Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins, West Virginia.

October 08, 1971

Your Majesty Queen Sylvia, Your Royal Highnesses of the Mountain Festival Court, all of the distinguished guests who have participated in this program, and all of you who are gathered here on the campus of this great college:

I want you to know that I am privileged to be here, and since, in the introduction, mention has been made of the historical significance of a visit of the President of the United States anyplace on the earth, let me tell you that this has a special meaning to me today for some very personal reasons.

Since I have assumed this office, I have traveled further in that space of time than anyone who has held it. That is not because particularly of what I was able to do, but because transportation speeds up and we have faster planes; we can go further and faster than ever before. But as I stand here today, this is a moment when, for the first time since we had 50 States, a President of the United States has visited every one of the States of the Union. West Virginia is number 50.

When Governor Arch Moore came to talk to me about coming here, he, along with Congressman Staggers and the two Senators were also speaking on that subject, I reminded him that it would be the 50th State. He said, "We don't mind your coming to West Virginia as the 50th State, but remember, we are not the 50th State; we are the first State in this country."

It is that kind of State pride, that kind of competitive spirit, that has made this country great, that makes this State great, that makes the people of these hills and these mountains have the character and the strength that you have had from the time you were a State.

I want you to know that in all of my travels to 50 States, I have seen many beautiful days, many great crowds, but I can say without fear of contradiction-and all the members of the press, of the White House corps who are traveling with me, will agree--that never in any one of the 50 States have we seen a more beautiful day, a more beautiful court, or more beautiful country than we have here in West Virginia today.

Could I also on this occasion pay tribute not only to the queen and her court, those lovely ladies, but also to those who have served with me and are serving with me at the present time, working for your State and for this country: to your Governor, who is in my office on so many occasions working for what West Virginia needs and for what it is entitled, a man that I have great respect for and one who has demonstrated on so many occasions that he is one who is extremely effective in advocating what the people of his State need and what they should have in terms of Federal cooperation; to your two Senators.

I know that Senator Jennings Randolph once taught at this school, and as I stand here on this campus I am reminded somewhat of my own college. I attended a small college, a coeducational college like this, with a religious background, a college on a hill. And I have always been very happy that I went to that college, a small college; proud of it. I agree that much can be learned and gained from going to a large school. I took my graduate work at a large school, Duke University, but I can assure you that those who have the tradition of smaller colleges--and I will include in that not only Davis-Elkins but also Marshall University, the alma mater of our queen--let's give a hand to small colleges today, as well as to the large ones.

Also, when we refer to our queen, I feel very fortunate and very close to this particular festival because Mrs. Nixon's top administrative assistant in charge of her staff was the queen of this festival--and you can't tell it from looking at her, she doesn't look nearly that old--in 1959, Connie Stuart. We are happy to have one of your alumni working on our White House Staff.

Now a word about your two Senators. They are members of a different party than I happen to belong to, but I can tell you that when the problems of West Virginia are involved, there are no differences between Arch Moore, Jennings Randolph and Senator Byrd and Harley Staggers and Richard Nixon. We agree in attempting to work on and to solve those problems.

I can also say, speaking of your two Senators particularly, and I will have more to say about the Congressman in a moment, that when the great issues of national defense are involved, the security of America, they do not vote Democrat or Republican or partisan; they vote American, and that is what we need in this country. So I pay my respects to two members of the Democratic Party who have served this State and served this Nation well in their service. One is the Whip of the Senate; one is the longtime leader of the Senate--Bob Byrd and Jennings Randolph.

Now, to my friend Harley Staggers, I know what this festival must mean to him on this day: to think last year his daughter was the queen, on other occasions two of his daughters have been princesses, and his fourth daughter was the vice president of the student body of the University of West Virginia, and the university, the Mountaineers, as you know, furnished our fine ROTC color guard today. I look at Harley Staggers. Here in his family, he has a queen, he has two princesses, he has a vice president, and he is just a Congressman.

Now, I think that the man of the family should have the top rank. I cannot suggest that he be the President--I have that job-but I think that today we ought to make Harley Staggers king, king for today at least, so that he can rank in his own family.

Now I have perhaps one other surprise for you. It might have been covered in the papers, but many of you have been reading about a long journey that I will be taking in the near future which will take me to Mainland China--the first time that a President of the United States has visited that country in which a fourth of all the people of the world live.

Since I have been President, I have traveled to 50 States. As a matter of fact, I have traveled a quarter of a million miles and never had a bad landing. Also, I have traveled to 24 countries. In about 2 weeks the man who has flown me to these 50 States, who has flown those 250,000 miles, a quarter of a million miles, will be taking Dr. Kissinger and the advance party to Peking to prepare for my trip, and then will fly back and later will take me.

Wouldn't you know it? When I checked his background, he was a tailback for Morgantown High School when they used to play Elkins many, many years ago. So, a man who has a distinguished record of defending his country in war and who now flies the President on missions of peace: I think you would like to see Colonel Ralph Albertazzie, the President's pilot.

He had better not make a bad landing in Peking.

I would not want this splendid occasion, this beautiful day, this joyful ceremony, to end on a note that was too serious, but it seems to me only appropriate, having spoken of these wonderful young people who are members of this court, this ROTC guard--thinking back, as all of us do, with sadness, to that Marshall University football team1 thinking of our young people and their future, wanting them to grow up in a world of peace--let me just say that as I look to the future today, and as I speak to this great audience of Americans here in these beautiful hills of West Virginia, I think that you can look to the future with confidence, more confidence than you could have had any time since the end of World War II, that we can build a world of peace, a safer world, a better world, a more prosperous world, than we have had previously.

1 The President was referring to the plane crash near Tri-State Airport, Huntington, W. Va., on November 14, 1970, which took the lives of 43 members of the Marshall University football team.

That has been the purpose of my travels abroad. That will be the purpose of this trip, a trip to Mainland China, a purpose that does not involve what will happen this year, next year, or even 3 or 4 years from now, but that will see to it, we hope, that 15 or 20 years from now, when that child who brought the crown here will possibly be a queen, that she grows up at a time when we have an open world, when the United States of America is not separated from any other nation without any communication with that nation.

I think it is the responsibility of whoever is President of the United States to do everything that he can not just to bring peace for this generation, but to build a peace for the next generation. We have not had that for a century; that is what we are dedicated to do and that is something we believe that we can contribute to. I can tell you that looking over this great crowd, recognizing that so many are represented here from all walks of life, recognizing, particularly, that so many represented here are young people in college and high school, recognizing too that this State has a great tradition of defending America if war ever became necessary-let me tell you, I will take away memories of a beautiful day, of a wonderfully warm reception, but also a renewed dedication to this proposition:

This America of ours is a beautiful country. The people of this country are a good people. The people of this country deserve peace. The people of this country deserve prosperity without war, and we are going to work for that, and we are going to have it with your help.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:33 p.m. at Davis and Elkins College.

The queen of the 35th annual festival was Catherine Grace Sparacino. "Sylvia" is the traditional name used by each festival queen.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins, West Virginia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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