Richard Nixon photo

Remarks by the Vice President, W. C. Handy Park, Memphis, TN

September 27, 1960

Thank you very much. Congressmen Reece, Rabbi Goodman, all the distinguished guests on this platform, and this wonderful audience here in Memphis, Tenn.: May I say first to you how very moved Pat and I are by your reception, particularly on this day when the weather is a bit, as we in California say, unusual, and may I tell you that, to be in this historic spot, to have had the chance to see this great audience on either side going way back up to the street, there is one of the sights in this campaign that I will never forget.

I want to say, too, I'm honored that the mayor of this great city, who supports my opponent, was gracious enough to welcome me. I know that in this audience are members of the Democratic Party, as well as members of my own party. I know that there are some who may support the other candidate as well as some who support me, and I deeply appreciate your coming out here and giving me a chance to speak to you, and I will speak briefly because of the weather and because you have, of course, stood here so long.

Before beginning, may I say that to have Marguerite sing today was a great privilege to me. I call her Marguerite, because we have been friends throughout the years, Pat and I, with her, and we, of course, have heard many opera stars and many of those who have sung on the concert stage, but maybe because she comes from Memphis, she is our favorite of them all, and I think she is yours, too.

Now, I know that at this point you are interested in a great number of issues. I would like to begin by pointing out something that Carroll Reece has already referred to. I'm very proud that in 1952 and 1956 the State of Tennessee voted for the Eisenhower ticket. Now, my friends, that couldn't have happened, unless a lot of Democrats, as well as Republicans, had voted for the Eisenhower ticket. You know that and I know it.

This year, 1960, we're going to put on a fight to carry Tennessee again, and we think we will.

But, again, you know, and I know, that in order to carry Tennessee we have to have Republican votes and we have to have Democratic votes.

And so now I come to the key question, and I particularly would like those of you who are Democrats in this audience to listen to this question: How can a Democrat leave his party's candidate and vote for the Republican candidate for President?

I'll tell you why. Because the Los Angeles convention left the Democrats, millions of them in this country, because they departed from the true principles of the Democratic Party, which millions support.

In other words, this year, as in 1952 and 1956, millions of Democrats, all over this country, will not vote for their party's candidate, not because they are leaving their party, but because their party left them in its convention at Los Angeles.

Now, what do I really mean by that? May I present it by discussing a few issues today.

I mean by that that when we elect a President of the United States it is the tradition in this country to think not just of the party label, but to think primarily of the country. That's true of Republicans. It's true of Democrats. It's the reason why in our history we've had sometimes great Republican Presidents and sometimes great Democratic Presidents, each with support from the other party.

Today I ask the support of Republicans. I'm proud of the Republicans in this State under the leadership of the man who has introduced me, Carroll Reece, our national committeeman and a Congressman, but I also ask for the support of Democrats, but I ask for it on this basis: Not on the basis of my Republican friends, simply stamping the ballot Republican because I am a Republican. That isn't reason enough to vote for a man. But on the basis of whether you're Republican or Democrat, voting on what is best for America, and that is best for you.

Now, when you think of what is best for America, of course, and when you think of the charge I made a moment ago that the Democratic platform in Los Angeles departed from the great principles of Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson, you wonder how I can spell it out, and I would like to discuss those issues, some of them, in which this difference appears.

May I first, however, discuss one in which this difference does not appear. This is an issue in which many people in this great audience have honest differences of opinion with me. You know, I am often asked why it is that in every speech that I have made in the South as well as in speeches I have made in the North, I have talked about the issue of civil rights, and I want to tell you why. It's a lot easier to go before a labor group and just say the things they want to hear. It's a lot easier to go before a farm group and tell them you're 100 percent for whatever the leaders of that group want to hear. It's a lot easier to go to a southern group and talk about only the things on which they agree with you and do the same in the North and the East and the West, whatever the case may be.

But, my friends, whoever is President of this country cannot be 100 percent for labor or for the farmers or for the businessmen or for any group. He's got to be 100 percent for all the American people, and that means he belongs to all the American people.

