Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Old Nassau Courthouse, Mineola, NY

September 28, 1960

Vice President Nixon. Governor Rockefeller, Senator Javits, Senator Keating, Congressman Derounian, Congressman Becker, Joe Carlino, all of the other distinguished guests here. Attorney General Lefkowitz, are you back of me here? Fine. And then our leader here, Ollie Patterson.

May I say that this, of course, is one of the great crowds of the campaign and we thank you for making it so and for being so patient as you have in coming out. [Cheers - applause.] I know how difficult it must be for you to stand here jammed so tight, to have stood here so long, and we do appreciate it deeply.

I would like to say that we ought to express our appreciation to all of those who put this meeting on, for all of those who made the arrangements - I know it took a lot of work to do it - and particularly I think we ought to express by our applause our appreciation to the director, Angelo Ferdinando, to the [garbled] High School Band How about a hand for them? [Cheers - applause.] I can't see them but I can sure hear them and they sound good.

May I say that the opportunity to speak to a great audience like this is one that does not often come to any man in public life and it is an opportunity which he must always use to the very best of his ability, not simply to serve whatever his candidacy may be for a particular office but also to discuss those issues that are closest to the hearts of our people and to discuss them in a way that our people understand and can make an intelligent decision on the leadership this Nation is to have.

I want to say today, following the spirit of the introduction by the Governor, that I believe as you must believe that this election this November is as important a one as this country has ever had. I believe that not just because it will be important to me as an individual, as it will be, and to my opponent, as it will be to him, not only because it's important to my Congressman friends here - Steve Derounian, whose office is right across the way, and, incidentally, he and I are both Chowder and Marching Society. You don't know the society but that means Steve's OK. And may I say that to him, to Frank Becker, and the rest. But this election is important to you, to every American. And it's not only important to every American; it's important to every person in the free world and every person who wants to be free in the whole world today. That's how big it is. And that's why what I say and the decision you make must be responsible.

So I want to begin by trying to enunciate what I think is the most important issue of this campaign. Oh, I know we could get a lot of argument about that. If we were to go through and take a Gallup poll of the group here, some of you might say schools.

Some body else might say hospitals. Somebody else might say jobs. All of these things are vitally important. And I am proud we have a record, a platform in which we will produce where our opponents will make promises that they can never produce on and never have. [Cheers.] But you k now what could be more important than our job? What could be more important than our education for our young people? What could be more important than health care for our older citizens and for ourselves? And the answer is being around to enjoy all these good things.

So I say to you today that the most important decision you will make on November 8 is this: Which of the candidates for the Presidency, for the Vice Presidency, can best furnish the leadership that will keep the peace for America without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world? [Applause.] This is the great issue.

I say this issue is the great issue. Now I'd like to tell you how I'd like you to listen to me as I talk. I don't want you to think of yourselves as Republicans, or Democrats, or independents, whatever your registration may be. I say that when you select a President of the United States we do not and we must not think solely of the man's party. We've got to think of the country first. So think of America. What does America need in the way of leadership that will keep the peace, that will extend freedom, that will provide a better life for our children than we have for ourselves? That is the test I want you to put me to, my friend and colleague, Henry Cabot Lodge, to, the others running with me on this ticket to. That is the test. Not just our party, not just whatever our individual personality may be. And in talking to that point I want to say now those things I believe, those things that I believe America will need if we're going to keep the peace, if we're going to extend freedom and if America is going to continue to progress to the greatest heights that civilization has ever seen.

I believe that we deserve support from the American people - Cabot Lodge and I - because of the record of which we've been a part. I know that record has been subject to criticism in the field of foreign policy - a failure here, a failure there - as a matter of fact, you wonder how so many things could have been done wrong and so much come out right in America when you hear the critics of our foreign policy in this country. [Applause.] But I will say this: All the criticism in the world, partisan or otherwise, will never obscure the fact, the truth, and that is, that the American people will be eternally grateful to Dwight Eisenhower for ending one war, for keeping America out of other wars, and for giving us peace today without surrender. [Applause.] And this is what we certainly want to continue in the future.

Now you know when you have a record that is good, there's always a temptation, that is to stand on it. But a record is never something to stand on; it's something to build on - to build into the future. We're proud of our record in which Americans enjoy the greatest prosperity that this world has ever seen. We're proud of the record in which we built more schools than were built in the 20 previous years. We're proud of a record in which we've seen more progress in hospitals, in real income to our workers, than ever before in the history of this country. But, my friends, we don't stand here. We say that we have a platform for the future of America and we lead you into a better future.

What about this great issue? Where do we stand? What do we offer? Consider these things.

