Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of the Vice President at West Covina-Eastland Shopping Center, West Covina, CA

October 14, 1960

Senator Kuchel, Senator Fong, all of the distinguished guests here on the platform and my friends here in my home district, the 25th District of California, I want you to know that we will have many crowds in this campaign in the next 3½ weeks, and we've had many in the last couple of months, but there are none that will touch us more than this one, that will move us more, because this is our home, and we thank you for coming out and giving us this wonderful welcome as we return to our home district.

As you can imagine, a great many thoughts went through Pat's and my mind as we were driving up the freeway to West Covina. I recall the first campaign that we ever participated in in 1946, and I remember then the little towns we stopped in: Covina and Baldwin Park and El Monte. All of them, of course, at the present time put together would probably not equal the population of even West Covina.

I remember, too, the people who participated in that campaign. Of course, it was a long time ago - 14 years - makes us realize how old we are, and I remember people like Roy Day. I remember the members of the Fact-Finding Committee.

Here is Ernest Geddes over here and Monte Burke - so many who have participated in that campaign.

I remember, too, the fact that literally in this audience are thousands of people who in that campaign and in the one in 1948 and 1950 and ever since then have helped us on the road to success in these political campaigns.

And, so, you can imagine that this is a particular and special occasion for us, not only because you've came out in such great numbers on such a beautiful day to spend this time with us, but also because it is for us a homecoming and a reminder of how much has happened and how much we owe to you.

So, we thank you again today.

I also want to say that the opportunity to appear on this platform with my fellow candidates is one that I've been looking for. I want this district to be represented by a man who will be a member of our party, but above that, a man who is the best man for the job and who will be a great Congressman, John Rousselot, and I'm glad to be here with him.

And, of course, it's like old times, Monte, to say something about you. This is partly your district, but Monte Burke who has been in the 53d for so many years is here.

I'm glad to see that Tag Manning is also, who is going to be the next assemblyman from my own home district over in Whittier, and also Hugh Fluorney.

Let me say this: The reason I mentioned all of these other candidates is this, my friends: You know, everybody can get tremendously excited about a presidential campaign. We get Nixonettes and we get bands, and we have tremendous crowds, but let me say that government at every level is important, and I urge all of you not to forget those running for the assembly and for the House of Representatives, because each one of them counts and each one of them means a great deal to the kind of government you get. So, may I urge all of that support for them.

Finally, as I stand here, may I also say how much this district has changed. This particular rally, for example, is being held in a city that did not exist when I ran for Congress in 1946. As a matter of fact, when in 1952 I participated in the first presidential campaign as a candidate for Vice President, there weren't enough people in this area to have a special meeting. In fact, as I look here at this great shopping center, built only 3 years ago, I realize how greatly this area is growing and how it's expanding.

The first thing I want to say today with regard to this meeting is this: We've been hearing a lot of talk in the past few days and weeks and months to the effect that this American economy of ours has ground to a standstill. We haven't been moving, and we've got to get going again. We've got to start moving America again. Well, my friends, anybody who says America's been standing still for the last 7½ years hasn't been traveling around America. He ought to come out here and take a look at it and he would see what has happened because, you see, the difficulty is the people who say that America hasn't been moving aren't thinking of the real America. They are only thinking of what a bunch of bureaucrats do in Washington, D. C. They're only thinking of how much money they can spend in Washington, D.C.

What is America? What makes it grow? What is the biggest part of America?

Here it is - individual enterprise, people who want to invest in the future of America - and let's never forget it. That's why we stand behind it, and that's why our policies will produce the progress that the other side talks about, and that's what America wants in this campaign and what we are going to give them in this election as well.

I know that there are so many subjects that you are interested in today. I would like to touch on just a few of them, those that I know are closest to your hearts and those that I know will be of greatest interest to you particularly in this audience. I see people who are probably here to shop, some of you, and I hope, incidentally, that since the May Co. has been so kind to let their facilities be used you go in there and shop - and I own no stock in the company. I want to make that clear, too. But many of you, too, have taken time off from your businesses or your chores at home to come out. So, at this point, I think the question which first comes into all of our minds is this: What test should we apply in electing a President of the United States?

