Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of the Vice President of the United States, Rear Train Platform, Centralia, IL

October 28, 1960

Thank you very much. I'm very sorry that our crowd is so big here that some of you will not be able to see as we're talking but certainly, as the Governor has indicated, this is one of the greatest crowds that we have ever seen in this area, and we thank you for coming out, as you have, to welcome us.

And now some people are suggesting that if you will lower your signs so the people in the back could see, please, if you would do that - thank you.

First, I realize it's hard to listen when you can't see but if I could have your attention for just a few moments:

First I want to say I am very proud to be here with our candidates in the State of Illinois, with Governor Stratton and his team for State office, with Sam Witwer, running for the U.S. Senate, with Frank Walker, your candidate for Congress. I know them all. I commend them to you as the best men for the job, and I am proud to be here on the platform with them in Centralia.

You know I've been to Centralia before about two or three times. You can take all the crowds we had before and they would be about one-third put together of what we have here today.

I just can't get over the size of this crowd. Thank you.

In speaking to you today, I am going to try to do something that I think you will appreciate and that is to put myself in your place because you know sometimes I think people get so tired of hearing candidates for the Presidency get up and say, "I'm going to do this and I want this and I want that and the other thing." And the folks sometimes say, "Now look, why doesn't that fellow ask me what I want? After all I'm his boss."

And that's right. You're the boss of the American President, whoever he is, and the only one he must ever have and I assure you you're the only one I'm going to have - the people of America - and that we're going to take orders from, as far as that's concerned.

Now, what do you want? I think above everything else, as we consider what the people of America want today, they want a future in which our young people, all the thousands of children here, can grow up as they have in the Eisenhower years, in peace.

You remember when I came through here in 1952. Do you remember we had a war in Korea? There were hundreds of mothers in this crowd who were worried about their sons in Korea. Do you remember the situation in Washington? Why, it was so bad that a former Governor who ran for President twice, whose name escapes me, said it was a mess in Washington.

Well, let me say this: It was a mess, but there's no mess there now. You can be sure of that, because we've cleaned it up and also because we have gotten this Nation out of one war, we've kept out of other wars, and we do have peace without surrender today.

And, my friends, I tell you that there's nothing more important than that - you know it. Think of the Korean war. Then we were worried, because our young men were overseas. Did you ever stop to think that there has never been war in which we in America have felt it here at home? But you have been, some of you, to Berlin or to Tokyo, to Warsaw, or to some of the other cities that have been devastated by war, as I have and, my friends, when you see what it is you realize what we have been saved from and, as far as any next war is concerned, we just can't let it happen. We can't let it happen, because it will bring devastation to the whole world. My friends, we can keep it from happening. We can keep it from happening if we don't make the mistake. of misjudging the men in the Kremlin.

What do I mean by that? I know Mr. Khrushchev. I know the Communist leaders. They, differing from us, think not in terms of peace, but in terms of conquering the world and, you know, they are willing to do anything to do it. And that's why we must never make the mistake of letting America's strength be anything other than it is today, and that it is so strong that they cannot start anything without risking destruction. I will keep America strong because I know that we must have that.

There's another thing we've got to remember. You know a lot of well-intentioned people come to me sometimes and they say, "Mr. Nixon, hasn't President Eisenhower been too tough? On this Quemoy and Matsu, why didn't he turn over those islands to the Communists? Why run the risk of war over them?"

Let me tell you why. Because when you're dealing with dictators, my friends, when you're dealing with dictators, the way to war is to give in to their blackmail. Let me put it in terms all of us will understand. You go here today and ask the chief of police - I think he's standing right down here in front of me. You ask the chief of police how he keeps crime under control. You know what he'll tell you? He'll tell you that you've got to make it so that crime doesn't pay. If crime doesn't pay, people don't engage in it.

Now that's true with nations too. Whenever the men in the Kremlin think they can get away with aggression, whenever they think they can get away with international blackmail, demanding concessions here and there, then they're going to think that it pays. And we've got to be firm, we've got to make it clear that the United States is not going to surrender to them in any part of the world. That means that if they know we're firm, we're able to negotiate, negotiate from a position of strength, and we stand for peace without surrender, and that's what all Americans stand for, Democrat and Republican alike, and that's what I believe, this day in Centralia and throughout America.

In this field, then, you have a known quantity. You have Cabot Lodge and myself, two men who know the men in the Kremlin, two men who have not been fooled by them, two men who believe in America, who don't think this is a second-rate country in any respect because we know America and know the world, and two men who will speak up for America around the world. And we offer that in contrast to our opponent, a well-intentioned man - no question about that. He doesn't want war. He wants peace as much as we do. He's against the Communists just as we are. But the point is, my friends, when the President of the United States sits in that oval office in the White House and makes a decision it determines whether America survives or not.

