Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a White House Dinner and Dress Rehearsal of the Bob Hope Christmas Show for Overseas Troops

December 14, 1969


THE PRESIDENT. We want to welcome all of you rather officially in this famous State Dining Room of the White House. Of course I have been sitting here thinking of something appropriate to say this evening.

Perhaps one of the things I can do is to describe to you this room--not physically, because, of course, you can see it--but what it has meant to this country and what it means to us tonight to have this very special group here.

The only President who did not live in this house was George Washington. His picture, of course, was in the great East Room where you will be performing in a few moments. John Adams was the first President--ever since then the Presidents have lived here.

Of course, this house has had its problems. The British burned it once, but it was restored pretty much as it was originally planned. Then during the period of President Truman's Presidency, he lived in Blair House for awhile, while the White House was being redone.

But when you think back to all of the people who have lived here and of the great events that have been held here, you get a sense of the history of the room and what it means to the Nation--the Presidents that have been here, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower. And then, some of the people who have been honored here. I have been here for dinners with Chancellor Adenauer, De Gasperi of Italy, Winston Churchill, the King Of England, the Emperor of Ethiopia, Yoshida of Japan, and of course for other people, prime ministers, presidents, kings, emperors, and one duke--Duke Ellington.

Now this is a special occasion tonight. Usually we honor men, or sometimes a woman. For example, Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel, was here just a couple of months ago.

Tonight we honor a whole group. This is the first time that, rather than having the guests for dinner and the entertainment after, we are having the entertainers for dinner.

We are having you here for a special reason. We know that you are embarking on a long journey. We know what this journey means to our men abroad and all of those that will be there. We know, also, what it means to you, the fact that you have to be away from home during this Christmas and holiday season. And we are very grateful for that.

Also, another reason that I thought it was appropriate to have you here was the present one. It shows you what kind of a man Bob Hope is. Now I know he is going to follow me at some time, so I am not going to try to be funny; he says I don't have to try.

But, nevertheless, just so he doesn't beat me with this gag, it isn't true that my favorite song is: I have been dreaming of a White Christmas in the White House.

Whatever the case may be, this is our first Christmas in the White House and this is the first occasion that we have had an entertainment at night in the White House, and we thought that having Bob Hope and his great group would be the proper way to kick it off.

I could say that for a number of reasons, because I remember him from the days of radio, Radio City with all the various ways--on the stage, on the screen, on television, and other places. I remember him--not very fondly--on the golf course. Some day I am going to be his partner and I will win.

But we also remember particularly the great things he has done, which we are all aware of. Things like this: I recall he went to Mississippi a few weeks ago and they called it the "We Care Fund." He went there and contributed his time and raised a lot of money for people who had been made homeless by the hurricane. The last time I was on the phone with him-it just seems like a week ago--he was raising money for the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.

And all over the country he is doing something of that sort. To show you the real greatness of the man, when I suggested that on this occasion when he said he would stop by and open this Christmas season, that we would like to give a dinner in his honor, he said: "I would like to have the whole troupe here. I would like to have everybody here."

That is why you are here. And we are very honored to have you here. It shows you what kind of a man he is. It shows you a/so what he thinks of you. A man who is a real star in his own right recognizes that it takes a great team, a team around him of other stars to make him. That is a sign of his greatness and that is one of the reasons we appreciate him.

I just want to say that from all this you would gather I have known him for a long time. I have. I have known him since before most of you were born, at least most of those I met in the line. I have known Bob 22 years. And if you think that is a long time, I have known Les Brown 1 for 34 years.

Enough of that. I know that Dolores is over in Berlin waiting for you, but I thought that there would be no greater pleasure during the time I will be proposing toasts in this great room to the great of the world than to ask you to join me in proposing a toast tonight to Bob and Dolores Hope.

To Bob and Dolores.

To Bob and Dolores.

MR. HOPE. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I feel that I must catch up.

Mr. President, we do have our show coming on, and you are going to see the final rehearsal of our show. I think Mrs. Nixon--we talked it over--and I think she understands most of it. She may go to bed.

I am not going to try to tell a lot of jokes here because I am trying to think of what I am going to say to your guests out there.