I would like to tell you what I think you should be thinking about. There's a disagreement here between the two candidates. One, my opponent says that the party is what counts. I am going to tell you what counts. In this year, 1960, when the man who is elected President of the United States must not only lead this country, but the free world, what counts above everything is not the party, but America - and let's vote for what's best for America - and I say that to all of you, Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Now, what does America want? What kind of leadership does it need?

And here again we come back to those of you who are here in this great audience. Think of yourselves, your own positions. What do you want?

Well, we want a lot of things from government, if we can get them. We at least want the opportunities under good government to have the opportunity to get these things that I'm going to refer to. We all want good jobs. We want good incomes. We'd like to see that the prices that we pay in the May Co. and the various stores and the like don't go skyrocketing so that they eat up everything we get in increased wages. We also want some other things. We want progress in this country. We want to move forward. We want to move forward as this district has moved forward. We want better schools, better housing, better medical care, everything that has made America the greatest country in the world, that will make her even greater, because let's understand one thing here today above everything else: America hasn't been standing still. She's been moving. We've had the greatest progress in these last 7 years than we've had in the history of any administration, but we're not satisfied.

My dad always used to tell us when we were growing up that he never wanted us to go back to the good old days and that we should never be satisfied with things as they are, good as they were, but in America we always want a better life for our children than we have for ourselves. That's what I want. That's what you want, and these are the things that we're going to have and the things we will produce with our programs, I can tell you today as I speak to you in my own home district.

Now, I want to agree right at the outset that I have no monopoly on being for better jobs and housing and schools and all these things that Americans want. What is the difference, then, between my approach and our opponent's approach? Well, the difference is, first in our record. We produce and they don't. And you can take the 7 Eisenhower years, compare them with the 7 Truman years, and we've got them licked on everything, including keeping the peace. And when my opponent, incidentally, talks about going to new frontiers let's remember you can't cross a new frontier in an old jalopy; and when he says, for example, that he's going to go back - and this he has failed to deny, and he can't, because this is what he wants to do - to the old policies we left in 1953, I say America doesn't want to go back. They want to go forward. We had enough of what we had then in 1953 and we want to go forward now, and that's where we're going to take you in these next 4 years if we have this opportunity.

But, in addition to the record, we also have something else. Why will our programs why do they, produce more? Why are they better for you, for everybody, regardless of party? Well, because we have the system that will produce progress.

Let me put it this way: Our opponents - whenever there's a problem, whatever you want, they say, 'Oh, we've got a terrible problem here and we can't solve it; the people can't solve it; and the States can't solve it; and the city of West Covina can't solve it; and, so, we'll run over to Washington and we'll set up a great, big Washington bureau; we'll spend a lot of money, and we'll solve the problem." In other words, every time there's a problem they say start with Washington and work down to the people, and we have exactly the opposite philosophy. We say the way to progress in America is not to start with the Federal Government and work down, but to start with the American people and work up to the Federal Government; that that is the way to progress.

Now, let me say this particularly to the young people who are listening here. Why do I believe this? It would be much easier for me to tell all of these young people going to school, entering the job market and the like, "Look, you don't have anything to worry about. The Federal Government is going to take care of you. They're going to furnish you your jobs, and they're going to take care of your medical care, and they are going to take care of your housing and all that sort of thing. All you've got to do is turn your money over to them and they'll do everything for you." I could say that. It would be very easy, and some might say "But this is what I want - somebody who's going to promise everything so that life will be easy." But, my friends, just remember this: It's very easy for a politician to make a promise, but remember: It's very hard for him to keep it - and also remember that he shouldn't make a promise that he can't keep.

Let me give you an example. The other day when I was in Philadelphia we were going through a tremendous crowd of people and a young boy came rushing up to the car, and he was about 12 years old and he says, "Mr. Nixon, will you make a promise?"

And I said, "What is it?"

He said, "Will you be for a 4-day week for kids in school?"

That's what he said. Now, I could have told him and I could tell you over here, "Yep, I'll promise you a 4-day week in school." But it wouldn't be good for you, and your parents wouldn't like me for it at all. In addition to that, it wouldn't be good for America.

No, the question isn't making promises that are going to weaken Americans, weaken our responsibilities. We've got to be a strong country, and the way you're strong is to put responsibility on people, not take it off.

