Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Congressional Banquet.

March 07, 1972

Commander Vicites, all of the distinguished guests and all of the very honored winners of the Voice of Democracy Contest who are here tonight, and my friends, and I can say also my comrades, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

I am honored to be here for two very important reasons: first with regard to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the second with regard to the honored guests tonight.

Your Commander has spoken very generously of my participation over many years, not only as a member but also as a speaker on many occasions before various meetings of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, including, of course, several conventions and several dinners of this type. I would like to say a word to those who are members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, those who are leaders from all over the United States.

I want to tell you something about what your support has meant to the man, who. ever that man is, who happens to be President of the United States. The man who is President of the United States has to make many difficult decisions. Some of them are decisions that have to do with domestic affairs in which there is legitimate controversy and in which men and women of good will can have very vigorous differences of opinion.

Others are matters that affect the security of the Nation in which there are also differences of opinion. But also, there are some issues in which whoever happens to be President of the United States must have assistance far beyond his party; he must have assistance from the Nation, from people of both parties, from men and women who put the country first and the party second.

Over the past 3 years there have been numbers of occasions when I have had to make some decisions in the field of foreign policy that were somewhat controversial. I remember on many of those occasions that I have asked for the assistance of and the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and whatever that decision was, whether it was a decision that was necessary to keep America strong through developing a system of defense against nuclear weapons, whether it was a decision to defend American men who were fighting abroad by taking action that was terribly difficult but terribly important for their survival, whatever the decision was, I can say that on occasion after occasion when I have talked to whoever happened to be .the Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whether it was Chief Rainwater or Commander Vicites, I have asked them and never have the Veterans of Foreign Wars been found wanting when the chips were down.

The Commander has referred to the fact that I have returned from a journey. That journey, to many people, meant perhaps more than a realist would recognize that it should mean, and that is that because a trip has been taken, because the leader of a very powerful nation, the United States of America, was meeting with a leader of the most populous nation of the world, that this meant that peace was going to be something that we could assume, something that now made it no longer necessary for us to maintain the strength, the strength in arms, even more important, the strength in character which America has had in the past and which it needs at the present time.

Let me put that trip, perhaps, in its proper perspective in just a moment. The trip was necessary, necessary because, as we look at the history of this organization, I think of the fact that most of us who are members were veterans of World War II. I think of the fact that for the veterans of World War II, their younger brothers fought in Korea and their sons fought in Vietnam, and the great question of our time is simply this: Are their grandchildren, are those who sit here, these winners, are they and their children going to fight in another war?

We look at those wars: World War II, Korea, Vietnam. It is most significant to note that each of them, for the United States, came from the Pacific. World War II began in the Pacific for America. Korea came from the Pacific, and Vietnam, of course, came from the Pacific. So the great question is: Can we, those of us who have positions of leadership, develop a new policy, a new relationship, which will not guarantee peace, because that can never be sure, but which will provide a better chance that we can have peace in the future?

As I said over and over again on this recent journey, there is no question about the differences that we have with the leaders of the most populous nation in the world, differences that are deep in philosophy, and very deep in terms of our views about the world. But there is also no question about this: that is, that if the most populous nation in the world and the nation at the present time that is the most powerful nation in the world, if they do not communicate, the chances of our having peace in the Pacific and peace in the world are very dim.

If, on the other hand, we can establish a process by which we can talk about our differences, rather than fight about our differences, the chance that these young people in front of us can grow up in a period which we did not enjoy, a generation of peace, is infinitely better. That is why the trip was necessary, and that is why we took it.

I do not hold out any false hopes. I would only say that in this period when we are entering negotiations with those who could be our enemies, not only there but in other parts of the world, the need for the United States of America to maintain its strength its military strength, its economic strength, and above all its moral and spiritual strength, its faith in this country, its belief in America--has never been greater. Because if we are to have peace in this period ahead, it will not come if America, with all of its power and all of its wealth, withdraws into itself and refuses to play the role that it must play, play it not for purposes of conquest and not for purposes of domination, but for purposes of using our power so that the world may be one in which nations and peoples with different philosophies can live together, rather than die together.

And so at this particular instant, there has never been a time when we needed in this country more men and women like the men and women who proudly belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who believe in this country, who recognize the need for strength, who also appreciate the necessity for negotiation. There has never been a time when we needed people who thought along those lines more.

I remember talking with President Eisenhower once, and he said something very significant, very early in his Administration. He said, "There is no one who hates war more than someone who has seen a lot of it." of course, he was a great example of that truth.

That could be said of all of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And yet you, as Veterans of Foreign Wars, you know that if we are to have peace, it will not come through weakness, and on the other side it will not come through belligerence, but it will come through strength, and the willingness to negotiate a new era in which we can have peace, peace through strength and conciliation at the very highest level.

That brings me to our honored guest tonight. I have been thinking of these dinners I have attended. I have been thinking of the men I have appeared with on the occasion of these dinners, appeared for and spoken in behalf of.

Senator Jackson, who is a man who, when all these great issues have come before the Senate, stood very firm for the cause of a strong United States, for putting the country above party.

I think of Congressman Arends. Congressman Arends, a man who could always be counted upon through all the years that I have known him--I have not known him quite as long as he has been in the Congress, but almost--but a man who always, like Senator Jackson, put the country first and his party second.

And I think tonight of Doc Morgan. Now, Doc Morgan is going to follow me, so I had better say nice things about him. In speaking of Doc Morgan, I want to speak of the House of Representatives because he, as you know, is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. I think of Doc Morgan, of Speaker Carl Albert, Chairman George Mahon, who is here tonight, of the Appropriations Committee, of "Tiger" [Olin E.] Teague, the chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. It occurred to me, as I mentioned those names, they are all Democrats. As I mentioned those names, it occurs to me, too, that the immediate past Commander of the VFW and the present Commander of the VFW are Democrats. So why am I here?

I am here for this reason: One of the most eloquent of all the men who have served in American political life was a Senator from Indiana around the turn of the century. All of you have read about him; you have read Bower's life of Beveridge. This great Indiana Senator made perhaps some of the greatest speeches ever heard in the Senate or in this country. He once said something that I thought was very simple but very eloquent. That was that one who is a partisan of principle is a prince of statesmanship. Those are the men we honor tonight.

I could speak of Doc Morgan in terms of his years of service on the Foreign Affairs Committee, chairman of that committee since 1959. I know that every time I, in my 3 years in this office, have called upon him, he has not been found wanting. I know that whether we speak, and I now mention those in the House of Representatives with whom he has worked, whether it is Speaker Albert, or the former Speaker, Speaker McCormack, or George Mahon, or Tiger Teague, and let's get one Republican in it, or Les Arends, that whenever an issue came up that involved this Nation, its security, its strength, the peace that we all want, he was a man who was a partisan, a strong partisan, but a partisan for principle, and therefore a prince of statesmanship.

I honor him tonight as a prince of statesmanship.

Note: The President spoke at 8:52 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Sheraton-Park Hotel. He spoke without referring to notes.

Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania received the organization's Congressional Award at the banquet.

Following his remarks, the President greeted the 53 winners of the Voice of Democracy contest, sponsored annually by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The winners, high school students from the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Canal Zone, and Pacific areas, had written brief radio scripts on the theme, "My Responsibility to Freedom."

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Congressional Banquet. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives