Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Civic Center, St. Joseph, MO

September 22, 1960

Vice President NIXON. Thank you very much. I think somebody is requesting that if you would put down your signs, so that the people in the back could see. Will you just pull them down, please, and then we'll let you put them up again. And we do appreciate your bringing them, believe me. Of course, as I often say, I know you don't want to see me but you do want to see Pat, my wife; she's right over here. [Applause.]

I want to tell you, first, how very much we have appreciated this wonderful welcome that we have received on our first visit to this city and to this part of the State of Missouri. I know that when we came here, and when this trip was planned, they said we'd get a pretty good crowd. I can only say that the crowd exceeds our expectations tremendously and we thank all of those who worked to plan this meeting; we thank the bands and others who have participated in it to make it such an exciting meeting; but, most of all, we thank you who have come from this city, from the surrounding counties, from across the way in Kansas, from all over the State of Missouri, to give us the opportunity to meet you and to talk to you about some of the issues facing America today.

Before I discuss those issues, I would like to say a word about some of the people here on the platform with me. On this platform are our Republican candidates for Governor and State office in the State of Missouri, as well as our candidates for National office, including the man who introduced me, Ethan Campbell. And may I say I'm proud to be here with my fellow colleagues who are candidates, and I ask you to consider their qualifications as I ask you to consider mine, when you vote on November 8.

And, may I say, too, I know that in this great audience today are people who are members of my party. I know, too, that there are people here who are members of the other party. I know, too, there are people who are independent voters - and that is as it should be.

One of the things that's tremendously inspiring about traveling through the United States and speaking to great gatherings like this is that you realize that here are Americans in action at their best. They're out to hear what the candidates have to say. They may not agree with them, but they want to make a free choice and, my friends, having traveled around the world and been in countries where there's no choice at all, never forget that this is a priceless American heritage and use it on November 8, whether you vote for me or against me. [Applause.]

Incidentally, after such a welcome as this, I can only say, in the light of an article that was written recently, that Pat and I are going to go away from this town saying "We like St. Joseph." [Applause.]

And now, if I may ask you to consider with me for a moment I know that you're standing and some of you can't even hear, or perhaps see - but if you will consider with me for a few moments some of the things we ought to be thinking about as we select the next President and the next Vice President of this country.

What should our attitude be in the first place? Well, first of all, it should not be based simply on saying "I'm going to vote for a man simply because he's a member of my party." It should be based on this attitude: What man can best serve the country?

Now, why do I say that? You know the history of this country - and I see lots of students here who are studying history at the present time - will tell you that in the history of this country we have had some Presidents who have been Democrats, great Presidents, and some who have been Republicans. But the important thing is that the American people - Democrat or Republican - always put the country first, and that's what we must do and you must do in this campaign - what is best for the country.

Now, second. The second point I would like to make is this. I have been part of the administration we presently have. I was elected with President Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. I'm proud of the record of that administration and that, of course, is one of the things you must take into consideration: the record of an administration is something that you must evaluate among other things in determining the leadership you want for America.

I'm proud of that record for a number of reasons. First, I think the American people will always be grateful to President Eisenhower because he brought decency and respect to the highest office in this land. I think also that the American people are going to be grateful to him because he brought leadership under which America has had the greatest progress - economically - that this country has ever enjoyed. But, above all, I would say that the American people will be eternally grateful to President Eisenhower and to his leadership because during his term of office he ended one war in which America was involved, he kept us out of other wars, and we have peace today without surrender [applause drowns out last few words].

Now, you know, sometimes a candidate for public office, when he has a good record like that, to run on, is tempted to say: Well, that's it, folks, I'm running on the record and that's all. But, my friends, that isn't all and that isn't enough. I don't care how good a record is, whether it's in a State, in a county, in a city or in the Nation, our people are people who are always looking forward, this is a go-ahead country, we want to move ahead, and however good things are today we want them better tomorrow - not so much for ourselves but for our children.

I remember my Dad always used to say when the five of us were growing up, five boys in our family, he never used to talk about the good old days and he never used to be satisfied with the way things were at the present time, he'd say that in America we always must be looking for ways in which we can make this country better. America must move ahead, and that's why we're the greatest country in the world, because we've always been a people that have moved ahead, never satisfied with things as they are.