First, you must consider our experience. I cannot talk to [of] my own experience; that's for you to judge. I can talk about my colleague's. And I will only say that nobody knows better than the people in New York who had the opportunity to see him so much on television at the United Nations, the truth of what I'm about to say, that no man in the world today has had more experience or could have done a better job of fighting for the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge, our candidate for Vice President, at the United Nations. [Applause.] I say to you today that he will be a partner with me working to strengthen the instruments of peace, to strengthen the United Nations, to strengthen the Organization of American States, to build new organizations, confederations, which will strengthen freedom and strengthen peace throughout the world.

May I say in that connection that I believe that we offer to the country a combination in experience which the country needs and which we believe the country wants.

Incidentally, among those signs - where's Lyndon ? - I haven't seen him here today.

Anyway, going on from there, what else do we offer? Our background, our experience, and then our program.

As far as program is concerned, we begin with the essential and do you know what it is? You must know those who threaten the peace. Who are they? Not us. Not the British. Not the Japanese, the Germans, the Italians. There is only one threat to the peace of the world today and to the freedom of the world, and that is the one presented by the International Communist Movement with its power center in the Soviet Union and in Communist China.

So I say to you that Cabot Lodge and I know the men with whom we have to deal. We've had experience in dealing with them and on the basis of that knowledge these are the things we can and must do as a country.

First, we've got to keep America stronger militarily than any power in the world and the American people I know are willing to pay what is necessary to maintain that strength. Why? Because Mr. Khrushchev is a man who respects power. And an American President must never be in a position where he goes to a conference table, or where the Vice President or the Secretary of State, or any American who goes to a conference table and sits opposite a Communist and the Communist says, "I'm looking down your throat. We've got more strength than you have." That is not the case today; we're stronger. It must never be the case. And I pledge to you that America will continue to be the strongest nation in the world militarily so that we can keep the peace for all the world. [Cheers.]

This Nation must also move ahead economically. You know as we've driven through Nassau, as we've driven through these Long Island suburbs today, I've realized the tremendous growth of our economy. I've realized what has happened in these last 8 years, for example. I remember the first time I came out here in 1952. The new buildings, the new construction, thousands and thousands of new people. And to those that say that America has stood still for 8 years, I say they haven't been traveling around America. Go around and see America. [Cheers.]

But, my friends, great as that growth has been, we can't rest on it. We've got to move forward and I'll tell you why. Because we're in a race, a race for our survival, and we're challenged by men who are dedicated. Their system is wrong; ours is superior. Mr. Khrushchev told me he was going to catch us in 7 years. I want to tell you what our answer is. He won't catch us in 70 years provided we continue to move forward as we must in the years ahead. [Cheers.]

So I pledge to you that in education, in health, in science, in all of these areas, we will move America forward.

You say how does your program differ from that of your opponents? Don't they want to move America too? The answer is: of course. But we believe we know the way and we don't think they do. They offer programs that we left in 1953 and the American people don't want to go back to that period which resulted not in progress but in stagnation of our economy. I say that we know the way where they don't for another reason.

They suggest that the way to progress in America is always to turn everything over to Washington. They start with the Federal Government and work down to the people. We say that the way to progress in a free country, in America, is not to start up in Washington but to start with the people and work up to Washington, that it comes from the people of this great country. We say that government must play a part. It must lead. It must give direction. It must do those things that cannot and will not be done by the individual, by the State or by local government. But the way to the greatest progress in the country is to have not only a strong National Government, but to have a strong State government as you have here in the State of New York under the leadership of Nelson Rockefeller [applause], but to have also a strong county government, to have also a strong city government. But above all, what we need is a strong individual enterprise in this country. That is the heart of American progress, And our program will encourage and stimulate the creative energies of 180 million Americans and theirs would not. That is why we will progress, we will move where they will not in our opinion.

The other point that I would make is this. With this power, economic, military, that I have described, we need also a strong diplomatic policy, a diplomatic policy which, again, recognizes the kind of men we're dealing with. You know the trouble is too often people think that in dealing with men like Khrushchev they react like the leaders of the free world. Now I know Mr. Adenauer, Mr. Macmillan, Mr. De Gaulle, Mr. Nehru, and I know how they would react. They would react like President Eisenhower and other free world leaders would. But not Mr. Khrushchev. Remember, here is a man that has only one aim - conquer the world. Here is a man who will use any means to do that - to conquer the world. When you're dealing with a man like this, you must never make a concession without getting one in return. Appeasement is the road not to peace, it is the road to war or surrender, and we must never have that in the United States. [Cheers.]

