Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of the Vice President at Downtown Rally, Fresno, CA

November 04, 1960

Thank you very much.

My friends, Tom Kuchel, my fellow members of the Cabinet - incidentally, I think you ought to know who they are here.

There is the Attorney General of the United States - Bill Rogers. Will you stand up, Bill? [Applause.]

And Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare - Arthur Flemming. [Applause.]

I want you to know that this great crowd here in Fresno is one that will remain in the hearts of Pat and me for all of our lives because this is the first stop in California on this last swing and, as I said out at the airport, we feel that we have come to the heart of California when we came to Fresno County. [Cheers and applause.]

Incidentally, there has beer. a request you might pull down your signs so the people in back can hear and see a little better. Would you do that, please?

And also I can see the crowd in the back - and, my, this crowd is bigger than I thought - way back there.

Can you all hear back there?


Now, I want to say, too, that coming to Fresno and seeing all these signs reminds me of the trips that Pat and I have made in previous years out through Sanger and Reedley and all the other towns that we couldn't get to this time - and we thank you for coming not only from there, but we understand from clear down Bakersfield way, from Modesto, Merced, and all the way around. This is really a central California meeting - and, believe me, it means we're on the way in the great Central Valley, and if we're on the way there it means California all the way on November 8 for our ticket. [Cheers and applause.]

As you have noticed, I have acquired a little hoarseness in my voice since I was last here, and that's because - I think you will be interested to know - I have now traveled to 49 States of this Union. [Cheers and applause.] That's more States, of course, than you could have reached in either the '52 or '56 campaign. We didn't have that many then. On Sunday we go to Alaska. That will mean a campaign that will have taken us to 50 States of the Union, and I want you to know that there is no greater inspiration, no more fine experience that you can have than to go to the States of this Union, from Hawaii to Maine, from Florida to Minnesota, and then from California to New York, and see crowds like this, people who will come out, who will stand, all jammed together, as you are, and listen for a few moments to one of the candidates discuss the issues of the campaign.

Let me tell you something. We've heard a lot these days about the things wrong with the United States. We're supposed to be second in education and second in science and second in space. We hear that our people have lost their sense of purpose. They're more interested in tailfins and deodorants than they are in the great national ideals of this country. Well, let me say this: I'm getting tired of hearing people run down the United States of America. [Cheers and applause.] My friends, this isn't a perfect country, but it's the best country in the world. [Cheers and applause.]

There are things wrong with our education, but - make no mistake about it - I've seen Soviet education and I've seen our own and we have the finest schools and our youngsters get the best education in the world and make no mistake about it, and we can be proud of that, too. [Cheers and applause.]

And, while in the course of this campaign it is necessary for candidates to criticize those things that are wrong, let's not lose our sense of proportion. Let's remember that the American people are a people who throughout their history have stood for great ideals, and don't think the strength of idealism ever has run stronger than it is today, and I say that because I have never seen crowds larger than I have seen in every State that we have visited.

What does this mean ? It means that you people care. It means that Democrats, Republicans and independents aren't just going to vote the way their party label may tell them. They aren't going to vote just the way their fathers and grandfathers did. They may, but they want to hear for themselves; they want to decide for themselves; and if you do that, it's going to be good for America, and the American people are all right, in my opinion. [Cheers and applause.]

Now, there's a great tradition in the State of California, as you all know, a tradition which makes it very hard for other States to understand us, a tradition where we vote for the man rather than the party. Its always been the case out here. It's been the case in 1950; 48 years before that. We will find Republicans voting for Democrats and Democrats voting for Republicans, and people in the East and the West and the South throw up their hands and they say: What's the matter with the folks out there in California? Well, strangely enough, I find that that same attitude is developing all over the country today, and I know why. The reason is that the people of America realize that this year, 1960, the issues are so important - it is so essential that America elect the men who can best keep the peace; keep it without surrender, the men who can move America forward, and move her forward in the way that will be most effective for all of us - that they say we can't just vote according to party labels. We've got to think of what is best for America first, rather than party first, and that is what we ask you to do in this election campaign. [Cheers and applause.]

Now, if you will think for just a moment with me, look to the future of America. What are the things that we think of and that we want? Well, I was thinking, as I looked at all these wonderful high school bands over here and as I was seeing Leo Carillo again introducing Tom Kuchel and Tom introducing me, of what had happened in the State of California alone from the time that Leo and his grandparents and the like, who are original Californians, came here, and even from the time my parents came here. Ours has had the most fabulous progress of any State in the Union, and I think the reason for that has been that the people who came to California were people that were never satisfied with things as they are. They came out here because they were on the go. They wanted a better life. They wanted to build a better life for their children than they had for themselves.

