Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Convention of the National Federation of Republican Women.

October 22, 1971

Mrs. Gladys O'Donnell, all of the distinguished guests here on the rostrum, and all of the distinguished delegates and guests to the convention of the Women's Federation:

I feel somewhat lonely here, in one sense. I am the only man on the platform. I must say, that is a better break than a woman gets when she goes before the American Bar Association, however.

I am proud of the two men that I announced last night as appointees to the Supreme Court. They are men who, I think like the other two appointees that I have named, Mr. Chief Justice Burger and Mr. Justice Blackmun--are fine legal scholars, and also, they share the philosophy of judicial conservatism that I think the Supreme Court and the Nation wants at this point.

While I know that a great number in this audience, including my wife, felt very strongly that not only should a woman be considered but that a woman should be appointed, let me say that at least we have made a beginning, and there will be a woman on the Supreme Court in time.

As a member of the American Bar Association, and with great respect for that august organization, just let me say that when its jury of 12 decides on the qualifications of individuals that the President of the United States, through the Attorney General, submits to them for consideration, the jury should at least have one woman on it, not all men, if they are going to consider a woman. I am sure that will come.

Let me say with regard to this Federation that I am delighted to welcome you here, and because of the people that have appeared on your program already this morning and because of what has happened up to this time, I would like to be permitted some personal notes.

First, I am glad that you have heard from Lenore Romney. She is a fine and eloquent speaker. Second, she represents a group of women that I am very proud of and that the Nation, I think, should be very proud of. She is one of our Cabinet wives. I think the highest compliment that I can pay to them is that they are intelligent. I know that because, for the first time in history, Cabinet wives have attended Cabinet meetings on occasion.

Second, she has, as the rest of our Cabinet wives have, not only an interest in Government but they are loyal to their husbands; they support them; they are loyal to the Administration. And third, they are ladies, and that is what, certainly, a Cabinet wife should be.

Second, I would like to have had the opportunity to meet everybody here personally. However, since I did not have that opportunity, you got the best of the bargain, because I know my wife Pat said that yesterday she shook hands with 2,700, which is a record.

Third, I want to pay a tribute to your outgoing president, Gladys O'Donnell. I really helped to raise her, at least in politics certainly, because I remember the campaign of 1950, 21 years ago, when Gladys O'Donnell headed a women's organization that went up and down the State of California. If it had not been for Gladys O'Donnell and that group of devoted women, I might not have been in the Senate, and I would not be here today. So, thank you, Gladys, for what you have done.

Now, that admission indicates to you how much power I think women have, how much you can contribute to a campaign, how much your support will count, particularly in a hard-fought and close election. I, however, am not going to talk to you in partisan terms today. I am not going to talk to you in terms of what the issues will be next year when we go into the great campaign of 1971.

I would prefer at this time, over a year before the election of 1972, to talk about the theme of your convention: "The Spirit of '76."

Now, if the photographers would please sit down so that the ladies in back could see--thank you very much.

What does "The Spirit of '76" mean to America? Why is it that you have selected it for a theme? Let me put that spirit in the context of great events that are occurring on the world scene today, events that I know you have heard about. You have studied them. Some of you may be concerned about them.

But I think by putting them in perspective, we can see how "The Spirit of '76" is so needed in America today and may be decisive in determining where America will be in the last third of this century.

Obviously, the eyes of the world are on the great events in the field of foreign policy. When we look back to the year 1968 and early 1969, when this Administration came into office, we see that we had a war that had no end in sight, with 300 casualties a week, 550,000 Americans were in Vietnam. There was no peace plan on the table. There was a rather hopeless feeling about foreign policy, a hopeless feeling about ending that war in an honorable way, and a hopeless feeling about developing a policy that would avoid other wars.

Because changes occur so gradually, some of us fail to realize how much the world has changed in those 3 years, and changed for the better because it is not hopeless now. We are ending the longest and most difficult war in America's history, and in an honorable way. We are ending it in a way that will not jeopardize the peace that we are trying to build, in a way, as a matter of fact, that will build for the peace in the Pacific and peace in the world which we are all interested in.

