Richard Nixon photo

Speech by the Vice President at the Civic Center, Charleston, WV

September 27, 1960

Thank you very much.

Governor Underwood, our distinguished guests on the platform and our friends in West Virginia, in this great hall, and in the overflow hall, and those of you listening on television and radio.

I am delighted to see this crowd for several reasons. I have not been to West Virginia for some time, and after hearing and reading what has been said about West Virginia by some of the candidates of the other party who were traveling through this State, having heard that this State was as bad as it was supposed to be, as they described it, I am glad to find that there are healthy, happy, confident people here.

And I do not intend for political purposes to blacken the reputation of this State or its people. There are other reasons that I am happy to be here. I recall the many fine rallies we have had in this State since 1952, and I'm so glad to hear that all over the State we have representatives who have come into Charleston tonight, and to all of you who have come so many miles.

We thank you, and to those of you who have come right from Charleston, we thank you for giving us this evening and giving us your attention when you could be sitting at home listening on television, too, and we thank our television audience for giving us your time on this program tonight.

I also want to pay my respects to, and express my enthusiastic endorsement for our Representative and candidates for the U.S. Senate, Cecil Underwood; for the Congress, George W. King; and for Governor, Harold Neely. You know, that's a good political name in West Virginia, and we've got a Republican Neely here. I want to pay my respects to our candidate for Congress, Arch Moore, and his colleagues.

The whole State ticket - it is a splendid group of candidates, and with Cecil Underwood in the Senate, with Harold Neely as the Governor of this State following him, with more Republicans in the House of Representatives, we will get done for West Virginia what the Democrats have promised and have failed to do for these last 5 years.

Now, I am here, of course, to speak for the Republican case. I could present my case solely in terms of the Republican label I could say to this great audience, which is primarily Republican, vote Republican because I'm a Republican, but I'm going to tell you tonight that the plea that I make is for all of you, whatever you are, Republicans or Democrats or independents, wherever you may be in this great State, to forget for the moment that I am speaking what your party label is, and think of this country, and I say that when we select a President of the United States, the country comes first and the party label second, and America needs that kind of leadership today.

And so I speak and direct my message not only to our Republican friends, but to the Democrats and the independents. I present the case on this basis: If you believe that what I stand for, if what Cecil Underwood stands for, if what Arch Moore and his colleagues running for the House of Representatives stand for, if what Harold Neely stands for running for Governor - if these are the things that you believe in - then we ask for your enthusiastic support; but I lay forth the things you believe so that you can make up your own minds as to what is good for America, what is good for West Virginia, and that is, of course, what is best for you as well.

Now, speaking first to those who may be Democrats who are listening, I 'mow that the question might arise: "How can I possibly desert my party's candidate and my party in order to vote for a Republican candidate?"

The answer is very simple to that. The answer is that, as a result of what the Democratic Convention did at Los Angeles, its national leadership forfeited the right to ask Democrats who believe in the great traditions of Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson to vote for them in this election campaign of 1960.

I say that the principles I outline tonight are bigger than our party. I say they are supported not only by Republicans, but by Democrats as well, that they are principles as big as America itself, and in putting the case to you what I would like to do is to put it in the very simplest terms, the most direct terms.

Too often I think those of us in public life talk about the Federal Government, its gross national product, the percentage of growth, and all that sort of thing. These things are tremendously important, but sometimes they are not as interesting to, and not as well understood by, people as are other issues that are closer to their hearts and to their homes.

I speak to you tonight in terms of issues that every American can, and I am sure will, understand.

What do you want from government?

To the people in this audience, to those listening on television and radio, what do you want? Well, above all, of course, as you think of your Government, you are thinking of your future, the future of your children. You want a better life in the future than you had for yourselves, because that's the American way. We're a go-ahead country, and we want to move ahead and we want to leave nobody behind, and this is something that all of us want.

But, putting it in more direct terms, we also want from our Government the kind of leadership in which we can earn a good living, have a good job, with good income, in which we can have good schools, good programs for health, for housing, for all the things that make a decent life in this country.

