Remarks of the Vice President at Fordham University, Bronx Gym, Bronx, NY
Thank you very much.
Governor Rockefeller, my fellow vice president, president of the student body, all of the distinguished guests, Lieutenant Governor Wilson, and friends of Fordham, I am certainly very honored that I have been given the opportunity to address this convocation of Fordham students and friends of this great institution.
There are many reasons why I feel that way. The first, of course, is the obvious one to which Father Yanitelli referred - that I happen to be one of those who have received an honorary degree from this institution, and I'm glad to be at least an honorary alumnus. I don't think that I could pass the course today, but I'm glad to get it free.
It really wasn't entirely free. I had to make a speech. But, be that as it may, I also want to say that I was very pleased to hear the Fordham band playing "California, Here I Come." Going back a few years, to the days of Rose Hill to Rose Bowl, I would think that's what they were referring to, but I know that it referred to me on this occasion, and we certainly appreciate that.
I know, of course, there are not many among those in the student body these days who remember the great series between Fordham and St. Mary's, and remember that year when those great Fordham football teams should have been invited to the Rose Bowl, but some way or another we Westerners made a mistake and invited somebody we could beat for a change. We haven't done it for a while, but--
Also, may I say that the opportunity to appear before a group like this presents a tremendous challenge to a speaker, a challenge because you, at the present time, have the chance, every day, to be inspired and stimulated by great ideas, from men who have and are giving their lives to the responsibility of stimulating and inspiring young men and women to their creative best.
And, so, therefore, for me to come off the campaign trail for a moment, to come here to participate in this meeting is, first, an honor and, second, it is, indeed, I can assure you, a great challenge.
I want to apologize for being late. It always will be the occasion when some of you run for office that you will find you will run late on a schedule. Incidentally, I find that the president of your student body is a history major, and I'd like to point out he'd better watch out. I was a history major. I was also president of a student body - a very small institution - but look what happened to me. He will probably end up in something, too.
The coincidence doesn't end there. He's going to study law, too, and so did I.
So, I would like to say the fact we were late is just one of the problems of scheduling, and I also realize that the enthusiasm of your reception may be due to the fact you got out of an extra class, because we were late.
And now to the issues of the campaign. I know that each of you realizes the problem I have: What issue to discuss? There are so many things that we could talk about. We could spend the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of the year, talking to an audience like this, having a give-and-take exchange on the issues confronting America and the issues confronting the world.
Today I do not want to talk to you in terms solely of the political debate that's going on in the country. You will have plenty of opportunity to see that and to hear it, and I imagine to participate in it.
I want to talk to you about the great issue of our time, and I do not want to miss the opportunity to talk particularly to those of you who are students here about the contributions you can make and, as a matter of fact you must make to the solution of those issues.
And, so, I begin with the greatest issue, already implied by the introduction, and that is, of course, the issue of survival, one that has been brought to our attention, as Father McGinley was indicating when I called upon him a few moments ago, by the presence of Mr. Khrushchev in the United States.
We see this man. We see in his face, in his actions, in his unpredictability, in his ruthlessness - we see the challenge that America and the free world faces today.
There is no disagreement among us as to whether we ought to meet this challenge. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans or Independents we all believe that it is essential to develop a program which will w in the peace, win the peace without losing our freedom, and that will extend freedom throughout the world.
And I think this we should all understand at the beginning. As a matter of fact, I would only make one correction to the very eloquent introduction by the president of the student body. He said there were all shades of political coloration here. I would say, except red, in this audience today.
And that is true of all American audiences throughout the country. Our concern is the same: How do we keep our freedom? How do we extend it? How do we maintain the peace of the world?
Turning to this point, and looking first at the challenge, there are some obvious conclusions on which we would all agree. First, knowing the man who is the symbol of the opposition to peace and freedom, the one who challenges it, knowing the man, we can reach only one conclusion as to what kind of policies are effective in dealing with him. What does he want? He wants to conquer the world. What means will he use to do it? Any means.