But we have gone far beyond that. Just ending a war would be an accomplishment; but as I look down to the end of this century, I think of the fact--particularly, as I see these teenagers here in front of us, these wonderful pages that you have, and I see them all over the country at the meetings that we have, I think of their future--I think of the fact that in this century we have not yet had one full generation where we have had peace for the United States.

We had World War I, and when it was over everybody thought, "Well, we are not going to have a war now for the next generation," then World War II came along. Then with the end of World War II and the United Nations conference, there were great hopes for peace until the end of the century, and then Korea came along. Then after President Eisenhower ended Korea, we thought that, "Well, we are not going to have to go through this again, at least for some time," and then Vietnam came along. Now Vietnam is coming to an end.

So the question is not just ending a war; the question is building a peace. There is nothing that I want more in the world than to see these teenagers, young Americans today, to have what we have not had in this century: a generation of peace. I believe we can do it.

But you build a generation of peace by talking not just to your friends but to your opponents. That is one of the reasons why I am making an historic trip to Mainland China. That is one of the reasons why I am also making a trip to the Soviet Union.

I have no illusions, just as they have no illusions, that these trips are going to solve the differences that exist between great powers that have philosophical and geographical and national differences that cannot be resolved by one meeting, or perhaps by any series of meetings.

But I do know this: As I look to the future of the world, as I look at the 750 million people who live in Mainland China, as I look at the 300 million people who live in the Soviet Union, I realize that it is far better, even though we have differences that cannot be settled, to talk about those differences than fight about them. And that is what we are going to do.

I believe that these trips, combined with the other initiatives that we have taken, talking to our friends in Europe, in Latin America, in Africa, and Asia, will help to build the structure which is essential to have a generation of peace.

We cannot guarantee it. That would be unfair. It would raise hopes that might be dashed. But we shall work toward it, and we have a better chance to get it than we have had at any time since World War II, because we have a policy and a plan directed toward that end; not one that looks just to the next election, not one that looks just to the end of the present war, but one that says, "How do we avoid other Vietnams; how do we open the world so that we can travel freely throughout the world; how do we have negotiation rather than confrontation?"

This is what we work on, and this is the great goal that "The Spirit of '76," of course, will, we trust, be celebrating.

Then we come to the other side of the coin. We have peace in the world let's assume that we have it--what does that mean for America?

Well, peace in the absence of war is one thing, but that is a very limited and a very inadequate goal. What we must recognize is: As we have peace in the world, the challenges of peace become very great, because as the danger of war goes down, the challenge of peace inevitably rises.

You can see how that would be the case. Nations that before this have not been our competitors will be our competitors. Take the situation even since World War II. Who would have thought 25 years ago that Japan and Germany, on their backs economically as a result of the war, would now be the two major competitors in the free world of the United States of America?

As we look further down the road, certainly the Soviet Union, Mainland China with its 750 million very able people, will be increasingly competitors of the United States in the world economically, militarily perhaps, but also competitors in those things of the spirit to which your convention is addressed.

I want to say to this group of ladies today: You are a group of Republicans, but the cause in which you are engaged, working for "The Spirit of '76" becoming infused throughout this land of ours, among our people, is bigger than party; it is as big as America; it is as big as the whole world itself. I want to tell you today that in this last third of a century as we have peace and as we work for peace, we must use it.

We must remember that in order to keep the peace America must be strong-strong militarily--as long as that strength is necessary. We, therefore, must not reduce our arms strength unless we have an agreement with others, who might threaten us, to reduce theirs. This is a sound position.

We need also be strong economically. That is why we have a new economic policy. And let me say that there has been nothing more gratifying during the years I have been in public life than to hear from thousands of Americans all over this country--workers who gave up a wage increase, businessmen who gave up a price increase--to find that Americans are willing to give up a wage increase or a price increase that would benefit some of the people in order to stop the rise in the cost of living for all of the American people.

A strong economy means employment for Americans and jobs for Americans. But it means employment and jobs without war. Do you realize that you have to go clear back to the Eisenhower Administration, 1955 and 1956, to find full employment in America without war? We can get it again, and that is what we are working toward at the present time.

But a strong America also means an America that is strong in spirit. I often refer to the time when America's spirit was probably strongest. It is hard to say "certainly," but certainly we can say "probably." I refer to the period 1776. Just think of that country then: 1776--13 colonies, 3 million people, weak militarily, poor economically, and yet with the spirit, a flaming idealism that caught the imagination of the whole world. That was the America that we had and that we inherit today.

