for ourselves alone, we act for the whole human race.

That was not true then, but he believed it. And Lincoln believed it, Andrew Jackson believed it, and I am sure Robert E. Lee believed it, and I am sure, too, Woodrow Wilson did, the other Presidents through the years.

What I am saying today is that today, it is true, there is no other nation in the free world of the great nations that has the strength, militarily and economically, to give the leadership which must be given if we are to build a world of peace.

And so, it is all in our hands, and the question is: Will we fail or will we succeed? And the answer is in your hands, and I say that answer will be: We shall not fail. We cannot fail, because Americans are a great people. We would not have come so far all across the prairies and clear over to the Pacific, we could not have survived so many disasters unless we were a good people and a strong people.

And so today, we will be strong not only materially but spiritually. And in the leadership that we will provide to the world, we will be strong, we will meet that challenge, and a day will come--I can see it now--25 years from now a President of the United States, I trust, may be standing in this very place. It will be the year 2000, a new year that comes only once in 1,000 years, and he will look back to this critical generation of ours and he will say, "They did not fail when the going was very difficult and when American leadership was so important to the world."

But even more than that, when that year 2000 comes, if we meet the challenge that destiny has placed upon us, and if we meet it not as a burden, but as an opportunity, gladly, if we meet that challenge, then 3, probably 4 billion people on this Earth will look at America, will look at what we have done, and joining with us, they will say, "God bless America."

Note: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. at the Mississippi State Coliseum.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Annual Convention of the Mississippi Economic Council, Jackson, Mississippi. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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