That is why I say that to those who criticized the President after the Paris Conference, to those who said that the President had been too tough, that he should have tried to save the conference, saved it by apologizing to Mr. Khrushchev for the U-2 flights, I say to you that the reason the President couldn't do that - there were two. One, it would have been naive and gullible for him to do it. Apology would not have resulted in saving the conference; it would only have whetted Mr. Khrushchev's appetite and made him ask for more.

But beyond that, remember this. Whatever you may say, however you may vote, the time must never come when a President - Democrat or Republican - ever considers apologizing for attempting the security of the United States of America against surprise attack. [Cheers.]

So our policy must be firm but it also must be aggressive in the cause of peace, strengthening the instruments of peace, and it must be aggressive in the cause of freedom, never attempting to impose our rule on anybody else, always thinking of what we can do to live up to the ideals for which this country came into the world 185 years ago, ideals that are bigger than America, ideals that belong to all the peoples of the world.

I would like to speak to these ideals for a moment and I will be through.

Why do I mention ideals? I have had people talk to me after speeches and they say, "Now, Mr. Nixon, you're a realist. You know this fellow Khrushchev. He only respects strength. Why all this talk about idealism? What good are ideals standing for freedom standing for faith in God, standing for belief in the dignity of man. What good is all that in a world in which all that counts is material strength and military strength?" I'll tell you the answer. The answer is the history of civilization. The militarist and the materialist have always underestimated the power of ideals but ideals are what make the world move, ideals are what America stands for.

I often recall my experience with Pat in Poland. I recall that Sunday afternoon when a quarter of a million people were on the streets of Warsaw - not ordered out by their Government, but there because they wanted to be. Throwing flowers into our car. Shouting and cheering. I remember the caravan stopped eight times in the heart of Warsaw by people swarming around. And I recall looking into the faces of those people. Some were laughing and cheering at the top of their voices. Others were crying, men and women with tears streaming down their cheeks. And they were shouting, "America - long live America." Why? Not because we were militarily strong and economically strong, because Khrushchev had been there 2 weeks before. They didn't cheer him like this. Not because Pat and I were famous because we were not as President Eisenhower would have been. I'll tell you why and this is the heart of my message to you. Because America stood for these people behind the Iron Curtain for something more than military strength, something more than economic might. We stood for faith in God. We stood for the dignity of men. We stood for belief in freedom. And this is the heart of the American ideal and the next President must present this picture of leadership to the world because this is what we offer that the Communists cannot match. Because they believe in none of these things and this is what we stand for.

What can you do to help? I'm often asked that. By children, for example, in high school and so many of you are here today, in grade school and college, and by others. What can I do, Mr. Vice President, to help in this struggle and I'll tell you what.

America, to present the kind of leadership that we need to the world, must have strong faith in her own ideals, confidence in the rightness of her cause and that can come not just from a leader talking about it, but it's got to come from you. It comes from the church. It comes from the school. It comes from the families of America. And to every one of you here, wherever you may be and however you may vote, I say strengthen the idealism of our people, infuse in our young people a love of country, a true love of country in which we recognize what is wrong and try to correct it, but in which we don't ignore the things that are right, in which we are proud of being Americans and realize it is the greatest country and always stand up for it when it is under attack. Infuse into our people this burning idealism because across the world there are men driven by fanatics, driven by fanatics who are fighting for the victory of communism. And we must fight for ideals even stronger than they fight for theirs.

So what you can do then is to make the American ideals true. Make them live. That's why I say to every audience when the opportunity is presented, when we talk about the issue of civil rights and the equality of opportunity, remember, we do this not simply by doing a favor to people that are discriminated against. We do this because it's right. We do this because it helps America. We do this because America must never be in a position such as we were in a few days ago where a man who has enslaved millions and has slaughtered thousands in the streets of Hungary is able to come in this country and point the finger at us and say, "You do not practice what you preach. You are the ones that practice prejudice."

So I say to all of you, my friends, whatever the prejudice may be, or the hatred, in this country, let us from our hearts fight it. Let us fight it because it's wrong. Let us fight it also because America cannot lead the world unless we are true to our own highest ideals.

So again may I thank you for being so patient, for listening to my message, and may I close with this thought.

You are Republicans and Democrats and independents but you are above all Americans. We want your support. I ask for your support. But in asking for it and wanting it, I urge you put it on the basis of what's best for America. And if you believe that Henry Cabot Lodge and I can afford the leadership that America needs and America wants, the free world needs, then, my friends, if it's that kind of leadership, this is a cause worth working for as you've never worked before, worth fighting for as you've never worked before. Oh, I know we'll give you a big majority out of this county, we need the biggest you've ever got. So go out and do it for us if you believe as we believe.

Thank you. [Cheers - applause.]

Richard Nixon, Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Old Nassau Courthouse, Mineola, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project