He would prefer to do it without war, as he said over and over again, although his Chinese colleague, Mao Tse-tung, says that he, as far as he is concerned, would use war, because he, Mao Tse-tung, points to the fact that after the First World War came the Soviet Union, after the Second World War came the expansion of communism to many more countries and approximately a billion people in the world, and after the third world war the whole world will be Communist. This is Mao Tse-tung's reasoning, reasoning which Khrushchev at the moment apparently - and we hopefully say - is not following.
But, nevertheless, make no mistake; whether he says peaceful co-existence, peaceful competition, whatever he says, he is determined to conquer the world. He believes that communism should rule the world. This we know and, therefore, the line of American policy, of free world policy, is very clear. We do not want to conquer the world. We do not want to impose our system on anybody else. We have fought 3 wars in the last 50 years. We haven't had an acre of territory out of it. We haven't gotten an economic concession. We have fought these wars - for what. Only so that others might have what we enjoy - independence, the right of people to be free, the right of the world to live at peace. This is what America wants, but this is not what he wants. This is what our allies in the world want, but it is not what he wants.
And, so, therefore, our policies begin with strength The first element of strength is military. Today we agree, and incidentally both candidates agree, that the United States is the strongest nation militarily in the world; but we cannot rest here. We cannot rest because the military situation changes. We cannot rest because what the Communists are doing is being stepped up. We cannot rest because the challenge which Mr. Khrushchev, himself, has put before us by his appearance at United Nations makes us recognize that the United States cannot afford to have anything but the best, cannot afford not only not to be first, but to be sure that Mr. Khrushchev and all his colleagues know that we're first, because we must never be in a position where the American President or the American Secretary of State goes to a conference and the man on the other side of the table says, "I'm looking down your throat."
And, so, point one: Whether our President is Democratic or Republican, he must take whatever steps are necessary to maintain absolute superiority, small war, big war, whatever the case may be, in this area.
And I can only say that on this instance and on this issue there should be no disagreement among Americans.
I will also add that on this issue there must be no reluctance on the part of Americans to pay whatever is necessary. And if I should have the responsibility as President of the United States, I would certainly have no hesitation whatever to ask the American people to pay more as the situation demanded it so that we could be the guardians of peace and freedom, as we are today.
We also need another kind of strength. We need an economic strength. In speaking of economic strength, again we begin with a situation which should make us rather, shall we say, happy, and which could make us complacent if we were alone in the world, if there was no race in which we were engaged. The United States today has a GNP which is over twice as great as that of the Soviet Union. Having seen the Soviet Union, having seen (1) their bureaucratic system in economics, having seen also the primitive actions that they are engaging in in the economic area, in most of them, as compared with ours, there is, in my opinion, no question about the present situation economically between the Soviet Union and the United States.
But again we're not alone. As Mr. Khrushchev said when I was in Moscow, "Mr. Nixon, we're going to catch you." He said, "We're behind now, and we know it, but," he said, "Our system is better than yours. We're more determined than you are. You are simply living for the day when we are going to catch you, and we're going to catch you in 7 years, and then we're going to pass you, and when we go by," he says, "we'll wave and say, 'Come along, follow us; do as we do or you will fall hopelessly behind.'"
Incidentally, I understand that one of those who attended the Moscow Fair wrote m the visitors' book, "Dear Mr. Khrushchev, when you pass the United States, please leave me off."
But, in any event - whatever the visitor may have thought, and certainly there is something more to life, as I will shortly point out, than simply economic growth and military strength, something far more significant - the United States cannot even afford to think of his passing or catching us. We have got to maintain our present lead. We've got to increase it, and this means, as strong as our economy is, that we must take the steps, through whatever actions are necessary, to stimulate the American economy to an all - out effort in this race in which we are engaged.
What kind of steps are those? Steps, for example, which will stimulate the creative energies of our people. In the tax field, for example, in programs which I have announced and will continue to announce during the course of the campaign. In education seeing that we develop the full potentials of all the students of this country.
