Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Clark County Courthouse, Vancouver, WA

September 13, 1960

Mr. Mayor, Governor and Mrs. Hatfield, Secretary Seaton, all the distinguished guests that are on the platform, and our friends in Vancouver.

This for both my wife, Pat, and me is a first and a very unusual first because actually we have been in most of the cities of the West and, as a matter of fact, of the United States, but this is the first time we've been to Vancouver. We hope that it is not the last time in view of this wonderful welcome that you've given us. We thank you for it. [Applause.] We want to thank you, Mr. Mayor, for the arrangements that were made as we came into the city, the flags that were on the streets. We certainly could not feel more at home and we only regret that we have kept you waiting because we understand according to the Oregonians that we had a little California weather at the airport today which delayed us a bit landing. But you have been patient, you are standing here now, and I do appreciate the opportunity to talk to you for just a few moments about a decision that those of you at least of voting age are going to make, a decision about the future of your country, of our country. You will make it on November the 8th.

Now, as I look at this audience I realize that there are some here who are members of my party, there are some who are members of the other party. There are some who are perhaps what we call independent voters who have declined to state, as they have a right to do, what their political affiliation is. But all of you are American citizens. You have the opportunity on November the 8th, election day, to participate in the decision as to what leadership America should have in these next four years.

Now, in talking about that leadership, I'm talking about its relationship to you. I would like to do so in perhaps a way that you might not have expected.

It would be very easy for me simply to stand here and to say I am a Republican. All the Republicans ought to get out and vote for the Republicans and the Democrats likewise because I'm a Republican, and that would be it. I do not present the case that way. I'm not going to ask anybody here to vote on November the 8th because of the party label that I happen to wear which may happen to be the same that you have.

I think that when we select a President - this has been the history of our country - we think not just of our party but we think of the issues for which the man stands. We realize that in the history of our country some of our great Presidents have been Democrats and some have been Republicans and the decision of the people must be made on the basis of what is best for America. I would like to present our case, the case of our ticket, to you on that basis today. What is best for America?

Now, in answering that question may I say that I think we have to consider first what are the issues that you should think of as this election approaches. Of course there are many issues that concern you, many issues involving, for example, the future of this very area - how we can get more jobs and more business and more productivity in this and other parts of our Western States. Those are positions which I have discussed and will continue to discuss during this campaign.

But if I were to be asked the question what is the issue which wherever you are in the United States - North, East, South, West - in the oldest State, Delaware, or the newest State, Hawaii, if you were to go to every State in this Union and talk to crowds like this in this square, what would be the question that would unite them all, the one they all think about. What is the most important question that all Americans must decide in selecting a President in this critical period? I'll tell you what it is. Whether it's in Dallas, or Indianapolis, or Baltimore, or San Francisco where we visited yesterday, whether it's in Vancouver or Portland, or Boise where we will be today, the question is the same. It is - which of the candidates for the Presidency, which of the two candidates - the Presidency and the Vice Presidency - in either ticket can best provide the leadership that will keep the peace for America without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world? This is the great issue of our time. [Applause.]

You see it here on this monument. I read: "In memory of the faithful service in World War II lest we forget." Korea, World War I, World War II. The question - will we have world war III - and the question - what can we do to avoid that and avoid it without surrendering principle or territory - this is the major qualification that you must look for in the next man who may be President of this country. So I'd like to discuss how I believe about that issue so that you can make that decision having in mind my views and comparing them with those of the man who'll be running against me.

Let me say right at the outset there is no question about what all of us want. We agree, whether we are Democrats or Republicans, that we want peace without surrender, that we want progress and prosperity for America. The question is how do we get there. So in presenting our qualifications and our case to you may I say first of all I am proud of our record. Oh, you've heard criticism of President Eisenhower's administration in this area of foreign policy over the past 8 years but I submit to you that on the record it's one that the American people will be forever grateful to him because he got the United States out of one war, we've been kept out of other wars, and we do have peace today without an American boy fighting any place in the world. We're proud of that record. [Applause.]