And today I tell you, and I pledge to you, that as I look at this country of ours, that we can move ahead in many areas. I noted that as we flew down here today there was great territory, our farming country here, and I know that we Americans can be very grateful for the fact that our farmers have been responsible for making the American people the best fed, the best clothed, the richest people in the world.

I know, too, that as far as our farmers are concerned many of them have not been getting a fair share of America's increasing prosperity. And I believe we need a program which will remedy that situation. I announced part of it last week; I'm going to make another speech Friday in South Dakota. This is the one area where we can move forward and where America's farmers will move forward with the rest of the American people for greater prosperity. This is one area I am sure will approve programs which will move America forward.

Another area. I mentioned our students here. We have the finest school system in the world today. You know, more American youngsters can get a better education in this country and get it in a climate of freedom than youngsters can get in any country in the world but, my friends, it can be better. We must constantly improve our educational standards. We must constantly work not only for better buildings for our students, but most important of all we must work to see that our teachers receive a recognition and a compensation which will enable them to give us the highest standard of education in the world.

And whatever the field is - whether it is in the field of providing an adequate share of America's income for our farmers; whether it is in moving ahead in the field of education; whether it's the field of providing better opportunities for our older citizens - not only protecting them against the hazards of old age and illness, but allowing them to live a more productive life in making their contribution to America's progress, rather than sitting on the sidelines. Whatever it is, America can and must move forward, and I'm proud of the platform of our party and I say we shall move forward under our leadership. [Applause.]

Now, of course, a lot of people in this audience who haven't made up their minds yet how they're going to vote say: Just a minute - you're for better jobs and better schools and better income on the farm. Isn't everybody for that? And the answer is - of course. All Americans, Democrats and Republicans, want a better life for our people. The question is which kind of leadership can best provide it. What is the best way to this better America that we all want? And I say, my friends, our leadership is the best way because we've proved it and we've proved it in a number of ways. We can compare what we did in our 7 years with the 7 years before it and in every index that you want to take, America has moved forward better under Eisenhower than it moved forward under Mr. Truman in the administration which preceded it. [Applause.]

And now, as far as the future is concerned: Why will we move forward better and more effectively than they? Because we know the secret of progress in this country. And you know where it is my friends? They say too often that the answer to every problem is to turn it over to Washington, D.C. Now, my friends, Uncle Sam can do a lot for the American people, but remember this: America is not going to make the progress it should if we're going to count on Uncle Sam to do it for us. The way we're going to make the progress we should in this country, my friends, is for Uncle Sam to do what he can for the American people, but what he can do best for them is encourage them, to stimulate them, and to give opportunity for 180 million free Americans to do the best they can for themselves. That is the secret of America's progress. [Applause.]

And this means all of our citizens. It means that no Americans must be left behind. And it means that we must have programs which will enable them all to participate as they can contribute to America's greatness.

Now I've mentioned progress in these fields that all of you are interested in. May I mention now another point which is perhaps the most important of all, certainly the most important when you consider the fact that I'm going to discuss now. Somebody could certainly raise the question here: What could be more important than good income on the farm if you're a farmer? And what could be more important than a good job if you're a wage earner? What could be more important than a good education if you're in school? And my answer is: What could be more important than a good job and all these other things is being around to enjoy it. And so the greatest responsibility of the next President of the United States, the greatest one is this: Which of the two candidates can best provide the leadership that will keep the peace for America without surrender and will extend freedom throughout the world? [Applause.] And I say to you today that on the record we believe we can do that job.

I say to you today that I have a colleague running with me who will be a partner in working for extending the peace and keeping the peace. And, my friends, in commenting about him, may I say that I am proud to be on the ticket with him and certainly on commenting on his qualifications. I think you will agree with me when I declare that no man in the world to ay has done a more effective job, no man in the world today has been more experienced in fighting for the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge in representing the United States at the United Nations. [Applause.]

Now, how do we propose to keep the peace? Let me summarize it in just a few minutes. One: We've got to keep America stronger than any other nation in the world and we must do this because our strength is the guarantee that those who might use their strength against peace and against freedom - our strength is a guarantee that they will be deterred from doing so. And we are the strongest Nation today - we must continue to be in the years ahead. Second: America's diplomacy must be firm. What do I mean by that? We must recognize that the man that we are dealing with, the "men" I should say, like Mr. Khrushchev, that we are dealing with, respect strength and they also respect firmness.