And, my friends, whoever is a candidate for the Presidency of the United States has the responsibility to talk the same way in the South as he does in the North and the East and the West. He has a responsibility to do that, to his office, to his party.

I regret that my opponent, since his nomination, has not done that; but I intend to continue to do it because it is my responsibility.

Let me say I discuss this issue not in terms of a westerner, a northerner, preaching to the people of the South. We have problems, really deep ones. This is a national problem, not just a southern problem. But I will summarize simply by saying that we need to make progress in this field; men and women of good will have got to continue to work toward that progress. I support my platform, and I would hope that you would respect me for that support and recognize the reasons why I do discuss it as I do; and if you do, I am sure you will conclude in this area all Americans must move forward. We must leave no one behind.

And I say that, particularly, my friends, in the light of the fact we have a recent visitor to the United States, Mr. Khrushchev, a man who had the effrontery to go before the forum of the world in the United Nations, a man who has slaughtered thousands in the streets of Hungary, a man who has enslaved millions of people - and then pointing the finger at the United States of America for things that he thinks we have done in denying equality of opportunity.

Let's do what we can in this field to deny Mr. Khrushchev and his Communist colleagues any arguments against the United States. Let's make our country a shining example for all the world to see, of equality for all.

Now, may I turn to the other issues. One, the most important of all, related to the one I just discussed, as I pointed out: Which of the candidates can best keep the peace for America without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world?

Obviously, here the candidates agree on the objective. We all want peace. None of us wants surrender, but I present to you, one, our record; I present to you, two, our experience; and I present to you, three, our program, and I say: Consider it, and if you believe that this is the program that America needs, on that basis, I ask for your support - on the record.

I am proud of the record of this administration in this field. As Carroll Reece has indicated, the people of America will be grateful to Dwight Eisenhower for many things that he has done, for restoring honesty and dignity and decency to the highest office in this land, but they will be grateful, primarily, because he ended one war, kept America out of other wars, and has given us peace without surrender today, and all Americans thank Dwight Eisenhower for that.

I say to you that Cabot Lodge and I can continue this leadership. I cannot talk about my qualifications, but I can about his, and, my friends, no man in the world today, I say, has done a better job representing the cause of peace and freedom than Cabot Lodge as our representative at the United Nations, and we certainly will continue to work together in this cause.

What about the future? All that I can say is that I know Mr. Khrushchev. I know he's tough. I know he respects power. I know that he despises weakness. I know that he cannot be treated like other leaders, because he reacts differently, and these things, therefore, we will do: We will keep America stronger, militarily, than other nations, and America will pay whatever costs are necessary to do that.

We will be absolutely firm in our diplomatic policies, and may no President of the United States, Democratic or Republican, ever consider it necessary to apologize or express regrets to Mr. Khrushchev for defending the security of the United States of America.

And, in addition to that, we will keep our heads; we will never answer insult with insult, because we will not heat up the international atmosphere to where war might break out.

All these things we will do; but, finally, we must also see that America moves forward, economically, morally, spiritually. Memphis is a splendid example, this whole State of Tennessee, the neighboring State of Arkansas, and the neighboring State of Mississippi. I have seen the growth here and there can be greater growth as you use your human resources and your natural resources to the fullest.

But may I say that America will move forward with us where it will not with our opponents, and here I come to the great difference in our approach and theirs. They say they want progress. They say America has stood still. They're wrong on both counts. They may want progress, but they can't produce it, and America has not stood still. On every occasion that you want, whether it's producing schools, building schools or hospitals, a better life for our people, we have done better in the Eisenhower administration than we did in the Truman administration. All that our opponents have offered to date is a return to the policies of the Truman administration, and I say the American people don't want to do that under any circumstances, and they will not.

What will we provide in the future as far as leadership is concerned in this field? America will move forward, but how do we differ?

They say the way to get better schools and housing and health and all these things for America is to turn the job primarily over to the Federal Government, to have a massive increase in Federal spending. [Cries of "No."]