These are the things you want. So the question arises: What leadership is going to provide these things - the leadership that we offer or the leadership that our opponents offer?

Now they charge - and I am here tonight to answer this charge - they charged when they were in this State and throughout the Nation, "Oh, you can't vote for the presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. You can't vote for the Republican candidate for the Senate. You can't vote for the Republican candidates for the House because they don't care. They aren't for the people. They are only for the interests. They aren't interested in the poor. They only like the rich."

Now, my friends, let's get one thing straight right now. I know something about the problems of people. I have experienced those problems, and I am proud to say tonight that our party has a compassion for, and understanding of, people, and we not only talk a good game, we play a good game - and that's more than they do.

So, you say, "Prove it."

And my answer is: You don't have to take my word for it. I say that we are for better jobs, better health, better programs in housing, and the like, and they say that they are. Well, the answer is in the record. You can look at it and you will find, as you look at this record, that in terms of progress, in terms of schools built, in terms of hospitals built, in terms of highways built, in terms of progress, this Nation has moved forward more in the last 8 years than it moved forward in the previous 8 years.

I say that as far as the future is concerned this Nation will continue to move forward under our leadership where it would not move forward under theirs.

And, of course, another question that you might well ask is this: "What is the difference? You say that you are for progress in these fields. Your opponent says they are for progress. Why will your programs work where theirs won't?"

The answer is this: Because they believe that the answer to progress is to turn over the primary responsibility in all of these fields to the Federal Government. Whenever there is any job to be done they say, "We've got to go to Washington and then work down to the people."

We say the answer to progress in America is not to turn to Washington every time you have a problem first, but to start with the people first and work up to Washington, D.C.

We say the way to get the jobs and the housing and the medical care and the schools, all the progress that America wants, is to stimulate the creative energies of 180 million free Americans.

We say the way to progress is not to weaken the States, but to strengthen the States and the local governments.

We say that these programs will work and that our record proves that they will work through the years.

What do they do? They start with Washington.

What do they do? They say, "Give us your money and we will spend it for you."

They have a program that at a minimum would cost the taxpayers $13 billion more than the present programs cost or $18 billion at a maximum.

And what will that mean? If you vote for their candidate and he enacts his program, it means either higher taxes or higher prices, or both, for the American people - and I say the American people do not want that kind of program in Washington, D.C.

Now, what do we offer? We offer a program of progress. We offer a program which will also mean more Federal action in the field of health, in the field of education, in the field of welfare, in the field of assistance to depressed areas.

But when we look at these two programs what is the difference? The difference is that ours will work where theirs will not because we call on all the energies of this country.

We do not say the Federal Government has the primary responsibility and thereby take responsibility from the people and from the States, but we say the people must do everything that they can; the States must do everything that they can, and the Federal Government must step in and do everything that will not and cannot be done by others.

That is the way to get the most out of this country. That's the way to get the progress that we need.

And now, if I can be specific, let me take up one issue, one issue which my opponent discussed when he was here a week ago. He charged that we Republicans were indifferent, indifferent to the problems of unemployment and distress in West Virginia.

Now, first, about indifference: I know what unemployment is. I have seen people come into my Dad's store when they were unemployed and wanted a job and have to put things on the books, and I know the shame in their faces, and I know how difficult it was for the children who were in school with whom I went.

I feel this problem deeply, and I resent the charge that we are indifferent, and I say: Give us the opportunity to lead this Congress. We will prove that where they are concerned they talk about caring, but we are going to prove that we will do something about showing our feeling for the people of this country. Now, just to set the record straight, let's look at what happened to this distressed area legislation. First of all, this is not a Democratic program. It's a Republican program. For 5 years we've been trying to get it through the Congress and they have refused to enact the program that the President wanted. Two bills they passed, but they were bills that would not do the job. They were bills that vetoed the President's suggestions, and the President, therefore, has constantly come back to them - as late as this special session of Congress the President came in - and said: "Give me a bill which will aid the distressed areas of West Virginia, of Pennsylvania and others in this country. Give me such a bill so that I can sign it and we can get on with this job." And what did they do? Well, they did with that what they did with the other problems of the people, most of them in this special session of Congress. They played politics with it because they preferred an issue to doing something for the people of West Virginia and the people of this country

But now some might raise the question: "But, now, Mr. Nixon, just a moment. We've been studying these bills. We find the bills that the Democrats proposed and the one the President vetoed would have spent more money for distressed areas than the bill that you support, the bill that the President supports."