Now, what do I mean? Let me give you an illustration. You remember the recent Paris Conference in Paris - the conference in which Mr. Khrushchev broke it up, he said, on the grounds that President Eisenhower had ordered flights over Russian territory for the purpose of getting information with regard to their war preparations. And after that conference, President Eisenhower was criticized by some on the ground that he didn't do as much as he could to save it, that maybe he might have saved the conference so that we could go ahead and talk with Mr. Khrushchev by expressing regrets or apologizing for those flights. And my answer is: the President couldn't have done that for two reasons. One: when you're dealing with a man like Mr. Khrushchev you're not dealing with a man like leaders of the free world. He doesn't react, you see, like Mr. Eisenhower; he doesn't react like Mr. Macmillan or President De Gaulle or Chancellor Adenauer - this man is one who respects power; he is one who if you give him a concession without getting one in return, only asks for more. And, therefore, expressing regrets would have been exactly the wrong thing to do; it would have encouraged him to be more demanding than he was before. And the other reason the President was right in following the course he did was this: that no President of the United States must ever express regrets for doing what is right - attempting to defend the security of the United States. [Applause.]

What should we do while Mr. Khrushchev is here in the United States? My answer is as I said yesterday at my press conference and in my speech: we should continue this campaign; we can continue to point out those things in which we think America can improve its economy and its military strength. But my friends, I add this other thing: At this time when there are many who are finding those things that are wrong about America and are pointing out things that are wrong and things which they criticize - let's not forget the things that are right about America and tell Mr. Khrushchev those as well while he's here on American soil. [Applause.]

When we talk, for example, about the weaknesses we have militarily, let's not forget that we are still the strongest nation in the world and Mr. Khrushchev needs to know that and we know it as well. When we talk about what is wrong with our economy, let us point out that we are the richest, most productive nation in the world with more people with better jobs - earning more, spending more - enjoying a better, freer life than people have ever enjoyed in the history of the country. When people talk about the fact that American prestige is slipping around the world, there's a good answer to that: we just had some key votes in the United Nations - Mr. Khrushchev being on one side and the United States being on the other side. On one of them the score was 70 for us and nothing for him. That's good in football - it's better in the United Nations. [Applause.]

And to those who say, my friends, that American prestige is slipping, that America has lost its friends in the world, I say they should travel abroad as I have and they would come back with the conclusion that I have that I give to you today: America today does have friends in the world, we do stand for peace; we do stand for what people on both sides of the Iron Curtain believe. And this is my last point and I emphasize it particularly. People often say: What can I do for peace? What can I do for my country? What can I do for the cause of freedom? What can I do to help whoever is President to see that America leads the world as it should? I'll tell you what you can do. You know what is the greatest weapon on our side in this struggle? It isn't our tremendous atomic power; it is not our tremendous economic productivity; but the greatest source of America's strength and the greatest advantage we have over the enemies of freedom is the fact that America stands for more than military strength, more than economic strength, more than sheer atheistic materialism. We stand for moral and spiritual values and these are the things that you, the people of America, must strengthen. They must come from you and you alone. [Applause.]

And so, I say to this great audience here. Whatever you are, Republicans or Democrats or independents, however you vote in November, go back - strengthen our moral and spiritual fiber, strengthen our school system - because the strength of America in these areas comes from our schools, it comes from our churches, it comes from our families and our homes, and all these things we know you can do and we trust that as you do it America will present the picture that we need to present to the whole world - of a nation confident in its strength but primarily a nation that stands for the great ideals of faith in God, of belief in the dignity of man, a belief in the right of all men to be free as well as for ourselves to be free.

And now, my friends, may I conclude by saying just this to you. As I indicated at the outset, some of you are Republicans, some of you are Democrats. I only urge that when you vote - vote not simply the party label, but vote for what's best for America. And I urge you that if you believe that Henry Cabot Lodge and I can provide the leadership that America needs, then will you not only vote, but will you go out and work as you never have before - remembering that you're working not just for a man and just not for a party, but that you're working for ideals bigger than any man, bigger than any party, as great as the whole world itself. If you work that way, we will win a great victory for America and for the cause of freedom and peace throughout the world. Thank you. [Applause.]

Richard Nixon, Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Civic Center, St. Joseph, MO Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project