Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Annual Republican Fund-raising Dinner

March 27, 1974

Mr. Vice President and all of our distinguished guests:

I am not quite prepared to speak because I understood the Vice President was going to talk for 10 minutes. He must have remembered that he was once a Member of the House of Representatives, where they have a one-minute rule.

In any event, too, I am sorry that I didn't get here in time for the music. I understand it was country-western. I guess that is why you are not in black tie tonight, Senator.1

As a matter of fact, I was rather looking forward to getting here just before they went off, and my wife reminded me I left my Yo-Yo in Nashville. They tell me Chairman Bush had the piano removed from the stage just in case I might be tempted.

So, consequently, I will take the time that has been allotted to me to speak to you about our party, about our candidates, and about the upcoming campaign.

Now, I realize that this is a very distinguished audience and also one that paid a great deal of money for a rather mediocre meal. I don't know that it was that mediocre, but mediocre considering even the present prices--what you paid per seat is a great deal.

When I think of that kind of contribution, I can remember the times when having $10-a-plate dinners or $50 was considered quite large, and I know how much each of you has contributed who have purchased tickets for this dinner. And what I would like to do is to tell you whether or not you made a good bet.

And I would like to put it, if I can, perhaps in terms of horse-racing. There is really quite a relationship, in a sense, between betting on horses and betting on candidates.

Anybody who makes a sizable contribution to a campaign, just as anybody who makes a sizable bet on a horse, asks himself three questions: One, is it a good horse; second, does it have a chance to win; and third, is it worth it? Is it really worth it putting that money out?

Now, in the past few days I have had an opportunity to talk to our chairman, Chairman Bush, and to Senator Brock and Bob Michel,2 and we have gone over most of the Senate races and many of the House races, and based on their report to me, I can tell you, you are betting on good horses this year.

As a matter of fact, I think we are going to field the best group of candidates that we have since the year 1966 when we gained 47 seats in the House and 3 in the Senate.

Now, I come to the second question: Do they have a chance to win? And here I know that there is always a tendency in the spring of an election year to assume that that is the time you determine whether or not your horse or your candidate, in this case the candidate, has a chance to win.

And I have seen, of course, as you have, some of the predictions that our candidates may not do so well this fall. But I would remind you a little of political history, and that is, never bet on what the situation is in the spring, because in the fall it will be different. And it will be different this year because we are going to win in the fall.

I go back quite a few years in political campaigning. I remember the year 1948 I had won both nominations--we could run on both tickets in California in that year in the primary--and consequently, I traveled all over the country that year, and I remember how high our hopes were in the year 1948.

We thought that all of our candidates were going to win, or most all of them, in those close contested districts, because the economy was in a slowdown, there were other problems that seemed to plague the current administration at that time. And then in the spring, after that spring, came the summer, and then came the fall, and what happened?

The economy picked up, the administration came up higher in terms of public support, and instead of winning, we found that we lost control of both the House and the Senate. That is on the negative side.

Now let's turn to a good year--1966. It was just the reverse. I remember early in 1966 and some of you from across this country will remember--that I was out of the office at the time, trying to get back in, of course, but I was out then, but I was traveling all over the country for various fund-raising events, and our people weren't very optimistic.

We had suffered a tremendous defeat in 1964. And in the spring of 1966, particularly the early months of 1966, it didn't seem that good. And I made a rather rash prediction to a group of press men at that time, in about March of that year. I predicted that we would pick up 40 seats in the House, 3 in the Senate, and 8 Governors. I missed a little. We got 47 seats in the House, 3 in the Senate, and 8 Governors. And the reason was because what appeared to be a good year for the administration in the spring of 1966 turned out to be bad in the fall because of an unpopular war that came to the attention of the voters.

Let's look at the lessons of those two campaigns. In 1948, it was the economy which was poor in the spring and very good in the fall. In 1966, it was foreign policy, the issue of peace, in which the prospects early in the year did not seem certainly very detrimental to the administration and those running on the administration tickets, but in the fall in which it was most detrimental to them.

And so, when you come right down to it, there are two great issues that move people in campaigns--just to oversimplify it, as we often do in our public appearances-peace and prosperity.

