Richard Nixon photo

Speech by the Vice President, Long Island Arena, Commack, Long Island, NY

September 28, 1960

Thank you very much.

Congressman Wainwright, Senator Keating, Mr. Chairman, Reverend Clergy, all the distinguished guests on the platform, and this great rally audience here in Suffolk, I was told by Stuy Wainwright just before I came on to this platform that this was the first time that a presidential candidate of either party had ever visited this county. I want to tell you tonight that, on the basis of what I have seen, it sure isn't the last time a Republican candidate is ever going to come here.

Thank you.

Somebody asked me as I was sitting here - your chairman - "How does this compare," he said, "Mr. Vice President, with other rallies that you've seen around the country?"

My answer is that I have never seen a rally that could surpass this not only in size, but in enthusiasm - and this indicates why this county has such a great tradition for our party, why you are going to give us a tremendous majority, but will help us carry the State of New York this November.

Incidentally, I understand that outside the hall are a number of people who could not get in, who are having to listen by public address system, and after we finish the remarks here Pat and I will go outside so that you can hear me briefly, but mainly so you can see Pat, because I know you will want to do that too.

I was also asked, at the end of a day of campaigning in the great State of New York: "How is it going? What do you find people are thinking about? How are the crowds reacting? What are the great issues of the campaign"

Tonight I would like to begin by sharing with this great audience some of the experiences of a presidential candidate over the first few weeks of this intensive campaign which has taken us from Maine, down east, to Hawaii, in the far, far West, which has taken us to the North and the South, to the Midwest, to the Mountain States, to California, Oregon, and Washington, all in the space of 2 weeks or so; and there are some conclusions that we can draw from what we have seen. There are some things that will stand out in our memories: A little girl, for example, in a hotel lobby in Nebraska, in Omaha, at 8 o'clock in the morning, who had gotten up - she was only 8 years old - to see us off. She came up to me and she said, "You know, Mr. Nixon, my daddy is going to vote for you. And you know what I do? I make a wish every time I go under a bridge that you'll make President."

And we have memories of little girls, boys, others making their wishes, sharing them with us, and it makes us, as you can imagine, very humble and very aware of the responsibility we have as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

We have other memories that are not connected necessarily with campaigning: A stop at a school for the deaf in Michigan; another one in Iowa, talking with the translator of sign language standing beside us, seeing the light in the eyes of these children, who could only read our lips, and in some instances, not even that, but who nevertheless, had a feeling for this country, an understanding for it, a faith in it, that inspired anyone, and after an experience like that we realized that whatever little problems we might have, however long the days might be, they were very, very insignificant to the ones that they had.

Then, in addition, we have been to great rallies like this, at night in halls, none any more enthusiastic. As a matter of fact, this is like the Republican National Convention - you've even outdone them - in Chicago.

Yesterday in the rain in Memphis, Tenn., an estimated 25,000 people on the riverfront, standing there in the rain for an hour, because we were delayed, and listening to what we had to say; crowds - some of them Republicans, primarily, as this one is; some of them mixed with Democrats, Republicans, independents - all of them people concerned about America, her leadership, and caring enough about America to give us the time to talk to them.

So, first, tonight, I want to thank you for coming out. I want to thank all of those who have helped put on this meeting - your county committee, those who arranged the entertainment, but particularly you who have spared us an evening of your time to hear our side of the story, and in presenting that story to you tonight I again want to share with you what I find the people are thinking.

What is the issue that overrides the rest? What is the one that joins Americans together?

You know, we often hear how different we Americans are about this and that and the other thing. Oh, they'll tell you a labor group is interested only in the things that affect labor. They'll tell you a farm group is interested only in the things that affect the farmer, that the people in the North think altogether differently from the people in the South.

There are differences, I can assure you, and each economic group has a different attitude concerning its various problems and the leadership the Nation needs, but, my friends Americans are united by great issues and the one which unites them primarily today is their concern over the future of this country and of the world. And you know what it is? It is the great issue of which of the candidates for the Presidency and the Vice Presidency can give America and the world the leadership that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world.

Some of you might ask, "Why would a labor group be more interested in this than in good jobs and good pay?" Because they know that this comes first and that the best jobs in the world aren't worth anything if you're not around to enjoy them.

Why would a farm group be more interested in this, as I found at two great plowing matches in Iowa and South Dakota? Because they know the best farm prices in the world don't mean anything unless you're around to enjoy them.

Why is it that people, everywhere we go, whether it is on the streets down in Nassau, a little earlier today, or in Queens, or whether it is here in Suffolk tonight, have this in their minds? Because they know that their future, their children's future, depends upon the leadership we get.

