Remarks at the Annual Dinner of the White House Correspondents Association.
President Knap, President Poe, distinguished guests, and for tonight, friends: [Laughter]
It is a privilege to be here at the White House correspondents dinner. I suppose I should say it is an executive privilege. [Laughter]
I am reminded, of course, that tonight a year has passed, and in that year many things have happened. But all of us know that in that year, two men, who, in their period as President of the United States, were honored x e times by the White House correspondents, have since passed away, and Mr. President, with your permission I think it would be appropriate this evening that everyone would rise in a moment of silence for the memory of President Harry S. Truman and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Thank you.
It is always the special opportunity of the one who is honored at this dinner to speak for all the guests in congratulating those who have received the awards of the evening, to congratulate the officers who have retired and those who are being initiated into their new positions, and also to express appreciation for the splendid music that we have heard from the Mike Curb Congregation, whom we have heard here tonight--also at the inaugural, at the White House, and at the Marine Stadium in Miami last July.
I would like to say a word, too, tonight for a man who has what I have called the most difficult job in this country, the Press Secretary to the President. That has changed. Two years ago, I said the most difficult job in this country was being Press Secretary to the Vice President. [Laughter]
But I have followed, as you have, the press briefings by Mr. Ziegler. His job is difficult because he must serve two masters: He must serve the President of the United States, and he must serve the press. He must serve each with equal loyalty and devotion, and I believe that Ron Ziegler, with great poise, with great patience, with great courtesy has met that dual responsibility. He has been loyal to the President and loyal to the press, and I am glad to pay that tribute to him tonight.
I must say you have really worked him over, however. This morning he came into the office a little early, and I said, "What time is it, Ron?"
He said, "Could I put that on background?" [Laughter]
Needless to say, I am very touched by the gift that has been presented. It is one that will find its way into the Presidential library at an appropriate time but between now and then will be on the Presidential desk. It particularly is meaningful because of what it symbolizes, not simply what Jefferson said about a President wanting peace more than anything else, but what Jefferson said about all Presidents wanting peace above everything else.
And tonight, I think it was very appropriate and, to me, quite moving that Ted Knap referred to the fact that whatever our differences are--and we will have them and should have them in a free society on many, many domestic matters-our desire for a world of peace, our willingness to work for a structure of peace, is one that unifies us all.
He mentioned the trips we have taken, the one to Peking and the journey to Moscow.
I thought that tonight I might be able to have an announcement for another trip this year. I haven't quite made a decision on it yet, but there is one that I am seriously thinking about. You won't need a visa, but I may need one--I was thinking of going up to the Congress. [Laughter] After 4 years of confrontation, it is time for an era of negotiation. [Laughter]
Over these past 4 years, as I am sure all of you will understand, there have been many. times when hard decisions had to be made, but I thought the most difficult time to be President of the United States was when the Nation was at war. And now that burden has been lifted, and I realize the truth, that what David Lawrence, who was a charter member of this club 59 years ago, said to me a couple of years ago is very true: "There is only one more difficult task than being President of this country when we are waging war, and that is to be President of the Nation when it is waging peace."
What he meant, of course, was that the United States has been through many wars--in this century, four of them. And the tragedy is that too often after war we fail to build the structure for lasting peace that will avoid another war.
I would not suggest that there was any fault on the part of those who were presiding over the country in those peacetime years, but I do suggest that all of us have begun a great adventure together. In our trip to Peking, in our journey to Moscow, in reaching a peace agreement on Vietnam, we have laid the foundation, not just for ending a war but for building a peace that will last.
This journey having begun, we now have the great privilege and the challenge to continue it, to continue not only our negotiations with the great super powers that I have mentioned but to continue to build that structure of peace in all the continents of the world, between all nations and all peoples, whatever their differences may be as far as systems of government are concerned.
There is naturally a tendency at such a time, when America has gone through its longest and most difficult war, for so many of us to perhaps wish to relax, not to face up to the burdens of leadership in the world, to cut back on our defenses, to cut back on our efforts, to enjoy the peace that has been so difficult to win.
But this we cannot do, and this we will not do. We cannot do it, because in the whole free world today, as everyone in this room knows, there is no other nation that can provide the leadership for peace in the world. Others have the good intent, but only America has the power, only America has the wealth. And if peace is not kept, if a structure of peace is not built, the responsibility will be ours.
But putting it the other way, if we are able to build a new structure of peace in the world, of a peace that will last, not just for a generation but perhaps longer, then we can all look proudly to that great achievement.
We can do it. It will require the best that is in us. It will require military strength and economic strength and, above all, as I have emphasized on many, many occasions, spiritual strength--spiritual strength in terms of courage, heroism, self-sacrifice, love of country, and faith.
The four returned prisoners of war that all of you have honored so greatly tonight, and who have honored us with their presence tonight, have reminded us of what they and their colleagues have done to reinstill in this country a sense of faith, a sense of patriotism. And I would simply say that any nation that could produce such men as these will not fail to meet the challenge of greatness that destiny has placed upon us.
Note: The President spoke at 10:02 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Ted Knap of the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance was president of the association, and Edgar Poe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Newhouse News Service, was past president.
Prior to the President's remarks, he was presented with a handcrafted sterling silver globe symbolizing his efforts for world peace.
Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Annual Dinner of the White House Correspondents Association. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/255320