I remember my father always used to say that to the five of us, the five boys in our family, when we were growing up. He never used to say: I want to go back to the good old days. And he never used to say: Look, you're pretty lucky to have it as good as you have it today. He always used to say in America we want a better life for our children than we have had for ourselves - and that's what we want, and that's what we're going to get, but we're going to get in, in my opinion, by building on the tremendous progress we have had under Dwight D. Eisenhower. [Cheers and applause.]

Now, here's where you come to a fundamental choice. You see, my opponent says America has been standing still for the last 7½ years; hasn't moved of the dime, and now we've got to get her going again. Now, look here - look around Fresno County. You've had the most fantastic growth in the last 7½ years of any area in the country, and why did it happen? It happened because you had an administration in Washington which encouraged individuals to get out and make their contributions to progress in this county and in this State, and I say, my friends, we do not want to stop those policies, but we want to build on them and to see that we continue that growth rather than to stop it, and I think that, as I carne here on the 75th anniversary of Fresno, was the spirit of that city then. It's the spirit of this crowd here, and I call assure you that America knows that we have been moving forward and we do not want to go back to the policies we left when Dwight Eisenhower became President in 1953. [Cheers and applause.]

That means, then, that we will move forward in education. We will move forward in health. We will move forward in our reclamation projects. We will move forward in the next 4 years, even more thin we have in the last 4. Why? Because we have a better start. Because we have a broader base on which to build. Because we have programs in all of these fields, programs that will move America forward, and move her in a, far more effective way than will our opponents. [Cheers and applause.]

Why do I say that? I say that for this reason. You know, many times people ask me: "Mr. Nixon, why don't you go around and do what your opponent does? Why don't you just promise the people everything, promise that you will go around and if there is a problem, the Federal Government is going to solve it; if there is a problem, the Federal Government is going to spend some money?"

I could do that - and let's get one thing straight right now. There's one thing we can agree upon. My opponent will spend $15 billion a year more than I would spend as President of the United States, but let me tell you something: It isn't his money, but yours he's going to spend. [Cheers and applause.]

Now let me put it this way; It would be very easy for me, its a candidate, to come before an audience like this and say: "For every problem, you don't have to worry about a thing, I'm going to hand it in Washington. We're going to spend some money, I want to win this election." Why don't I say it? I'll tell you why. Because I know it isn't right. Because I know it would be the wrong thing for the American people. Because I know that it would rob, for example, our wage earners. Rob them how? If we spent $15 billion a year more paying off the promises that our opponents have offered in this campaign, it means that we raise prices and raise taxes for all of the American people.

I ask you, those of you who shop in this shopping center: Do you want to have your prices increased? Can you take it? [Cries of "No!"]

What about your budget? Let me ask you, particularly those of you who are older here, living on social security, living on pensions or planning to: Do you want the value of your dollars cut in half?

That happened once. It happened in the 7 Truman years.

My friends, we cannot let that happen now, and I'll tell you why we aren't going to let it happen. Because the American people aren't getting fooled. Let me put it this way: You know what my opponent's programs sound like? Remember the old days, they had the medicine man who came to town. [Laughter.] And, you know, he had a cure-all, a cure-all for everything. He'd say - It's the same thing, of course, in each bottle; just put a different label on it, but he'd pass it out, and, you know, it would work pretty well. He'd take the people's money and give them that cure-all, for any aches or pains, pneumonia, or chilblains, anything they might have, and he got away with it for a while, but pretty soon he had to get out of town before the people found out these remedies didn't work. And that's exactly what the situation is here. The American people are being offered a cure-all. It will cost them $15 billion a year. It will increase their taxes. It will increase their prices. It will poison their economy. Therefore, it's the kind of cure-all which certainly they don't want, and they don't want to buy, and it will be bad for them.

But in this instance, let me say this: It isn't going to work, and I'll tell you why. Because, you see, Mr. Kennedy started a little too soon. He started a little to soon, and the people have caught up with it and before he gets out of town, they're going to vote, and they're going to vote him down, on November the 8th. [Cheers and applause.]

So, in this field, I say the way to progress - the way to progress is the way we offer. It's an honest way. It's a way where we say: Yes, the Federal Government has responsibilities in reclamation, in education, in health for the aged, in social security, but, no, we do not go along with the kind of a program where we promise everything to everybody and then say: "You pay the bill." We say that every dollar should be spent in Washington that needs to be spent; but that not one dollar of your money will be spent that we don't need, because you need it back here more than we need it there. That's what you need. [Cheers and applause.]