I must say we appreciate this, and I can't think of a greater way to launch this trip. We have had the pleasure of being in Thailand and being invited to the palace every year by the King [Bhumibol Adulyadej] and Queen [Sirikit]. But everybody got a very special glow when they walked in here and they said, "How about this!" I said, "Yes, we are playing our palace."

So I just want our troupe to stand up and just toast our President and our First Lady. Thank you very much.


Mr. Vice President, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the distinguished guests:

This is a very special occasion and a first for the White House--the first time that we have had an evening at the White House, an evening of entertainment only.

We thought it was appropriate that we should begin what we think will now be a good precedent to follow, to begin in this Christmas season.

As we were trying to think of someone who could best kick off this series, the man who came to mind was, of course, Bob Hope.

I would like to say just a word before the show begins and then I will get off and leave it to him and to others.

But it has been said that probably no man in contemporary America has done more to make American men happy around the world than Bob Hope each Christmas season.

I asked him how long, and he said for 25 years. Year after year he has spent Christmas away from home, along with his wonderful troupe, some of whom have been with him almost that long and others who were born after he started his first show, something he will not admit.

He has gone almost all around the world, but this is the first time that he will be traveling clear around the world. He will be in Europe tomorrow, and then to various stations, until he finally reaches Vietnam, and then will return to the United States.

Those of you who will want to see what happens abroad can see the television show which will be carried, I understand, in the middle of January, an hour and a half special. But tonight we have something very special.

This is the first time in White House history that we have what is in effect an opportunity to see a dress rehearsal. This show has not been rehearsed before. It comes on completely unrehearsed and anything can happen--and it will.

And now finally, I would simply like to say this one thing about Bob Hope. We know him from television. We know him, too, from radio. And we know him, of course, as one who has given so much of his time and so much of his energy for good causes. This is a contribution that he makes with his appearance at the White House tonight and his trip around the world.

Somebody asked me whether or not we were paying for this performance and the answer is, we don't have room in the budget for it, and the other answer is if we put it in the budget, he couldn't afford to pay the taxes he would have to pay.

But in any event, in presenting the beginning of the show, it is my privilege, not to present Bob Hope, because he doesn't come on at the beginning, but an old friend. Thirty-five years ago at Duke University, when I was a student of law, working my way through, a man in the undergraduate school was working his way through with an orchestra--Les Brown.

Here he is--the master of ceremonies.


I know that I am expressing, Bob, the thoughts of everyone in this room of appreciation to you and the wonderful members of the Bob Hope troupe as you start this journey around the world.

I just consulted with the Secretary of Defense; he thinks the boys will get the message.

I think for you, Bob, I would like to say that we have a number of very special guests tonight, the members of the Cabinet, of course, the Vice President, and the members of the Joint Chiefs, and others. But on this night, too, I think all of the people here in the room would be very happy to know that we have one of our men who sewed with very great distinction in Vietnam, made a splendid record there, and who is now stationed in the Washington area. He also has another distinction; he was married in this house. And we are very happy to have Major Robb and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb here tonight2

Can you come up for a minute?

MR. HOPE. Lynda Robb volunteered to go with our unit a couple of years ago, and one of these days we are going to take her. Haw are you, darling?

He said when he was in Vietnam last year he couldn't see us from where he was standing.

THE PRESIDENT. I just want to say, Bob, as this evening comes to a conclusion, that James Thurber once wrote that the oldest and most precious national asset of this country is humor, and that we must do everything we possibly can to preserve it. Certainly no man in our generation has done more to preserve that asset than you have.

We wish you well as you take it around the world and bring a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our men abroad.

Thank you very much.

1 Leader of the "Band of Renown," which played later in the evening.

2 Maj. Charles S. Robb, USMC, and President Johnson's daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson, were married in the East Room of the White House on December 9, 1967.

Note: The exchange of toasts began at 8:21 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Following the dinner the President introduced the performance in the East Room at 9:15 p.m. and spoke again at its conclusion at 10:43 p.m.

The show was a final dress rehearsal before the cast left on a 15-day round-the-world tour to entertain servicemen abroad. It was Bob Hope's 21st Christmas tour and his 6th to Vietnam.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a White House Dinner and Dress Rehearsal of the Bob Hope Christmas Show for Overseas Troops Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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