You're a very fortunate group, as I am sure you know. I was talking to Father Hesburgh, of Notre Dame, about 4 months ago when I was there to receive an award, which I think they were giving again because I was making a speech, but, anyway, when I was there and talking to Father Hesburgh, he told me an interesting thing. He said there were over 100 valedictorians who had applied for admission to Notre Dame for scholarships whom they were unable to admit because they didn't have enough scholarships.
And I say to you that America cannot afford to waste the talents of a potential scientist or engineer or lawyer or teacher or leader in the religious field. We cannot afford to waste it, and that's why I have advanced a program in the field of higher education that will see that our young people and our young men and our young women as well who have the ability are not denied the opportunity to have the education you have because they did not have the money to go to school.
This we must do. And, so, we could spell more things out, but you can see the attitude that we must have. Whether it's education or health, whether it's in the field of the development of the economy, the United States must move forward and we must see to it that the Soviet Union is not able to realize its boast of catching us or catching up with us economically.
And then there's the third element of strength, a third element of strength that we can call diplomatic. This can be stated very simply. The United States must be firm, always, in its diplomacy. We must always be willing, as President Eisenhower has indicated, to go the extra mile, to negotiate for peace, to negotiate to reduce tensions, but we must never be allowed and we must never allow a situation to develop where we at the conference table pay the price of trading away our freedom or the freedom of our friends any place in the world in dealing with Mr. Khrushchev or anybody else.
Why? And, incidentally, putting it just as bluntly as I can, I have been asked sometimes: "Wouldn't it be a small price to pay for peace to give Mr. Khrushchev his way on Berlin? Wouldn't it be a small price to pay for peace to give Mao Tse-tung his way on Formosa?"
And the answer is: If they were going to get peace, that might be one thing. I think the price would be too high, then, too; but let me say that anybody who even suggests that this kind of weakness, that this kind of agreement would lead to peace doesn't read history and doesn't know Mr. Khrushchev and doesn't know Mr. Mao Tse-tung. When you deal with a dictator and make a concession that he doesn't deserve, whenever you appease him, you don't serve the cause of peace. You serve the cause of surrender or war, and we're not going to do that in the United States.
And I know that all Americans who read history, Democrat, Republican, and Independent alike, will know the truth of what I have said, and that we will continue to stand by our friends in Berlin, that we will continue not to write off those who want to be free behind the Iron Curtain, that we will continue to recognize the next element of strength, the element of strength that is the most important of all - moral and spiritual strength.
I suppose that coming to Fordham that I would be expected to talk about moral and spiritual strength, and now the gentlemen of the press and many of those who might tend to think that here's the political gimmick would say, "Here it comes."
I know, too, that there is a tendency in this world in which we live to say, "Look, we live in a tough world, in a hard world.
Khrushchev is tough. Mao Tse-tung is tough. What do they respect? Power only. Military power. Economic power. And, therefore, we've got to meet them militarily and economically, and if we do that, we will have it made."
My friends, we've got to meet them militarily and economically, as I have indicated. We've got to have a firm diplomacy, as I have indicated. But that isn't enough. That isn't worthy of America. It isn't worthy of our ideas, because that's all they have, and to those that say moral and spiritual strength, the strength of our ideals don't count, let me say they again must read history because the tyrants, the militarists, and the materialists for centuries have underestimated the power of moral and spiritual strength and they have been brought down by it and they will be brought down again by it if we stand for it.
How do I know? I have seen it. I have seen it in countries around the world. I have seen it behind the Iron Curtain in the heart of the Urals, in Siberia. I have seen it in Poland. I remember a year ago coming into the streets of Warsaw on a Sunday afternoon with the government trying to discourage crowds, not even printing our itinerary, and I remember what happened. A quarter of a million people on the streets on that Sunday afternoon - they were enthusiastic, as you were enthusiastic, but it was more than that - throwing flowers into the cars, hundreds and hundreds of bouquets of them, as we traveled through the streets, shouting and cheering at the top of their voices, "Niech Zyje America - long live America." And then as the car was stopped in the middle of the city, time and time again, eight times, I recall, in all, a chance to look into their faces, some of them smiling and laughing, in joy, but over half of them, men and women, grown men and women, crying, with tears running down their cheeks.