So tonight I talk to that point, and in talking to that point I want to ask you to judge what I say by a different standard than might have occurred to you. The standard is this: I do not ask for your support tonight on the basis that I am a Republican and that you may be, if you are. I say that the issue, this one particularly, is so important that it is one that we must decide, not on the basis merely of a party label, but on the basis of the interests of America.

We are Americans first. We are partisans second. So, judge what I have to say on the basis of what is best for America and we will be satisfied with the decision.

Now, I naturally believe that the leadership that my colleague Cabot Lodge and I can provide is the leadership that America needs and that America should approve; but you must be the judge, not me, not him, not our opponents.

So, I want to tell you tonight why I think our leadership is the leadership American should vote for apart from any partisan considerations.

First, you must judge us by our record, and as far as that record is concerned, we have both been part of it, he in the United

Nations, I as a member of the President's Cabinet and also as one who has served as Vice President and had various assignments in that capacity.

Looking at that record, you will find that it is subject to a considerable criticism, and that is the responsibility of our opponents, to point out those things that are wrong so that we can correct them. But let me say this: My friends, all the criticism in the world of the Eisenhower record in the field of foreign policy cannot obscure the truth that the great American people know, and that is this, that under his leadership we have ended one war, we've kept out of other wars, and we do have peace without surrender today.

But let's look a little further. "Mr. Vice President," the critics will say, "this is an uneasy peace. We have allowed our advantages to be frittered away. America is fast becoming a second-class nation, Second in education, second in science, second in space, going to become second militarily, going to become second economically, because America has been standing still for 8 years."

This is what we hear. We hear that American prestige has fallen to an alltime low. That's an old record, of course. Mr. Stevenson played it in 1956 and a majority of 9 million Americans said he was wrong, and it's just as wrong today as it was in 1956.

American prestige - by what do you measure prestige? There isn't any better place to measure it than in the United Nations itself. We had a test last week on the Congo, on which the United States was on one side and the Soviet Union was on the other side. You know what the score was? They got none. We got 70. That's pretty good in football. It's better in international relations.

But the critics may say: "Mr. Nixon, don't you know that the Communists ran riots which stopped the President from going to Japan? How do you explain the fact that the Communist ran riots against you and Mrs. Nixon when you went to Caracas and they spit on her and on you? Doesn't this show that something's wrong with us?"

My answer is this: We must not blame ourselves for what the Communists do. We must recognize that when we are succeeding in any area of foreign policy the Communists aren't going to approve it.

We must recognize, too, that, as we look at the situation, whether it is in Japan or whether it is in Venezuela or anyplace else in the world, the United States is not trying to get a policy that will please the Communists anyplace in the world because if we do that it will not mean the peace without surrender that all Americans want in the world today.

Does this mean that our policy has been perfect? Not at all. It simply means this: That as long as we have this great conspiracy in the world, determined to conquer the world, we are going to have trouble created by them. But the test is, How do you deal with it? Do you handle it correctly? Do you avoid the pitfalls on the one side of weakness and surrender and on the other side of belligerence which could lead to war

We have avoided it in the past, and now the question for Americans is, What leadership can avoid it in the future and extend the cause of freedom for all the world?

So, on the record, may I say we are proud of it. We are proud of it. We say that all the criticisms about America cannot obscure the solid facts - the fact that America today is the strongest nation in the world militarily, that we are the most prosperous nation in the world, that we are ahead in education and in science, and that we can stay ahead if we move ahead, and that we will do under our leadership more than we will under theirs.

What else does our leadership recommend? Of course, you must look at our experience. I cannot comment on my own - that is for you to judge - as it compares with that of my opponent, but I certainly can comment on my vice presidential running mate's, and I will say this: I don't think any man in the world today has had more experience and has done a better job fighting courageously and articulately for the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge, our candidate for Vice President.

The cynics might say, "But, Mr. Nixon, what does a Vice President matter?"

And the answer is that in our administration the Vice President is going to be a partner in the development of policy and implementation of policy, and particularly in the foreign policy area he will have assignments that even I have not had, and mine have been unprecedented, and I want to say that working together as partners we will strengthen the instruments of peace - the United Nations, the Organization of American States, new organizations as they may be necessary, which will strengthen peace and extend freedom through out the world. We say we have that experience, valuable experience, and we let you judge that according to what likes you may have, comparing it with what our opponents may offer.

