Richard Nixon photo

Remarks in Timahoe, County Kildare, Ireland.

October 05, 1970

Ambassador Moore, Mrs. Goodbody, Mr. Goodbody, and all of our friends from Timahoe and County Kildare:

I wish to express my appreciation for the documents that have been presented here which will remind us in the years ahead of our background in this, what has been very properly described, this peaceful Irish countryside.

And I am very proud that there is now this plaque here, which indicates that on this ground so many years ago, as a matter of fact, three centuries ago, my ancestors and Jessamyn West's ancestors once lived here before coming to the Pennsylvania colony in Philadelphia just before the war of the American Revolution.

I think, too, that on this occasion I would want to express my appreciation to all of you who have come out to welcome us.

As I went down the line, I met some of the children, a number of the older people. I asked if this was a school day. The children seemed to be delighted that they gave the day off. So that is a good reason for our coming. At least you could come out.

But really what impressed us, as has impressed us every place we have been on our visit to Ireland, is the warmth and friendship of the Irish people. I have been to over 65 countries during my period of public service and in private life. And I have had many friendly welcomes. I can assure you there is nothing that equals an Irish welcome, really nothing.

And I hope that I can convey in my own meetings with people around the world some of the warmth, the good will, the wit, the friendship that characterizes the Irish people and characterizes also, I trust, my own Irish background.

I, too, want to say that, as you know, I am a member of the Society of Friends and this cemetery is in a spot where once there was a church where the Society of Friends in Timahoe worshiped. I think it is not insignificant to mention a historical fact that all people in Ireland would know, but that many people outside of Ireland would not know, and that was that the Irish Quakers who lived in Timahoe and in County Kildare were always treated equally, with complete tolerance, by the Irish Catholics who were in the great majority.

I met recently with Cardinal Cooke in New York, and he was telling me about the fact that that was one of the great Irish traditions that while it was a predominantly Catholic country, that it was a country which had understanding and tolerance for people of differing religious views. This is something which, of course, the world should know.

It is a very great Irish tradition and I am very proud that I, being in that-what we might call from a religious standpoint, the minority of Irish Quakers, can, nevertheless, say that I am of a tradition in which whether we happen to be Protestants or Catholics or Quakers or some other faith, that in Ireland we always receive a welcome which is from the heart and which comes from all the people here, whatever their religion may be.

One final point I would make on this occasion, which I am sure you would think would be appropriate, appropriate whatever our religious background may be, but particularly appropriate because of the presentation that has been made on behalf of the Irish Quakers to me as one who happens to be of the Quaker faith, now holding the office of President of the United States.

As Jessamyn West, who has written so eloquently about the background of our family, has said, the Quakers have a passion for peace. My mother was a pacifist. My grandmother was a pacifist. Jessamyn's mother was, her grandmother, her grandfather, going back as far as we know.

And I know that if they were here today that they would reflect the views that I am now going to express.

Their greatest desire for anyone in their family, who held any office, would be whether he could make a contribution to peace.

Needless to say, as the President of the United States, I have many responsibilities and many goals, not just personal goals, but primarily goals for our country. But I can assure you, the greatest purpose and the greatest goal I have, and the greatest purpose and the greatest goal the American people have, is to play a role to bring peace, not only to America but to all the world.

That is what we want. In our foreign policy after World War II, we have great power. We have great responsibilities that go with that power. If we do not meet those responsibilities, the chances for people who do not have power throughout the world to grow up in independence and freedom, will be completely wiped out on this earth.

And so the people of the United States will meet their responsibility, the responsibility they did not ask for, but that we have, to defend not only ourselves, but also when asked to do so and when it seems to be in their interests and our interests, to come to the defense of others. But let us understand one thing: The armies and the navies and the air forces of the United States of America exist for the purpose of preventing war and building peace. They are peace forces and that is the purpose of our policy.

And I can say if there was one message in this quiet peaceful valley, in this place with all of the history that is here, that I would like to leave to the people here who have welcomed us so graciously and that I would like to convey to the people of Ireland and the people of America and the people of the world, it is very simply this: The United States of America, its President, want nothing more in this last third of the 20th century than to develop policies that will make it possible for the world to have what it has not had for all 'of this century, and that is a full generation of peace.

If we have that, we can build on from that, and, if we make that contribution, then I can truly say that I have lived up to what I think my ancestors, who worshiped in this place so many centuries ago, would have wanted one of theirs to be, if he ever got to the high office that I now hold.

And so, as I leave you, let me say that I came here with very great feeling. I deeply appreciated the welcome that we received, and I leave inspired by the thought that this was a peaceful community. It is a peaceful community. The people here want peace for themselves and peace for their nation and peace for the world.

And I can assure you that the President of the United States, whose roots go way back to this community, has that same purpose, that same goal, that same ideal, and will do everything that he can to end the wars which presently plague the world and to build a peace in which all people can grow up in friendship, in tolerance of the views of others, and particularly in the kind of a world that I see around here--good people, friendly people, meeting those who come from afar, with the friendly smile, a fine handshake. Thank you very much.

And also, may I express my appreciation to the Artane Boys Band. Weren't they great over there? Did you hear them play? Let's give them a hand.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10:35 a.m. in response to the remarks of Mrs. Denis Goodbody, Curator of the Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, who was introduced to the President by John D. J. Moore, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. The remarks of the Ambassador and Mrs. Goodbody follow:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon:
It is my great honor to present Mr. and Mrs. Denis Goodbody. Mrs. Goodbody is the historian of the Society of Friends in Ireland and has a presentation to make to you, sir.
Mrs. Goodbody. Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon: We welcome you to Timahoe and to this quiet hillside where your ancestors lie. We also welcome your cousin, Miss West, whose writings are known, Quaker writings, are known all over the world and appreciated.

It is my privilege to ask you to accept on behalf of the Historical Committee of the Society of Friends a small memento of your visit to this part. This takes the form of replicas of the documents concerning your ancestors, the Milhous family.

We have the will and the inventory of your sixth great-grandfather. We have the registers by which their names are known throughout the centuries, but not least we have the certificate given by Timahoe Friends to Friends in Pennsylvania in order to give your ancestor a welcome in Pennsylvania. This certificate went with him and we have the copy.

These documents are usually started by the words, "Loving Friends," and it is in that form I perhaps may address you now.

We hope that the courage, the faith, and the integrity of your ancestors will help you through the sorrow, the trials, the anxieties, and the sadness which come to every man in your great office.
Mr. President.

Richard Nixon, Remarks in Timahoe, County Kildare, Ireland. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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