Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY

October 05, 1960

Vice President NIXON. Thank you, very much.

Governor Rockefeller, Senator Keating, all of the distinguished guests here on the platform, and this very great and exciting crowd here in Rockefeller Center. I've been trying to think how I could compare this crowd with others that I have seen in the course of the campaign. I have seen some which were wider. I have seen some which are as long; I have never seen any as tall as this crowd in New York here today. And, to all of you who have come to give us a part of your noon hour, to give us the chance to see such a great gathering of people in this historic and magnificent site, we thank you. We thank you because we have the opportunity through these few moments to do two things. To get a chance to hear and see one of the candidates for the Presidency. And I get a chance to see and talk to a great throng of people of my party, of the other party, and of those who classify themselves as independents.

I want to say just three or four things that are, it seems to me, preeminent in this campaign at the outset. First, I've noted signs in the State of New York "Vote row A all the way." [Applause.] As a Republican, I am very proud of all of those who are my colleagues on this ticket. I want to say, however, that I urge this great audience whatever you are - Republicans or Democrats - that in evaluating the man who is to be the President of the United States you use a different standard. It has been our tradition in this country when we elect Presidents and Vice Presidents to think not just of the party, not just of the label. And I think that tradition is particularly important for us to follow this year. As Governor Rockefeller has so eloquently and concisely indicated, the issues confronting America and the world are of vital importance. The man that is elected this year not only must lead America toward progress for a better life at home, he has a responsibility to lead the whole free world. And the hopes of millions of people in this world for a better life, the hopes of millions of people for freedom, the hopes of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain for freedom may rest with us. And whoever is the next President will carry a great burden of tremendous responsibility, a responsibility you will give to him.

And, so, today I say to you, first, as you judge me, as you judge what I have to say, don't vote simply the party line. I say to you that when we elect a President in this critical period of the '60's it is America that comes first, and the party second. And I present the case to you on that basis today. [Applause.]

What does America need? What is it that you must look to in the next President of the United States? What are the qualifications he must have? Well, as Governor Rockefeller again has indicated, there is an issue that overrides the rest and to which all the rest are related. It is the issue of survival. You have seen the face of our opposition in all of its changing complexities, in its ruthlessness, in its toughness. You have seen it as I have seen it, in hand to hand combat, in effect. And it is good that Americans again have had an opportunity to see Mr. Khrushchev, to see him and his colleagues, because we must know what we're up against in the world. We must know if any of us have a tendency to be complacent about our defenses, or about our economy, or about our progress in civil rights, or any other area, that when you're confronted with this kind of competition, you can never be satisfied with what you've got, you've got to move forward, and move forward as fast as you can. And that's what we're going to do. [Applause.]

That's why whether it's in the field of defense where America must not think of the tax cut that we may want, but where we must think of what our defenses need to be, that the first priority must be to meet our responsibilities, not only to ourselves, but to the whole world, to see that America in its capacity to fight big war small war, and to meet any eventuality has an overwhelming superiority.

And I pledge to you that whatever needs to be done in this area, whatever needs to be done, that I will ask the American people to do. Because we are the guardians of peace and freedom, and we must not let either ourselves down or our children down or the world down, and we will not in this field, or in any other. [Applause.]

And, now, a subject that is closer to the site at which we are meeting. We also must move ahead, economically. This, of course, is an example of why America is the richest, the most productive, the most prosperous nation in the world today. This is an example, this site on which we meet, of why it is that we have at the present time an economy that is outproducing the Soviet Union by over 2 to 1. It is an example, too, of the way America can continue, one, to maintain the lead we've got. But more than that, increase the lead over Mr. Khrushchev.

Let me tell you why this is necessary. We hear about the danger of war, and it is one that we must avoid. And we can avoid it by military strength, and diplomatic firmness, and by always strengthening the instruments of peace, like the United Nations. But we must remember, that our opponents in the world have said over and over again, particularly those represented by Mr. Khrushchev and his wing of the Communist movement, that they do not have to conquer the world by arms, that they are satisfied to do it by other means. And one of the means that he brags about is that he's going to catch the United States economically. Oh, I remember what he said to me in Moscow. "Mr. Nixon, I admit you're ahead of us now, but our system is better than yours, we're younger than you are, we're more vital than you are, and we're going to catch you in 7 years. And when we catch you, I'm going to wave goodbye, and say, 'Come along. Follow us and do as we do, or you're going to fall hopelessly behind."'

That's what he says. And some of you smile, but, my friends, when you see it, when you see the fanaticism in his eyes, when you see the hard-driven Russian people as I have seen them. When you see in every factory, and on every billboard sign "Work for the Victory of Communism" you know that this challenge is one that Americans can never be complacent about, that we can't take lightly. We not only have to do as well as we have been doing in moving the American economy forward, we must find every way and every means whereby this economy of ours can increase its growth so that Mr. Khrushchev cannot meet his boast of catching the United States, or meet, or even close the gap which presently exists. And we stand for programs that will do this very thing. [Applause.]

I would like to tell you that the answer is only in what Washington does. That is the tendency of our opponents. It is to say we will catch them, and we will stay ahead, because Washington will spend for this, this, this, and this. And we have programs in all these fields. But, my friends, I want to tell you what we do stand for. Washington has the responsibility to lead. Washington has the responsibility to stimulate and inspire. But above everything else, Washington must see to it in its policies that it never blunts, but always encourages what people do. Our advantage in this great struggle is not in our Government, but in our people. And this is the philosophy on which we talk today, and which we must always believe. [Applause.]