Then the third point you have to look at is this: Our record; our experience, our program. What do we say America must do if we are to keep the peace? What are we to do in the years ahead? We begin by saying that America cannot stand still militarily, economically, scientifically, or in any other area.

The charge, of course, is made that America has been standing still, and my answer is that those who say America has been standing still haven't been looking at the United States as I have, because America has been moving.

And if you want to make a comparison, say take any index of progress - the building of schools, the building of hospitals, the development of our economy, our gross national product, the increase in the real wages of Americans - and you'll find we've done far better in these 8 years than was done in the previous 8 years, and that's what they pay off on.

But, whatever we have done, we are not satisfied. We must move forward from here, and these are the things that we pledge to you: We will see that America's military strength, at whatever the cost may be, is maintained at a level that it will deter any aggressor from ever launching any attack or from ever being in a position where they can blackmail us at the conference table.

This we must do, because, my friends, the danger, in my opinion, is hot so great that a military attack might be launched against us. The danger is that any American President in the future will go to a conference and will have the man sitting across the table be able to look down his throat and say, "I'm stronger than you are."

This must never happen, and I pledge to you it will never happen under the leadership we will give America.

And we must move forward economically. Why is economic growth important? Because here is an area in which a competition is going on in the world today which could prove decisive.

We've been challenged. I remember Mr. Khrushchev, in Moscow, speaking to me in that famous discussion in the kitchen. He said, 'Oh, Mr. Nixon, I know we're behind you now economically, but.," he said, "you know, we're moving faster than you are. We're going to catch you, and we're going to pass you by, and as we go by we're going to wave and say, 'Come on, follow us; do as we do or you're going to fall behind in this race.'"

And I want to tell you what our answer is. He said he would catch us in 7 years. He won't catch us in 7 years or 70 years, provided we remain true to the principles that have made America the most prosperous country in the world today.

But the risk of his catching us will be increased if we turn to policies that stifle the main motive power for progress in America.

You know what it is? It isn't what the Federal Government does, as big as it is. It isn't what the State government does, as big as it is, or the county or the city government. It's what people do. The people of this country have been responsible for our progress, and it's because under our leadership rather than turning to Washington for the solution of every problem - under our leadership we have programs for progress in schools, in health and education, and all these other areas that I have mentioned which will rely primarily on encouraging and stimulating the creative activities of 180 million free Americans. That's the way to progress in this country.

And what do our opponents offer? They say, "Come with us so that we can attack these new frontiers."

Ah, there are some great new frontiers which America will certainly cross, but let me say we will not be able to cross those frontiers with the programs and policies of yesterday.

What do they offer? Look at their economic policies. Study them and you will find that they're retreads, pale carbon copies of what America left in 1953, and I say America does not want to go back to the policies that failed in 1953. We want to go forward and build on the great policies of this administration, and that is what we offer to you.

And so I say these things now. We submit to you our record. We submit to you our experience. We submit to you our program for military strength and economic progress in this country, always moving forward, with the Federal Government taking the responsibility for leadership, the responsibility to do those things which the State and local governments and individuals cannot do, but with the Federal Government always recognizing that the motive power must come from the people.

These are indexes these are the principles, which we will follow in the program of leadership which we offer to America.

What else is necessary We need a diplomatic policy that is just as strong as the economic and military strength which America has and must have in the future.

What do I mean by diplomatic policy? We had a pretty good example of it at the Paris Conference. You remember that Conference - Mr. Khrushchev broke it up. He broke it up over the U-2 flights. He said because of those flights he was going to have to break the Conference up.

And do you know what happened? President Eisenhower came back to America, and there were people that criticized him. On the one side there are people who say, "Ah, Mr. President, you should have answered that fellow with the same kind of language he used on you, because he insulted you."

But what did President Eisenhower do? He did the right thing, and I'll tell you why. When you're confident of your strength, when you know you're right, you don't lose your dignity and get down and answer a man in kind like Mr. Khrushchev.

And I say we have had from President Eisenhower again in his speech to the United Nations on Thursday another example of the kind of leadership which is firm, but nonbelligerent, which will always go the extra mile but which will never be gullible by the Communists and never be taken in by them. This is the kind of leadership America needs and it is the kind we will continue to have under our administration if you give us the opportunity.

Of course, all the critics of the President after that Conference weren't those who thought he should have answered. There are others who said, "Ah, the President didn't go far enough to save it; why couldn't he have agreed to Mr. Khrushchev's condition?"

Khrushchev, if you recall, said, "If the President will apologize, I'll go ahead with this Conference."