Now, why? We were militarily strong. That wasn't the reason. We were economically strong. That wasn't the reason. Khrushchev had been there a week before and he bragged of that kind of strength. No. The reason why the people of Poland received us as they did was because they knew that America from the time of its foundation has stood for more than military strength, more than economic strength; that we stood for great ideals that are much bigger than the United States, itself, ideals that we came into the world to preserve and to extend to all men - faith in God; belief in the dignity of men; belief that the rights of men come not from men, but from God and, therefore, cannot be taken away by men; belief, too, that all nations have a right to be independent, that all people have a right to be free.
"Words," you say? "Debating," you say? Ah, let me tell you - the ideals for which America stands - these are what will be decisive in this struggle, and may you strengthen the ideals of America, because I can talk - as the man who introduced me so well indicated, we are talking - about national purpose, and I will talk about it, and my opponent has written and talked eloquently about it, but, my friends, the next President of the United States can talk about national purpose until he's blue in the face, and unless the moral and spiritual fiber of America is strong, it isn't going to make any difference, because our faith in our ideals, our belief in the great principles that have made America great - this comes from people. It comes from the homes, from the schools, from the churches of America.
And so, I say to all of the young people here, as you go out into the world, you will be lawyers and you will be doctors, and you will be teachers, and we want all of you to be successful, but remember: Strengthen America whenever you can by participation in the schools, in the churches, and in your own homes by reminding our people constantly of the mission - and we have it - and the destiny - and we have it - that America has in the world.
And I come to that finally. What is the mission? What is the destiny? The easy thing for me to say would be that the destiny of America in this period of the sixties is to fight communism. That's part of it. It's part of it because communism threatens peace. It threatens freedom. It threatens all of the things that we believe in and, therefore, when you are confronted with an enemy you must fight him and defeat him. But simply to say we must fight communism in America, and in Berlin, and in Asia and Africa and Latin America, isn't enough. It isn't worthy of America. It isn't worthy of the traditions of this country, and I want to tell you why.
Let's look at where the great battleground of the battle of ideas is taking place today. You know where it is. In Africa; in Asia; in Latin America; in the Near East. A billion people live in this part of the world, outside of Latin America, and what do we find? We find that the battle is going on. The Communists are there, and we certainly are letting these people know that. "Don't sell your birthright for a mess of pottage. Don't ask for progress at the cost of freedom."
We tell them that. "Look, however bad you have it today, it will be worse if the Communists come in."
But, my friends, this isn't enough. This is too negative, and I say that what we have to do is to present the case in a different way. We've got to tell the world not simply why we're against communism, but why we are for freedom. Freedom must be what we talk about, and if I could explain it in just a word - what's going to happen in this part of the world? The one thing we're sure is going to happen is that they're not going to stay as they are.
I remember Prime Minister Nehru telling me 7 years ago when I was visiting with him in New Delhi that the per capita income in India was one-twentieth of what it was in the poorest section of the United States.
I have seen it in Indonesia riding with President Sukarno in the streets of Djakarta and through the countryside - terrible poverty. I have seen it also in Africa, and even in parts of Latin America, and the countries to the south.
Now, we also have some poverty in the United States, but let us recognize this: that in these newly developing countries they are awakening. They want progress. They must have it, and they aren't going to stay as they are, and simply if we come to these people and say, "Look, you must not accept communism. They offer you certain things that will produce progress, or promise progress, but they won't produce it and they will bring things that are worse.
If we present the case that way, inevitably they're going to go the Communist way, because they have got to get away from what they are. They have to move forward.
And, so, our answer must not be that we come to these people to fight communism, that we're going to use them as pawns in the great struggle between communism and freedom. Our answer is: If there were no communism in the world, we would care.
Our answer is that Americans from the time of our foundation have cared when freedom has been denied any place in the world, that we have cared and had concern for people when people were hungry, when people were in misery, when people were ill clothed or ill housed.
