Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation's Christmas Tree.

December 14, 1973

Mr. Dixon, Mr. Secretary, all of the distinguished guests on the platform, all of the ladies and gentlemen, all of the children here in the audience, and our television and radio audience across this land:

I think one of the greatest privileges that a President of the United States has is to light the Christmas tree, the Nation's Christmas tree, because it belongs to. all the Nation, here in the Nation's Capital.

This year, as the Secretary has already indicated, the tree is different. This year, Christmas will be different in terms of lights, perhaps, all across America. Instead of having many lights on the tree, as you will see over there in a few moments, there will be only one on it, the star at the top, and the other lights you see will simply be the glitter from the ground lights which are around the tree.

And in a way, I suppose one could say with only one light on the tree, this will be a very dreary Christmas, but we know that isn't true, because the spirit of Christmas is not measured by the number of lights on a tree. The spirit of Christmas is measured by the love that each of us has in his heart for his family, for his friends, for his fellow Americans, and for people all over the world. And this year, while we have a problem, a problem the Secretary has alluded to, the problem of energy, I think that what we can all be thankful for is that it is a problem of peace and not a problem of war. That is what Americans can be thankful for.

This year we will drive a little slower. This year the thermostats will be a little lower. This year every American perhaps will sacrifice a little, but no one will suffer. But we will do it for a great goal, the goal, first, of seeing to it that in a year when our energy supplies are not as high as we need, we can prepare for the future, and also a year in which America will make a great stride forward toward a new, great goal, and that is, by the year 1980 this Nation, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary of independence in 1976-by 1980 will celebrate Project Independence, when we are independent of any other country in the world where our energy supply is concerned. That we can do.

As we consider these problems of peace, I think also we must be thankful, as the Secretary has already indicated, for the fact that this is the first Christmas in 12 years that a President has stood here at a time when America was at peace with every nation in the world.

It is the first Christmas in 8 years when no American prisoner of war is away from home at Christmas. And to all of these young people, and particularly to our very distinguished young people who participated in this program, it is also a Christmas for the first time in 20 years when no young American is being drafted for the armed services. That is what peace means to America.

It would be well, of course, for us to stand simply on that achievement, but we know that there will always be threats to the peace of the world, and that is where we come in, and where each American comes in, looking to the future. Because as we look at the chances not just of getting peace, which we have now achieved, but of keeping peace, which we have not been able to do for a full generation, for a century, then what happens in America will decide it, whether America has the strength not just of its arms but more, of its spirit to provide' the leadership that the world needs to keep the trouble spots in the world from blowing up into war and to build that permanent structure of peace that we all want.

It is that to which we dedicate ourselves as we light the Nation's Christmas tree tonight. Let the year 1974 be one in which we make great progress toward the goal of a lasting peace, peace not only for America but for all nations, peace between peoples who have different forms of government, but who nevertheless can be friends.

A moment ago when the flowers were presented to Mrs. Nixon by Tyna, I remembered an occasion in 1959 when a little girl presented flowers to her in the Ural Mountains in Russia. We were driving through the mountains, and a group of schoolchildren stopped the cavalcade for a few moments and they presented flowers to Mrs. Nixon. And when they did so in this year 1959, when the cold war was still going on, they shouted out "Friendship, friendship" in English. When we got back into the car, our guide, Mr. Zhukov, said to me that the first word that a Russian child who learns English and studies English in a Russian school learns is the word "friendship." That is the first English word the Russian child learns.

Now, I do not mean to suggest by that that because a Russian child is taught, when he first studies English, the word "friendship" that it is inevitable that the Russian people and the American people are not going to have differences as far as their governments are concerned, but I do know this: We have had the great privilege, Mrs. Nixon and I, of traveling to most of the nations of the world, to the nations of Africa, to the nations of Asia, to China, to Russia, and I can tell you that the people of the world want peace, the people of the world want friendship, and every American, I know, wants his country and his Government to take the lead in building a world of peace.

As this Christmas season begins, let us just remember we do have some problems which we will overcome, but they are the problems of peace. And we also have a great challenge, the challenge of helping to build a structure of peace that all the 3 billion people in this world can enjoy. What a wonderful achievement that can be.

There are times, of course, when we tire of the challenge. There are times when we would not like to accept that position of leadership, but let us remember that unless America, at this time in history, accepts the responsibility to lead for peace, we may not have it in the world.

I think we can meet the challenge. I am sure we will. And on this particular day, in this year 1973, as we look at the beginning of the year 1974, let us so conduct ourselves as a people, let us so conduct ourselves as a nation in our leadership toward peace that in the years to come, people, not only in America but all over the world, will look back at what we have done, will look back and say "God bless America."
Thank you.

MR. JOHN W. DIXON (president, 1973 Christmas Pageant of Peace Committee). Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mrs. Nixon, for being here.

Mr. President, on behalf of the American people, I would like to ask you to do us the honor of lighting the National Community Christmas Tree.

THE PRESIDENT. Now I would like to suggest that this honor should be shared, and who better to share it with but young Americans, so if Tyna and Warren would join me here, we will press this button together and light the tree.

There! We got it.

Note: The President spoke at 5:45 p.m. at the 1973 Christmas Pageant of Peace ceremonies on the Ellipse near the White House. His remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.

The National Community Christmas Tree was lighted with the help of Tyna A. Lee of the Camp Fire Girls of America and Warren P. Tilghman of the Boy Scouts of America.

In his opening words, the President referred to Secretary of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation's Christmas Tree. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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