And I can tell you that first, on the issue of peace, that this Administration and the candidates who support this Administration's policies are going to have a very strong case to present to the American people this fall.

And on the economic side, while we have been going through, as we know, some rather troubled times economically-many of them energy-related--the prospects are that as we come into the second half of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter, in that critical area of September and October, this economy is going to be on the upturn. Unemployment will be coming down again. And so, what we are going to have in the fall of this year for our candidates to point to is peace abroad and prosperity at home, and you give me a good candidate and he can win, running on that kind of platform. That is why I say they can win.

But now let me try to answer a much more profound question. It isn't very profound in horse-racing. Is it worth it? There it is worth it if you have the money to lose. It is worth it if the odds are big enough or whatever the case may be.

I don't happen to bet horses and know much about it, but I understand that is one of the things that enters into it. But in the field of politics, the question of an individual who contributes to a campaign or a candidate, the question that he must ask or she must ask is this: Is it worth contributing to this candidate, is it worth working for this candidate, is it worth fighting for this candidate because he stands for something that is worthwhile?

In other words, is the cause, the cause that our candidates stand for, one that is worth your contributing to, not just what you have contributed tonight but more in the future? Is it one worth working for, because we need your work as well as your dollars? And I say to you, it is. Of course, I am a little prejudiced with regard to the past record. I will discuss that only briefly, but I want to point out to you what our candidates will be for.

This is a year in which our candidates are not going to be running just against, they are going to be for some very great causes, causes that I outlined in the State of the Union Message and that I will outline for you very briefly tonight so that you can see in perspective what I mean when I say, yes, not only do we have good candidates, not only can they win, but it is worth it, worth it to you, worth it to your children, worth it to your country.

First, when you see whether or not it is worth it--and I know most of you who contributed tonight have been contributing to this Administration's candidates over the past 5 years--and as you look over that record, I think you will have to agree it was worth it.

Because what has happened? Well, the litany is one that has always been repeated, and you have heard it over and over again. But summarizing it briefly, when could an Administration point to, as our candidates will be able to point this summer and fall, to the fact that we have ended the longest war in America's history.

We can point also to the fact that we have ended the draft. Somebody was pointing out the other day that in 1968 our young people were burning draft cards. Why aren't they burning them today? Because there is no draft, and we can be very proud of that.

And we can also point out the fact that they are not burning up the campuses, and that is another point of change.

Our prisoners of war--I know that sometimes people may tire of hearing of those brave men. It has been only a year since they returned, but Col. Robinson Risner, who was there for 7 years, was in to see me just yesterday.3 And as he left the office, standing there tall and proud wearing his uniform, going back to duty, I thought how all of us could be proud that we stood the course, that we didn't bug out, and that we made it possible for those men, who suffered so much and who were so brave, to come home as he did, on his feet and not on his knees.

And then in the field of domestic policy, without going into many of the details that could be covered in another speech, I can only say that an historic change has taken place. After 40 years of power moving from the people in the States and being centralized in Washington, D.C., we have turned it around.

We have made a beginning, and we are going to do more. But it is time that the power belongs to the people of this country, and we have done that in these last 5 years through our programs of revenue sharing and others with which you are familiar.

We have launched a winning war against one of those great plagues that sweeps nations at times, the plagues of dangerous drugs. It isn't won yet, and there is more to be done, but we have begun.

And there are many other areas that I could cover in this field, but most important, as we look at the whole picture, we find that not only did we end a war--that has happened before--but that we have begun the process of building not just a peace that is simply an interlude between wars but a peace that will last so that the new generation will be the first generation in this century to grow up in a world of peace.

Oh, we can't guarantee it, but look what has happened: the opening to China, the negotiations with the Soviet Union, our negotiations also with our allies, the development of policies toward Africa, Asia, Latin America, all over the world, the programs that we are presently working on in the Mideast to bring to that troubled area of the world what it has not known for a generation--and as a matter of fact, for hundreds of years--real and permanent peace. All of this has happened. And I think I can safely say that more progress has been made in the last 5 years toward building a permanent peace in the world than any nation has made in the history of this world in those 5-year periods.