This is America at its best, and it is the heart of America that the people of the world must see. It is this heart of America that you must keep strong at home. It is this heart of America that those of us who represent you abroad must present. In other words, in this period of the sixties, rather than having as our objective only the negative one of fighting communism - and we will do that - it must be the positive one of waging the war on poverty and misery and disease all over the world; and if we do that the world will turn to progress with and through freedom, and they will give "No" to those who say, "Give us your freedom and we will give you progress."
This is what we must do.
Now, what does this have to do with you? What I have just talked about requires an attitude on the part of the U.S. people, our people, that is difficult for them to understand. Have you ever heard about foreign aid? You probably haven't heard anything
good about it, and people say: "Why do we aid these people abroad? Why don't we aid our people at home?"
And my answer is that you, you who have had the opportunity of an education here, you who know the world, must go into your communities and see that our people are not parochial and they are not provincial in their attitudes. You've got to see to it that the people of America realize what the world problems are, that we have responsibilities, that we live up to them and that we meet them.
Just let me give you one other example and I will be through. I spoke of the billion people in the world. They want progress. They need education and learning. They need all kinds of technical assistance from us if they are to advance because simply to pour billions of dollars into these countries and not help them develop the trained personnel that they need along with it would be running it right down a rathole, and we must not do that. That's why we've got to step up our programs for exchange and technical assistance in all these other areas, so that people in the Congo, where there are only 12 graduates in the whole Congo, can have the opportunity to know how to run the country.
These are responsibilities that we have, but there is one characteristic of these people that I mention that is common to all of them. They are different in religion, in custom, in food, in clothing, but they are alike in this respect: 95 percent of them are not white and, as I have said to every audience to which I have spoken in the South, as I have said to every audience to whom I have been speaking in the North, in all parts of this country, it is terribly difficult to talk one way abroad and to practice something else at home - and I say that all of you, going into your communities, must not be satisfied simply that you lead a good life, that your children are ones who have the equality of opportunity which is their birthright as Americans. I say that you have a peculiar responsibility to be concerned about your neighbor, because this problem of prejudice is not a southern problem alone. It's a northern problem, and a western problem, and it's also a midwestern problem. it exists all over the country.
I say that if Americans needed anything to make them stand up on this issue and to do something about it, other than what they should have in their hearts - and we all have it, of course, the pure morality and justice of it - it would be this: We simply must make progress in this field because we must make sure that a man like Khrushchev who has enslaved millions, a man like Khrushchev who has slaughtered thousands in the streets of Budapest, will not again be able to come to this country and point the finger to the United States and say, "You are not practicing what you preach abroad."
Let's do what we can, and you can help to do this as you go back to your communities, to right this situation.
My time is up. I have been talking, as you know, about the leadership for the next 4 years. You have in your hands the leadership for the last half of the 20th century. In that last half of this century we will make the great decision in the world, and America's leadership will determine it.
Arnold Toynbee, I think, has very well said that this last half of the 20th century can be the period in which we can realize a dream that men have had from the beginning of civilization, and have never been hoping that they could realize it, the dream that a time could come when all men could have enough to eat, when all people could have adequate shelter, when all could lead a decent life. We can do that now. We can do it because of the breakthroughs of our scientists and our engineers. We have this power in our hands, and we also have the power to destroy ourselves and the planet on which we live, and in your hands, in the kind of leadership you give to your communities, to your State and to your Nation, rests the verdict.
I can only say that we, those of us who might be selected to lead this country in the next 4 years, hope that we can be worthy of your trust and that we can hand America on to you not only strong militarily and economically, but, above all, strong in its heart, strong in its mind, strong in its soul, because this will be decisive. If you can keep America strong this way, we will win this struggle. We will win it not because of our military strength or our strength materially, but we will win it because we're on the right side, the side of freedom, the side of justice, the side of faith in God. These are the ideals that count and there are the things for which you and I must always live.
Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President at Fordham University, Bronx Gym, Bronx, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273755