Look, we talk about new frontiers. How was America developed? How did we cross the frontier? This wasn't an operation by government, but this was an operation by pioneers, individual Americans, who had courage and stamina and responsibility - and it's this pioneer spirit that America needs today to stay ahead of the Soviet Union, and it's what I'm going to work for in the next 4 years to see that we have.

And, so, I say to you: The reason that my programs will work where my opponent's will not is that we stimulate and we call upon the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of the world. You know what it is? Not the Federal Government. Not the State government. Not the government of West Covina. I'll tell you what it is. It's 180 million free Americans with an opportunity to make their own way and to make their own contribution to the greatness of the country - and that's what I stand for.

Now, government has some responsibilities, of course, to do those things which will stimulate the economy, to do those things to see that no Americans are left behind as all Americans move forward. For example, I remember the most exciting day of my life, other than the day a Pat said "Yes." This is going to surprise you. It wasn't the day I was nominated for President, as you might imagine, or elected Vice President or Congressman or Senator. It was the day in 1934 that I got a scholarship to go to law school. If I hadn't gotten that scholarship in 1934, I wouldn't have gone to law school. I wouldn't have been able to.

What I'm trying to say is this: That today there are literally hundreds of thousands of young men and young women who have the ability to go to college and who can't afford it. Now, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to do something to see that the talents of these young people are not wasted, because America can't afford to waste and not fail to discover a great scientist or a great engineer or great lawyer or great doctor among that group who couldn't go to college?

Now, the easy thing to say would be, "Well, the Federal Government will take care of all of this problem." But that isn't the best way. The Federal Government takes part of it, and here's a program I think all of you will agree with: First, the Federal Government continues to furnish loans for those who are unable to have the money and who will eventually be able to earn the money to pay it back. Second, there will be a limited number of scholarships for those who simply have no funds, would not be able to pay it back, and those who have extraordinary ability. Third, and here's the key to the program, in order to stimulate the American way to solve this problem, I say that we should give tax credits and tax deductions to parents who send their children to college so that they can afford to send their people to college.

That's one difference, one difference between my program and my opponent's. There is doing it the American way. The other is the Federal Government way.

Let's go on a little bit further. You've heard a lot about medical care for the aged, and I feel very strongly about that. In my own home district I can speak of my father. You remember - many of you probably do - he died in 1956, 4 years ago, when he was 75. The year he died I remember that he had very heavy medical bills - ran over $2,000. My mother that year also had an operation. Her bills ran around $1,500. As you know, my parents were not wealthy people. Paying those hills was a very great burden to them. And not only because I have known this and felt it, but also because I know the tragedy that can come to hard working people, who worked all their lives and saved their money and then have the disaster of a major illness hit them after their earning days are over, I feel that we've got to have a program in which these people can take care of themselves and do it without going simply on charity.

Now, how can we do it? We have two programs here. We have a choice. My opponent says the thing to do is to have the Federal Government take over and to force everybody, except for 3 million who need it the most, into a system of compulsory health insurance whether they want it or not over 65. You know what my program is? I say that every person over 65 who ought to have health insurance, who wants it, should be able to get it and the Federal Government should set up a program so they should be able to afford it; second, that everybody who ought to have it should be encouraged to get it, but I also say that no one who does not want health insurance should be forced to have it against his will, so that we can maintain the private system in this country which is essential for medical care.

So much for these two examples. I use them for these young people particularly. It shows you how we approach these problems, retaining individual enterprise, building on it, rather than supplementing it completely by Federal Government activities.

Now, if I might turn to another subject, the last one, the most important of all, what could be more important than medical care, I am sure some of you may ask, or jobs, schools, the 4-day week in schools? What could be more important that all these things? Well, you know. The ability to be able to be around to enjoy them - and I say, as I said last night and as I will say throughout this campaign, that the most important issue in this campaign is this: Which of the two candidates for the Presidency is best qualified, by experience, by judgment, by background, to keep the peace, but keep the peace without surrender of principle or territory for the United States and the world? This is the great issue.

Now, here again we have two different approaches. I can speak of our qualifications in this respect. First, we proved that we know how to do it.

Oh, you've heard everything that's wrong about the Eisenhower foreign policy. I'm part of it. Cabot Ledge is part of it. We have been for 7 years. But, my friends, all the criticism can't obscure the truth that every one of you know. In 1953 we were in a war, and today we find that, as a result of President Eisenhower's leadership, we have gotten out of one war; we've kept out of others, and we do have peace without surrender, and we want to keep the policies that have resulted in that very program.