But our candidates will not just have to talk to the past, they can talk about the future. And they can talk about why they are needed in Washington at this time, why their votes are needed for a great program, a great program that has come not just from the President of the United States but from our leaders in the Congress, from the members of the Cabinet, and from others who have served in such a distinguished way in our Administration at this time.

Let me outline it for you briefly. In the field of health, a program that will provide health insurance for all of the American people who need it, that will provide health insurance for catastrophic illnesses, which is a weakness in most of the present programs and one which at the same time will not be socialized medicine, but which is based on private insurance and the private medical profession, so that we can maintain the principle that the doctors in this country will always be working for their patients and not for the Federal Government.

You are working for and you are supporting another cause in the field of education. I cannot outline all of the various features of our education program, as I did in a radio speech just a week ago. I can summarize two that are very important: One, the very simple proposition that I think most Americans overwhelmingly support, and that is, the place to educate our children is in their neighborhood schools and not have them bused across town; and second, for us to recognize that the Federal Government, because it has more access to funds than do State and local governments at times, has a role in education, but that when the Federal Government provides money for education, let that money be provided, but let it not come with strings from Washington, because the decisions with regard to what is best for education should be made by the local school districts and not by some bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

In the field of welfare, where we have been trying to get reform and have failed and where we are developing a new program, where we have differences--have had--but where, I am sure, we can reach that kind of program that our candidates will be proud to run on, because it will have one great goal, one that I have reiterated time and again, and that I repeat again tonight: What we must have as our goal is a welfare program that will make it less profitable for a person to go on welfare than to go to work, because that is the only way that America can be strong.

In the field of transportation, a program that will revitalize our Nation's railroads, a program that will continue the great start that we have already made in rebuilding our merchant marine, a program that will continue what we have done in the field of mass transit and, looking toward the future, will provide not only for the cities but for rural communities as well, the mass transit that they need so that our cities and towns will not be choked with traffic.

In the field of energy, one that has been, of course, so close to all of us because of the crisis we had in the Mideast and which is still with us, even though the embargo has been lifted, our candidates will be able to point to a program and a great goal. The goal is independence for the United States, independence in 1980, so that the United States will develop its massive resources, the greatest that any nation in the world has, its coal resources, its oil and gas resources, its nuclear power, and all of the other potential resources, so that by the time 1980 comes this Nation will be independent of any foreign country, and no other foreign country will ever be able to cut off our supply of energy.

And in the field of opportunity--opportunity for all Americans for education, for health, for all of those things that we cherish and love in this country--in this area our candidates will be able to point not only to a fine record in the past but also to a program for the future that every American can be proud of.

Now, if some of you who are somewhat discerning--as this audience, I am sure, is--politically, thinks of all this, you may say, "What does this sound like? Is this just a repetition of a big Government program such as we have had placed before us by previous administrations?"

The answer is absolutely not, because it has these features: One, our programs, all of them, are ones that will not require new taxes. The tax burden on the American people is high enough.

Second, it is one that is based not on making Government bigger, but based on building, through and by private enterprise in the United States, because private enterprise is the way to develop our country.

And third, it is one that is based on the policy that we should move toward not a controlled economy, but a free economy, because a free economy is how we got where we are and the one on which we will build for the future.

And so in this domestic area, I would point out to you that our candidates can say that whether it is in health or education or transportation or energy or any of these areas that you want to mention, they can be proud to be for something. Yes, it is worth it; it is worth every penny that you put up to come to this dinner tonight and every bit of work that you will do for our candidates to work for such a program, because we need them. We need them to get the support that we don't have presently in the Congress for movement on all of these programs that I have laid out before you tonight.

And then there is one other area that I will discuss but briefly. I have touched upon it already in referring to the past, and that is in the area of continuing to build toward our goal of a lasting peace in the world.

We shall continue our negotiations to limit nuclear arms with the Soviet Union and to reduce the burden of armaments for us, for them, for all nations, but it must be mutual.

We will continue our negotiations with the People's Republic of China, because one-fourth of the world's most able people live there and because for the United States not to have communication with that great center of power would be a potential disaster for us in the years ahead when they do become a powerful military force.