We say the way to progress, my friends, the way to. progress in the past, and the way to a bright, new future for America is not by taking responsibility from our people but by giving them more, not by weakening our State and our local governments, but by strengthening our State and our local governments.

We say the way to progress is not to rely on an all-powerful Federal Government, to weaken the individual, to weaken the State, but to tap all the resources of America, to get the most out of 180 million free Americans, the most out of our strong State and local governments, and the most out of the Federal Government, but with the Federal Government doing only those things that cannot be done and will not be done by the States and the local government and by the people themselves.

This, I say, is not Republican doctrine alone. It represents the thinking of millions of Democrats in this country because it has made America great and it will make her greater in the years ahead.

So, my friends, this is the choice we present. In this great cotton capital of the South, in this part of the country that has contributed so much to America's economy, I make this plea to you. Consider what I said today, but also the things you may be able to read and which I have been able to speak at greater length; but above all, remember this: That when I speak of America's military strength, her economic strength, when I speak of the leadership that America must provide for peace in the world, when I speak of the leadership which is necessary if we're going to extend freedom in the world, my friends, there is one thought that I must leave with you above everything else, and it is this: If we are to win this struggle for freedom without war - and we must win it - we can't stand still. We cannot win it simply by being stronger militarily than the Communists. We cannot win it simply by being stronger economically than the Communists. I'll tell you why. Because this is where they want to fight, and this is all they have to offer.

I remember my visit to Poland with Pat a year ago, a quarter of a million people on the streets of Poland cheering and shouting, throwing flowers into our cars, and as the cars stopped, I could see that many of them were crying with tears running down their cheeks, shouting, "Niech Zyje America! Long live America!" Why did they say this? Not because we were militarily stronger, economically stronger. Khrushchev had been there the week before and they didn't give him this kind of welcome. Not because I was famous, because I was not, but because they knew that America stood for more than military strength, stood for more than atheistic materialism, that America stands for ideals, for spiritual and moral strength, for the rights of men, the right of men to be free, recognizing that these rights do not come from men, but from God, and, therefore, cannot be taken away by man, recognizing that America, in addition, stands for faith in God as against atheistic materialism.

This, my friends, is what America must present to the world - a country, yes, that is stronger than any other militarily and economically, but a country also that is proud primarily of its faith, its faith in its ideals, its faith in the great freedoms which we have inherited from our ancestors, freedoms which are bigger than our Nation, that belong to the whole world, itself, freedoms that we have an obligation to hold high here, to make them a reality to all and to carry to all the world. This is what America must do.

How do we strengthen the moral and spiritual fiber? You know who does that? Oh, a President can help by what he says. Your Congressman can help by his leadership, but that comes from the people.

I noted that Memphis, from the little slip that the mayor handed me as I got in my car, is proud of the fact, and justly so, that you have 670 churches, and that's about 10 more than you have service stations, and this is probably the only town in America where there are more churches than service stations.

May I say that the strength of America, this idealism of which I speak, this moral and spiritual strength, comes from the family. It comes from the schools. It comes from the churches, all of them. It comes from the hearts of our people.

So, my final plea to you is this: Keep America strong morally and spiritually. Don't lose faith in our ideals. Don't believe this prattle, this nonsense, to the effect that America is second rate, that our prestige is low around the world, that the Communists gain prestige because they run riots against us, that we lose prestige because we stand with dignity against them. Remember, we are the greatest nation, and we will continue to be, provided we remember the heart of our strength, which is moral and spiritual, comes from you, and you can maintain it.

So I say to you, my friends: These things I believe the next President of the United States must believe with all his heart, and must carry this message to his people, but also to the people of all the world, and in asking for your support, I do not ask it on the basis again of your party labels, but I say: Only if you believe as I believe, will you then go out and work, work for me, for Henry Cabot Lodge, because you believe, if you do, that we are the men who can keep America strong militarily and economically, morally and spiritually, and you believe we are the ones who can keep the peace without surrender. If you work this way, remember, you will be working for something bigger than a party, bigger than a man. You will be working for America, for the cause of all mankind.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Remarks by the Vice President, W. C. Handy Park, Memphis, TN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project