Now, what are those policies? Those policies are: first, military strength. We've got to continue to be the strongest nation in the world.

Second, economic strength. We've got to see that we stay ahead of the Soviet Union, and we will do that.

It also means firm diplomacy, nonbelligerent. I mean by that we're always willing to go the extra mile, and with Cabot Lodge we will strengthen the United Nations; we will work together to see to it that every instrument of peace will be strengthened so that we can handle situations like the Congo without war and without U.S. involvement unilaterally. But let us also remember that when you're dealing with men like Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Mao Tse-tung you can't be naive. You can't assume that they're going to react like the leaders of the free world would react.

Cabot Lodge and I have this one - I would say - point to recommend us: We both know Mr. Khrushchev, and the voters know that we will know how to handle them where situations arise - and this is tremendously important.

I spoke last night, for example, of a situation out in the Pacific. Look at it for just a moment. It shows you how you can get into trouble with the very best of intentions, and I am speaking of our opponents in this instance. Five years ago the Communists were threatening Quemoy and Matsu and Formosa, and what happened? What happened was that in that 5-year period we found that we have kept the peace in that area, that the Communists have not moved. Why? Because President Eisenhower stood firm, backed by the Congress, and he refused to draw a line and say, "I will not defend these islands." He said, in effect, "We will not surrender any territory under the threat of a gun."

Now, our opponent today wants to change that. He says we're going to change this policy now. We're going to turn over these islands which are the gateway to Formosa to the Communists. Why? Because they are threatening them. But we decided that 5 years ago, and I say, my friends, that if for 5 years we've had a right policy let's keep that policy and not change it by turning over and surrendering to the Communists in that area or any area in the world today.

Why do I urge that? I urge that because I know that when you deal with a dictator the moment that you surrender something at the point of a gun it doesn't satisfy him. It doesn't bring peace. It increases the risk of war.

That's why I called upon my opponent, and I call upon him again today, in the interest of America, in the interest of peace, to join with a majority of his own party as they voted in 1955, join with Senator Lausche in his statement of yesterday, join with Mr. Truman in what he said in 1958, join with President Eisenhower, and say to the Communists, "We are going to stand united as a nation," because otherwise what is going to happen? We're going to find that if we appear to be disunited that we are inviting the very aggression that we don't want. So, if America wants peace, the way to peace is not through weakness. It's not through surrender, but it's through firmness - and it's firmness that we understand and that we will continue.

And now the last point that I make is one that is particularly appropriate in this home district of mine. I've been speaking about our military strength and economic strength and also of our diplomatic firmness, but let me tell you that the real strength of America that will be decisive is not this - that is important - but it is here in what you represent. The real strength of America is in its ideals. It's in the homes, in the churches, in the schools of America.

What do I mean? There's a great battle going on, a battle that's going to be decided in this last half of the 20th century.

Whoever is the next President has got to lead the United States and the free world in that battle. What's going to count? What we believe in is going to count - our ideals, our faith in God, our belief in the dignity of all men, our belief in the rights of all men, in equality of opportunity, our belief that every nation has a right to be independent, that all people have a right to be free.

You say, "These things, Mr. Nixon How can they stand up against Communist might and strength?" And the answer is that the militarists and the tyrannists throughout history have underestimated moral and spiritual strength.

So, I say to you: Strengthen the moral fiber of this community. Strengthen the moral fiber of our young people. Let them realize what a privilege it is to live in America. Let them realize what it means to live in a country which is free, in which we can have faith, faith in our God, in our country, in the ideals which made us great - and, as you do that, then the next President of the United States can lead a united people and we can stand not simply for holding the line for freedom, but for extending freedom, and extending it without war, extending it because of the very power of our moral and spiritual strength.

And in my home district this is my plea to you. I ask you - this is the part that you can play. Make America strong at home, so that we, who represent America abroad, can point with pride and say, "Here is a strong nation; here is a people with faith; here are people who are not talking about America being second rate," but know she's first rate and are going to continue her first in everything in the world. Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President at West Covina-Eastland Shopping Center, West Covina, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project