I know it isn't fashionable to talk about individual and private enterprise. But what built America? What built this? Private enterprise, individual enterprise, and we are for programs that will inspire it, and stimulate it, and create it. [Applause.]

But, then, to my friends here who say, "Leave us alone, and we'll do all these things," my answer is: "You can't be left alone." Because, again, in the field of education we cannot afford to waste the challenge of any mind, or any young man who might be a potential scientist, a potential engineer, a potential leader of this country ; and that's why I have a program in the field of education, a program which Governor Rockefeller and I have worked together on, which will see that every young man in this country who has the ability can get the higher education that he needs. Why? Because America needs him. Not because we're just doing a favor to him. That is why in the field of economic growth it is essential that we not only stand where we are, but that Government adapt policies in the field of taxation, policies that may not be popular politically, but policies that are absolutely essential to encourage investment, to encourage individual enterprise. And this we will do.

And, I say that as far as the American people are concerned, while this is a kind of a program that is not one the demagogs will be pleased with, it is one that wilt bring to the people the increase in their progress, and the increase in jobs and job opportunities that every American wants. And that's the way to get it, and not through just sending it down to Washington to create the jobs through what Washington spends. [Applause.]

There was another point that I would make. I make it here recognizing that most of the people in this great audience are those that have had rare opportunities. You have had the chance to go up in your communities, to go to school. You have not suffered from discrimination or prejudice, the great majority of you. And the reason I mention it to you, the reason that I think it's particularly appropriate to say it here is because I don't know of any man in this country who at the State level, and who also in his life, has done a more effective job, or one who has believed more deeply than Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in the field of creating equal opportunities for all of our people. [Applause.]

I could say to you, too, that my two colleagues in the Senate, Ken Keating and Jack Javits, have done as much as any two men in the whole Congress of the United States in this field. And now I want to tell you why it's important. The easy thing, again, would be to say the obvious thing. It's important because politically there are a lot of people that vote that do not have equality of opportunity. But, my friends, this is not the reason we do this. We must see that every American has his equal chance. With the world series beginning today we may not all be able to hit home runs, but we're all entitled to our time at bat. We must see to it that the American people have that equal chance, one, because it's right; because the moral and spiritual ideals of this country require it; because America cannot be proud of itself, deep inside, and no American can ever feel right unless we practice what we preach as far as American ideals are concerned.

There's a second reason. We need all the people in this country. Take our 14 million Negro citizens. We can't afford to waste their talents by giving them inadequate education. We can't afford to fail to develop the talents of a man like George Washington Carver who got an education the hard way, and then developed products which are still helping the South in which he grew up. We simply have to develop the talents of all of our people. And the only way we can do it is for all of us to work in our daily lives to see that our people have an equal chance for jobs, for housing, for all these things that spell equality of opportunity.

And, in that connection, let me just say this other thing. The easy thing is to say, "Well, the State government's going to handle that. Why doesn't Keating and Javits pass a law to handle that? Why doesn't the President do that?" Or, "What's the matter with those stupid people down in the South? Why don't they do better in this?" My friends, let's be honest about it. This is not just a southern problem. It's a problem in my State of California. It's a problem in the State of New York. It's a problem all over America, and it's a problem for every individual American, and together we've got to move together to solve it. And I'm sure if we do, America will be a better place in which to live. And let's never forget that. [Applause.]

There was another reason that I mentioned. I mentioned Mr. Khrushchev. He had many things to say a few days ago. One of those, I think, must have cut to the quick everyone who loved this country and who had faith in its ideals. This man who has enslaved millions, and I have seen them, this man who has slaughtered thousands in the streets of Budapest, and I have seen Hungarian refugees come across the border at Andau. This man comes to the United States, and what does he do? He says, "You deny the rights of man." And I say, if there were no other reason, we must deny to this man this argument in the struggle for the minds and the hearts and the souls of men. We must be able to practice at home what we preach abroad, and we believe it, the dignity of all men, the right of all men to be free; these are things that we inherited from our fathers. And they are ones that we must pass on, ever increased, to our children as well.

And, now, the last point that I would make is a very simple one. As I see this audience, as I think of what goes through your minds, I know that you realize the vital importance of this election. And I suppose you say "Mighty important to the fellow talking too. His whole life is involved." What happens to me, what happens to my wife does not matter in this election. What actually happens to our party does not matter. What happens to this country does. And, so, I say to you, again, consider what I say. Consider what our opponents say. And, then, make your decision for America. Make it on the basis of the men, their background, what they believe deep inside, and the kind of leadership they're able to provide.

I can only say, in conclusion, this: I know this country; I have seen the world. I have faith in our people, and in our system. I have a determination and a dedication because of the challenge that I have seen face to face that America must move forward in all fronts. And I will give the leadership to the best of my ability that will provide that kind of movement.

I, also, can say something about my running mate. It would be presumptuous for me to compare my experience with my opponent's, but I can certainly talk about his. And I can say that no man in the world today has had more experience, or could have done a better job fighting for the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge as our Ambassador to the United Nations. [Applause.]

This is our case. We present to you our background. We present to you our faith in this country. We present to you the determination to lead America into a great new future in which men can live at peace with each other. In which nations can be independent. Which all people can be free. To this we dedicate ourselves, and we thank you, again, for the opportunity of meeting with you. [Applause.]

Richard Nixon, Remarks of Vice President Nixon, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project