Let me tell you why he couldn't. I happen to know this man, as Cabot Lodge knows him. He doesn't react like the leaders of the free world, and we must have a President who knows him and understands how he operates, and I'll tell you this: Whenever you make a concession to a dictator without getting one in return, it is not the road to peace. It is the road to exactly the consequences that you want to avoid.

And, so, on that score it would have been a mistake for the President to have apologized, but there was another reason, even more fundamental, and it is this: The United States can always apologize for anything that is wrong; but, my friends, whenever the President of the United States is doing something that is right, whenever he is trying to defend the freedom of this country against surprise attack, I say that no President, Democrat or Republican, must ever apologize to anybody for doing that.

And, so, diplomatic firmness we add to the other ingredients of economic strength, military strength, which I have described.

There's another element which is tremendously important, which I mention in every speech, and I mention it again to this crowd tonight.

I say tremendously important. It is probably the most important of all.

This is a great contest, my friends, for the minds and the hearts and the souls of men. My wife Pat, and I have seen it all over the world - in Africa, in Asia, in South America - a seething change going on, and in this contest, military strength counts, yes; economic strength counts, yes. But the greatest strength is the strength of our ideas and our ideals, and here we have an advantage that Mr. Khrushchev can never meet.

What do I mean by that? Let me give you an illustration. I recall our visit to Poland. A Sunday afternoon a year ago. I recall the Government had not indicated where we were going to arrive or where we would drive when we went through the streets of Warsaw; but the word goes around in a dictator's country by word of mouth, and there were a quarter of a million people on the streets. They weren't just curious. They were shouting and cheering, as you shouted and cheered tonight. They were doing more than that. They were throwing bouquets of flowers into our car. They were kissing Pat's hand, and mine, and as the car was stopped, time and again, in downtown Warsaw, I looked into their faces. Some were smiling and laughing. Others were crying, with tears streaming down their cheeks, men and women doing this. Why? Why this tremendous outpouring of affection Not for us as individuals, because we were not famous to them. Not because America is strong militarily or economically, because Mr. Khrushchev had been there a week before. He had claimed that kind of strength, and they had not done that for him. No. The reason why, behind the Iron Curtain, a quarter of a million people came out was that America stands for more than atheistic materialism. We stand for more than military strength. We stand for ideals that caught the imagination of the world 185 years ago, ideals bigger than this Nation, ideals that belong to all mankind, ideals that we, as a nation, have a responsibility and a destiny to extend to all mankind.

What are they? Our faith in God. Our belief in the dignity of men and women, in their rights and opportunities to have every opportunity to get ahead, an equal chance at the starting line; our belief in the rights of nations to be independent, of people to be free.

These things we believe. This is what the people of Poland were cheering for. This is what America stands for, and this strength, moral and spiritual strength, can come not just from a President. It must come from the hearts of our people, and I ask you tonight: Whatever you may do in this election campaign, strengthen the moral fiber of this country. Be sure that our next President will have behind him young men and young women, older men, older women, all people, who have love of country in their hearts, who know what America really stands for, who realize that we are not simply strong because we're rich, not simply strong because we have missiles, but we're strong because we believe in the right things.

This comes from you, and we ask you to do it.

And this strength, which can come from our homes, from the churches, from the schools of America - this is the strength that will prove to he decisive, and whoever is President must have it behind him, and certainly I appreciate the opportunity to talk to a great audience and see this tremendous demonstration of interest in our Nation's affairs.

And now my last point. I have spoken of this great problem, this issue of survival for America and the free world. I want to indicate to you a word of faith about the outcome. We will win. We will win without war. I know it because I have seen America and I have seen the world and, with all the talking about the weaknesses of America, never forget: This is the greatest country in the world, and we'll continue to be with the right kind of leadership.

Never forget - never forget - that the people of the world are on the side of peace. They're on the side of freedom, and what we must do is to give them the leadership that they want and they need, and we will give the lie to Mr. Khrushchev's boys that our grandchildren will live under communism. It will be his grandchildren who will live in freedom. This will be our goal, and we tell it to him and the whole world.

And now, my friends, may I close by saying that in this campaign you have a choice, a choice between candidates, between programs and policies, and I ask you to make an intelligent choice, but I ask you: If you believe, and only if you believe, but if you believe that Henry Cabot Lodge and I together are the team that can provide the leadership America needs, not the party, but America needs, then I say: In this great county of Suffolk, its 700,000 people, go out and not just vote, but work as you never have before, remembering that you're working not just for a man, not just for a party, but that you're working for America and for the cause of peace and freedom for all mankind.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Speech by the Vice President, Long Island Arena, Commack, Long Island, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project