We're proud of that record but we just do not stand on it because a record is not something to stand on. It's something to build on. And we must remember that there are threats to the peace of the world as long as the Soviet leaders are engaged in their aggressive tactics throughout the world. There will be problems whether they may be in Japan, in the Congo, in Cuba, or in Berlin or any other part of the world.

So the United States must continue to build its strength, its military strength, its economic strength, its moral and its spiritual strength, if we are to maintain this peace, this peace which we treasure not only for ourselves but for others throughout the world.

So I say to you today that we stand first for keeping America strong militarily. Why? Not because we want to use that strength in war but because we want to avoid war. And we know that as long as we have military strength we will never launch it against anybody else in aggression. We know that the purpose of our strength is to keep any potential enemy or aggressor from starting a war. And I will assure you and I pledge to you that the strength of the United States militarily must come before every other consideration. We must be first in the world and never settle for second best in this area. [Applause.]

Now, combined with that military strength we also need the right diplomatic policies. I'd like to have the time to discuss them in detail but I will just touch upon perhaps two phases of those policies which will illustrate my point.

The great problem is to remember that we are going to have difficulties and that we have to avoid two dangers. On the one side we've got to avoid belligerence; on the other side we have to avoid appeasement.

The President showed us what to do at the conference in Paris when in the face of Mr. Khrushchev's insults he, one, avoided answering in kind which would have reduced the dignity of his office and which also would have run the risk of heating up the international atmosphere so that we might have risked a war, and on the other side he avoided the other danger of expressing regrets for attempting to defend the security of the United States. So he followed the line that was correct and as a result, the position of the United States was maintained and our brave friends in Berlin still have their freedom today.

I could give you another example from a more personal standpoint that will illustrate the problems that we have in dealing with those who oppose us around the world.

Mention was made in introducing my wife Pat of her travels about the world. And, incidentally, I remember the lady who introduced her said she gets knots in her stomach when she was introducing her. I want to tell you that of all the speeches I've made, hundreds of them, thousands of them, I still get a knot in my stomach or the speech isn't any good. So any of you that plan to make a speech, don't ever worry about it. [Laughter.]

Now in thinking of Pat, I recalled an incident which occurred in Venezuela 2 years ago. On this occasion you may have read that there were mobs in the streets. Before we got downtown in Caracas that day we arrived at an airport, not with the friendly kind of a welcome that we had at Portland International Airport today, but we were welcomed by a shouting mob of Communist-led individuals who were there to embarrass us. And we had to walk from our plane underneath the balcony in order to get to our cars. As we walked underneath the balcony all of these people were on the balcony and a whole rain of spit came down upon us as we walked under the balcony. Well I first thought it was rain until I looked up. Then I looked at Pat's suit, a pretty new red suit, all covered with spit from top to bottom. You can imagine how I felt. I was angry and when I got out of that airport into the car I can assure you that it was difficult to restrain myself from not letting go and hitting the first one of the Communist leaders that came into sight. The same was true when we got downtown. It would have been a mistake, of course, to lose my temper.

Then later in the day we met with a group of Venezuelan leaders who came to greet us. I was still angry and I was tempted to blame them, the Venezuelan leaders, the non-Communist leaders, for not providing the protection that they might have. But if I had done so, that would have been a mistake.

Do you know who one of those leaders was? The present President of Venezuela, Mr. Betancourt, a man who is firmly on the side of the United States, a man who is against the Communists, and a man who at the present time is standing with us in our policy of the Organization of American States with regard to Cuba and in other areas.

Now I do not give this illustration to point up any personal abilities on my part. I only give it as an illustration of what leaders in the United States and the free world must always remember. We must never blame ourselves or our friends for what our enemies do. We must not blame, for example, the millions of good people in Japan for what the rioters did. We must not blame the good people in Venezuela, and the majority of them are on our side, for what the Communists did. Because the moment we do this, the moment we lose our temper, we hurt our cause, we risk the peace of the world also, in some instances, in the process. So much for that to illustrate that point. [Applause.]

May I go to just two other points and I will finish? I have mentioned that the United States must be militarily stronger than any other nation, that we must be firm in our diplomacy without being belligerent, and that with these two twin policies we can keep peace, keep peace. It will be uneasy peace because the Communists will make it uneasy. But we can keep the peace. But that isn't enough.