I was there when the President made the great decisions. I remember the Monday morning that he made the decision on Lebanon. You've almost forgotten that name - Lebanon. Do you remember? Do you remember when the President ordered troops into Lebanon to stop the Communist spread in that area? I remember when he made it. He paced the floor and he said, "Well this is it. We've got to send them in."

If he had made the wrong decision because of shooting from the hip, because of immaturity, because of inexperience, America might have become involved in war or surrender, or both.

We need a man in the White House with at least enough experience so that the chances for mistakes are reduced to the minimum. Oh, I don't say that I or anybody else is going to be perfect. Certainly I would be the last to say that. But my friends I've been through the fire. I know what it means to sit there and see these decisions made. I have made some myself. I can only say this: knowing the men in the Kremlin, knowing what the problems are, I pledge to you that we're going to put the peace of this world first. We're also going to put freedom first. And standing for peace and freedom we cannot lose, and I am confident you will agree with that.

Now the other point that I want to make is one that's very close to home. You know sometimes people come up to me and they say, "Now, Mr. Nixon, why is it that you don't go around the country as your opponent seems to be doing, promising everything they want?" They say, "After all, it's not your money that's going to pay for these promises." And that's true. It's neither his nor mine. "Why don't you go around making these promises? That's what the people want."

Let me tell you this: The reason that I stand for spending as much money in Washington as we need to spend for defense, for education, for health, for social security, but not a nickel more than we need to spend, is that I know that every dollar or nickel that we spend comes right out of your pockets here in Centralia, Ill., and I'm going to keep it right down to the minimum. I think that's what you want so you can have more to spend here.

Let me put it in simpler terms. I remember that when we were growing up my older brother for 1 year very desperately wanted a pony. The pony didn't cost much for modern standards, as I recall. My father could have bought it for about $75. And my brother, who died when I was quite young, kept saying, "Oh, I want this pony more than anything in the world." Now, being the oldest son, he was kind of a favorite, as you can imagine, with my mother and my father and they wanted more than anything else to give him what he wanted. It would have been easy for them to say, "Look, you can have the pony." But, you know what happened? My mother and father had a little family council and they came in and they said, "Now, look, if we buy this pony we're not going to have enough money to pay the grocery bill; we're not going to have enough money to pay for the clothing bill; we are not going to be able to get the shoes for your younger brother." It was an awfully hard decision for my mother and father but it was the right thing.

What does that have to do with being President of the United States? He does that every day. He would like to promise everything to everybody. Just shell out the dough, as my opponent is promising to shell it out - $15 billion worth. But, my friends, he's got to think of the whole American family, not just some special interest group, for the sake of votes. He's got to think of the whole American family, and he's got to put them first. And I promise you that's what I'm going to do. We will spend everything that we will need that will help all Americans. But no special group is going to get anything which will not make it possible for us to do right by the whole family. This is what we want for America.

So I say to you, in conclusion, that there are many other things that I could speak of but, above all, I want to leave this final note with you: I often say that this is the most important election in this Nation's history. The other day somebody said to me, "Well, of course, it is. We expect you to say that, Mr. Nixon. It's important to you because you're running." And that's true - important to me but only in a personal way. My friends, this election is not primarily important from my standpoint. What happens to me or my wife or to Senator Kennedy and his wife - that's not material. What does count is what happens to you, what happens to America, what happens to the cause of freedom throughout the world. And I say to each and every one of you, consider that. Don't think of the labels we wear but think of America. Think of what's best for America and then vote for America. If you do that then the world will be better off and America will be better off, and all of us will be the happier for it.

The last thing that I want to say is on a personal note. I can't resist as we come through Centralia, which is a great railroad center, telling you what I really wanted to be when I was growing up. You know they have asked my mother many times, "Now, Mrs. Nixon, when the Vice President was a boy what did he want to be?" Well, actually, I certainly had no idea I'd ever be running for President. I can assure you of that. You know what I wanted to be? Right alongside our house ran a railroad track and I used to hear the whistles at night and I used to think of all the places those trains were going and I wanted to be a railroad engineer so that I could travel through America and through the world. I didn't make that, of course, but I got to travel anyway.

But may I say to those who run the Nation's railroads: Remember that it's a wonderful service you're rendering.

And also to all of you who have come out to hear us, never forget this: America is the greatest country in the world and the way you can keep it great is by voting your conscience, voting for what is best for America, and getting other people also to see that this is the way to a bright, new future for all of our people.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President of the United States, Rear Train Platform, Centralia, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project