We will continue to strengthen our alliances with our friends in Europe, in Asia, and in Latin America. We will continue to build in the Mideast, as I have already told you, a permanent peace in an area which has known so little peace and so much tragedy on both sides over these past 25 years and even beyond that time.

But in order to continue those great purposes, it is essential that America be strong, and I refer to strength in three areas: First, military strength, not because we want to sound jingoistic, but because it has to be recognized that only the United States of America today in the free world has the military strength to keep the peace in the world, because that is the fact. Let us always be sure that the United States is never the second strongest nation in the world. That is why we are for that kind of strength.

And the second area is economic strength. We must not sap this economy with Government controls. We must continue to move toward a program not based on scarcity whether in any field, agriculture or any other, but based on abundance and production, based on a belief in private enterprise and encouragement of private enterprise, and a removal wherever possible of those Government restrictions that inhibit the development of the energies of the great people of the United States of America.

And third, we need strength in another area. It is more difficult to describe, but it is perhaps more important even than the other two, because America can be the strongest nation militarily and the richest nation economically, but if Americans lack this third area of strength, we will not be able to play the great role which we must play if a world of peace is to be built, and that is, we need strength of purpose. We need a sense of destiny. We need a recognition on the part of the people of this great country that we live at one of those great historic turning points in history in which this Nation of 200 million holds the fate of the whole world in its hands.

Overstatement, you say? Look at the world. Look at the free world. There is no other nation that can do it, and none that will. Look at the other parts of the world, and you will see what the proposition would be, in the event the United States bugged out in a sense of responsibilities in the world.

And so, a strong America militarily, economically, and strong in purpose, that is what we need, and that is what we stand for. But when I speak of that strong America, I realize that sometimes, particularly among our young people, that is not a very popular cause.

Haven't you often heard it said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the United States didn't have to carry these great burdens in the world? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could turn away from these great budgets that we have to have in the military field and concentrate solely on building prosperity and health and welfare here in the United States of America?" And my answer is, if the United States were alone in the world, that would be true. My answer is, if someone else could carry this burden, that would be true.

But my answer is that a prosperous United States and a United States with the best health and welfare and transportation programs in the world is not going to mean anything unless we have peace in the world, and for that reason we must recognize that this is not a burden to be borne and borne simply by crying out against it, but it is a challenge and an opportunity to be met, because now I come to something that will inspire young people and older Americans as well, I hope, and it is this:

We are a great people, but a people, history tells us, can only be great when it is engaged in a great enterprise; a people can only be great when it is engaged in an enterprise greater than itself.

That was true of America from the beginning. American statesmen from the time of our beginning spoke of America meaning something, not just to America but to the whole world. It was not quite true then, but it is totally true today.

And so, today the peace of the world is in our hands. Whether America furnishes the leadership, whether we maintain the strength militarily, economically, in a purpose, that is in our hands. And that is what your cause is.

And I say to you, my friends, tonight that is a great cause. I say to you that as you have come to this dinner and, I trust, enjoyed the program, and as you will be watching these candidates, remember, there is more work to do, there is more money to be raised. But it isn't simply because we want to win--yes, we want to win--it is because America needs the kind of leadership that these candidates across the country--those who are running for reelection and the new candidates--the kind of leadership that they can provide.

And it is because that at this particular time in our history, America has a great goal, a great goal at home which I have described, but an even greater goal abroad in which we, in America, what we do--just think of it--will determine the fate of 3 billion people on this Earth for the balance of this century and maybe thereafter.

My friends, that is America's destiny. That is why we are here. That is what we are going to be working for, and I can tell you, with the help of the candidates that you are going to help to elect and with your support over these next 3 years, we are going to achieve these great goals for America and the world.

1 The President was referring to Senator Bill Brock of Tennessee, who was master of ceremonies for the dinner.

2 George H. Bush was chairman of the Republican National Committee, Senator Brock was chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Representative Robert H. Michel was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

3 On March 26, 1974, Col. Robinson Risner, USAF, accompanied by Senator and Mrs. Henry L. Bellmon of Oklahoma, met with the President in the Oval Office at the White House to present him with a copy of a book he had written, recounting his experiences as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Note: The President spoke at 9:53 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel. The dinner was cosponsored by the Republican National Committee, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Annual Republican Fund-raising Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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