It was that spirit--a spirit that did not not depend on military strength, that did not depend on economic wealth, a spirit that came from the soul, from the hearts of the American people--it was that spirit that has made this country move now into the first ranks of all the nations of the world, the strongest nation in the world militarily, the richest nation economically.

But let me leave this great lesson with this group of women of America: As we look at the civilizations of the past, many that were strong militarily and rich economically were destroyed. And they were destroyed from within because they had lost that strength of spirit, that faith, that idealism, that patriotism that is essential-love of country--for a country to survive. Let's not let that happen in America. Today, therefore, as you go back to your cities, remember: You are working for a generation of peace. You are working for a strong America that can keep that peace, strong militarily. You are working for a strong America economically in which our young people can look forward to employment without the cost of war and without inflation. These are great goals.

But also remember that the greatest service that you can render is to help to reinstill in America's young people a love of country, a faith in God, a faith in themselves that is essential if a nation is to be truly a great nation.

We had it 200 years ago. We have had it through most of our history. The great question is: Now, as America becomes rich and strong, are we going to lose it? We must not let this happen. That is why the theme "The Spirit of '76" is so important.

From having raised this question, don't get any idea that I have any doubts about the faith in this country and "The Spirit of '76." It is here, all right.

I was talking to an ambassador the other day. He was a new ambassador. He had just presented his credentials and he came in to see me. He had had an opportunity to travel for 2 months around the country. He said, "You know, Mr. President, I have been amazed by what I find in the country." He said, "I am in Washington here and I have been reading the papers and talking to my colleagues in Washington and I get an entirely different picture of America in Washington than I get in the country. In the country there is belief in this country. There is strength. There is a different America out there than there is here." And he is right.

This is no reflection on the city of Washington. We are proud of the fact, incidentally, that we have now reduced crime in the city of Washington, and this is no longer the first city of the Nation in terms of crime.

It simply means that in a nation's capital-and this is true in most nations' capitals-you usually have emphasis on the bad news, on what is wrong about the country, and they pound it and pound it and pound it because it is news, not because they are against the country.

But let me say this: Sometimes it is essential, in order to keep your sense of perspective, to leave Washington and go out into the country. I am the first President to have visited all 50 States, and I am glad that I have done it. Every visit has given me a lift, given me hope and strength to come back and do the job which is my responsibility to do.

A woman from Virginia came to see me a few months ago. She was a lovely lady, about 75 years of age. She had stitched a flag for me, an American flag. It had taken her a year and 2 months to make. She told me there were 78,000 individual stitches in it. I said, "My, that must have been a terrible burden, a terrible chore." And this was her answer: She said, "No, ,Mr. President, it was not at all." She said, "Every stitch in that flag represents something right about America."

Then yesterday, while you were taking your tour of the White House, another lovely lady came to see me. She was from Cincinnati, Ohio--Mrs. Ruth Voss, the mother of eight children. She worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Incidentally, whenever I get discouraged with the Washington Post, I read the editorials in the Cincinnati Enquirer. But she works as their teenage editor. Over the past few years, this woman, with eight children, has given over 50 percent of her time working on projects for teens. Her present project is to develop in Cincinnati a halfway house for girls who have gone to correctional institutions and then come back into productive life and, of course, need a chance, a chance to get some hope, a job, and so forth.

As she described what she was doing, not in a boasting way because I was probing her to find out what she was doing, I realized what a perfectly remarkable woman she was. I also realized that across this country there are hundreds of thousands of women like her doing volunteer work, with young people, with older people, with those who have not had a chance, with those who were disabled.

I think of the volunteer spirit of America, and I think what a good country this is.

Mrs. O'Donnell, I simply want to say that I am proud to appear here, to be before you, to thank all of you in this room for the support you have given, not just to our party but to the cause for which we stand over the past years. But most of all, I want to thank you for having faith in this country, for believing in America. I want to thank you for having as the theme of your convention "The Spirit of '76."

The spirit of 1776 is going to mean that in 1976 America will still be strong and good, the best country in the world.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel to delegates attending the Federation's biennial convention.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Convention of the National Federation of Republican Women. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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