In addition to keeping the peace we must work to extend freedom throughout the world. We must remember that competition is going on between two systems - the system of communism on the one side, the system of freedom on the other. And the United States must not fall behind. Not only not fall behind, we must stay ahead and we are ahead today I can assure you - economically, scientifically from a standpoint of education, and every other area in the world today.

But in order to stay ahead we must get the most out of our American economy. It means developing the great resources of our West through our reclamation programs, our irrigation programs, the development of fish and wildlife, all of the others to which we have referred and with which you are familiar. It means the Federal Government doing its part, for example, where appropriate - through an urban renewal project like the one you have here in Vancouver. But here is where we have a difference with our opponents. It doesn't mean saying the Federal Government has the primary responsibility for taking care of the people, for producing progress. It means extending and increasing opportunities for 180 million free American citizens to make their maximum contribution to progress in this country. [Applause.] This is the way to progress for America.

And because the program that we stand for has been built on this principle, that's why we've had tremendous progress in these last 8 years. Built more schools than in any 8-year period of the history of this country. Built more hospitals. We have seen more development in the field of reclamation than in any 8-year period in the history of this country. All of these things accomplished by recognizing the fundamental principle that the Federal Government has a responsibility but that that responsibility is not to supplant individual responsibility and State responsibility but to supplement it so that the individual does everything that he should, and the State and local government does everything that they can and will, and the Federal Government moves in where the other two cannot or will not do the job.

Then finally my last point. I have been talking about military strength, economic strength. These would seem to be primarily important but more important than these two is the kind of strength mentioned so eloquently in the invocation today. I often say to the Chaplain of the Senate, Dr. Harris, that his invocation is usually the best speech made in the day in the Senate. And I can say today that perhaps the remarks in this invocation were those that will be longest remembered by this audience and properly so.

But let me tell you that, as we consider the cause of peace and freedom for the United States and the world, never forget this - our military strength is important. Our economic strength is important. But we have something more to offer to the world than just that. We have a moral and spiritual heritage that caught the imagination of the world 185 years ago and distinguishes America in the free world today. And we must strengthen the moral and spiritual heritage of America if we are to lead the free world to peace and freedom in the years ahead. [Applause.] Never forget this if we are to be free. [Applause.]

That, of course, is where all of you come in. Oh, it would be easy to say elect me President and I will do all these things for you. I will provide the great new leadership that America needs. But you know where greatness comes in a leader. It comes from the people. A leader can only be as great as the people are great. And this country has been great because its people have been great. So I say to you - be worthy of America in these critical years. Whether the world has peace and freedom depends upon not just the leaders but upon 180 million Americans doing their best for America, seeing that our moral and spiritual strength is at its highest, seeing that our young people have the greatest opportunity for education, doing the best that we can at our jobs whatever they may be, doing our best to see that America is a shining example of tolerance, of recognition of religious and racial tolerance, of recognition of the individual dignity of every man and woman in this country regardless of his background. All of these things you can do - Government can only help.

So as I close, may I give you a practical example. This is an election day here - primary election day. And if you haven't voted, when I finish go and vote. Select the candidates of your choice and once you have selected them, work for them - not just vote for them - work for them. And if you do that you will be making America the kind of a country she ought to be.

And what about November the 8th? What is my message to you? I simply say this. I have presented my case, at least a part of it. You will have the opportunity to hear me and my opponent in the future. I will say to you only this. After you have heard us both, go to the polls and vote. Work for the man of your choice. And whatever decision you make - the majority make, that will be best for America. But if you fail to work, if you fail to vote for what you believe, then America will not have made the decision that the world needs and that our country needs.

So I thank you for coming, for listening as patiently as you have. And looking out across this crowd, seeing people young and old listening so intently, standing here, certainly inspires in me faith in our country, in our ideals, and in the future. And remember - we're on the right side because we're on the side of peace, freedom, justice for all people - not just for ourselves. This side will prevail if we do our job.

Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Richard Nixon, Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Clark County Courthouse, Vancouver, WA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project