Now one other point I will mention: We think also of the future of our children and of ourselves in another sense. This is the most important issue of all. It's the issue of whether we're going to be around to enjoy our social security, our good wages, our housing, all these other things we want.

My friends, there is no question but that the next President will carry the greatest load on his shoulders of responsibility of any President in history, even greater than Lincoln or Eisenhower or Wilson or Roosevelt, the war Presidents.

I say that because now the struggle for the world is reaching a great climax, and it will take leadership, leadership that will be very wise, leadership that must be firm, leadership that must be experienced, to avoid war on the one side, or surrender on the other for America and the free world.

I know this. I know it because I have seen the world. I have been to 55 countries. I have seen these great forces of slavery headed by communism on the one side clash with freedom headed by our Nation and our allies on the other.

I have seen it in the Soviet Union. I have had Mr. Khrushchev shake his fist right under my chin and say: "We're going to beat you." He said: "We've got more missiles than you have." He said: "We're going to beat you because we're going to overtake you economically. Our system is better."

He believes this. He's going to work for it. He's fanatical and ruthless. So I say to you today - and I'm not indicating to you on this score what my qualifications are: I will only say - that I know that in making your decision, remember that man you select will make decisions that will determine the life of this world, not just America. So, what do we do about it in that respect? I think, first, we have got to look at the two men on our side and the two on the other side.

Cabot Lodge and I both know the problem. For 7½ years we have worked with and understand the President. For 7½ years we have participated in the great decisions, and we both know Mr. Khrushchev.

I think I can honestly say and objectively say that we have not been taken in by him, and I don't think we ever will be, because we know the kind of a man he is.

As far as my opponent is concerned, you have heard him talk and you will recall in this very campaign on three crucial issues, he disagreed with the President. He criticized the President. He disagreed with him on Quemoy and Matsu. He said that the President made a mistake, in effect, in not following his and the advice of a few other Senators, a minority, fortunately, who said that we should draw a line, as we did on Korea, and say to the Communists: "Come and get these little islands of freedom," with the assumption if they came and got them, there would be peace and no war. But the President refused, because he knew that would lead to war, and the President was right, and he was wrong.

And then again at the summit conference, you recall the President refusing to apologize to Khrushchev for defending this country through the U-2 flights from surprise attack, Senator Kennedy suggesting that he could have apologized. Again Senator Kennedy was wrong, and the President was right, because no President can ever apologize for defending this country against surprise attack. [Cheers and applause.]

And then on Cuba, the third point, you recall our fourth debate, Senator Kennedy saying we weren't doing enough with regard to Cuba, overlooking the fact that he was advocating a policy of direct Federal Government aid to rebel forces in Cuba which would have invited the Communists in, which would have resulted in a war that would have decimated that land and probably set off a world war. Here again he was wrong. The President was right.

And on all three of these issues he changed his mind, I admit, but remember: When you're President, you don't get a second chance.

I remember the time the President went into Lebanon, for example. I remember the 10 great decisions he made during the course of this administration in which, if they had been wrong it might have meant war or surrender, but on the day he went into Lebanon, he paced the floor - it was early Monday morning - and finally he turned and said: "We'll go in." He knew that it risked war, to send our people in there, but he knew that we were certain to have war or surrender if we didn't stop the Communists there.

My friends, if these same mistakes had been made by a man who was President, it would leave been disastrous for us, for the free world - and I say tonight to you here - I say, that the United States, the people of thus country, cannot afford to use the White House as a training school to give a man experience at the expense of the United States. [Cheers and applause.]

Do I tell you, then, that if we're elected there are no problems in the world?

No. There are going to be problems. But I do say this: I do say that, as I stand here, I have confidence, that America is strong enough in its will, that we have the productive capacity, that we have the spirit, which will enable us to meet our destiny in this critical period.

I feel this. It's a question of faith. It's a question which I leave answered on the basis of what I have seen abroad and on the basis of what I have seen in America, and I can only say to you that if the people of this State again give me their support, as they have in the past, that I will, of course, try, as I always leave, to serve you; but, above everything else, I will remember that the greatest responsibility that I have is to people like yourselves, people who have this country's interest deep in your hearts, people who are trying not only to make America a better place in which to live, but people who care about the problems of other people around the world.

It is this spirit, this spirit that we have, this idealism, which is inherent in the American character, that will make this great age of the sixties, the greatest in our history.

And I ,want you to know, inspired by your presence, inspired by your support, I just hope that we will never let you down; and I assure you that we will not.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President at Downtown Rally, Fresno, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project