Now, let's look at the facts. It would have spent more money, and I don't know a better example of their irresponsibility than this one, but it handled the problem with a shotgun rather than a rifle. It would have spread money all over the country in places that it wasn't needed and there would have been less money in places where it was needed.

Now, let me give you an example. You know that there are some areas in West Virginia where aid is needed. For example, this Charleston area. You know what their bill would have provided I It cost more money - get this straight - more money from the Federal Treasury than ours, over all, but as far as West Virginia and Charleston are concerned it provided only $589,000. You know what ours would have provided. A bill that cost less money to the Federal Treasury, over all, but it provides almost twice as much money for this area that needs it.

Looking at West Virginia, itself, as a whole, the Democratic bill would have helped the major areas in West Virginia by $2¼ million. The Republican bill would have provided $3.9 million. In total the Republicans tried to make $8 million available to West Virginia in our bill, but the Democrats said, "No." They wouldn't pass it. They wanted to give West Virginia only $5.7 million.

So, I say to you, Democrats, Republicans, independents, those of you who believe that there should be a bill which will aid the distressed areas, as I deeply believe it: Look at the two bills; look at the records, and when you make the comparison, you will find it is the Republican bill, the one supported by the President, the one that I support, that would help West Virginia the most - and the responsibility for not getting action rests squarely on the Democratic presidential candidate, and he should not be given a chance to not act again in the next session of the Congress as he failed to act in the last session of the Congress.

May I say, in this connection, that I am very delighted to be able to point to the record of Cecil Underwood here. He's had a little difficulty working with his legislature. He's had some of the same problems that President Eisenhower has had, and he's handled them with superb skill and superb dignity, and I congratulate him for it. For example, the very quick way that he went to work on asking the legislature to provide for West Virginia's participation in the new program for medical care for the aged. This is typical of a man of action, a young, vigorous leader of West Virginia. The way that he has set up the Operation Step, the State temporary economic program, in which he got very little cooperation from his legislature - this is typical of this young man - I say "young man" because I'm a little older than he is - who has been a splendid Governor of West Virginia, and I say to you: Send him down to Washington, in the U.S. Senate, and send him down there with Arch Moore and our other good Republican Congressmen and we will do this job for West Virginia which the Democrats have promised and have never done.

While I am speaking on this subject, may I just cover one other one. I noted that when Senator Kennedy was here in the primary he made a statement that he had also made in Indiana. I'm going to ask tonight, before this great audience, that that statement be retracted by him publicly in the interest of this Nation. This was the statement. He said: "17 million people go to bed hungry every night in the United States."

Do you remember?

"Seventeen million people go to bed hungry every night in the United States."

Now if that were true, he had a responsibility to make the statement; but, first of all, that statement is not true.

The second point that should be made is that that statement which he has made has been grist for the Communist propaganda mill. You know what's happened? Just last week I saw a copy of the Chinese Communist paper, the Peoples' Daily. They quoted this statement. They said: "This proves in America, a land of plenty, millions of people," a 10th of all of our people, "are starving, going to bed hungry every night."

I say to you that nobody, including a candidate for the Presidency, particularly, can remain silent, that he ought to correct the record and tell the American people and Mr. Khrushchev the truth about the United States.

Now, he claims he based this statement on a Department of Agriculture report to the effect that 1 out of 10 Americans had an unbalanced diet. Well, now, look here, President Eisenhower, when he saw this statement said, "Now, look, I go to bed hungry every night, but that's because I'm on a diet. The doctor won't let me eat any more."

My friends, we do know - we do know - that there are people in this country who do not share in America's prosperity. We do know that there are people in West Virginia who do not share, as they should, in America's prosperity. It's the responsibility of Government to have a part. It's the responsibility of Government leaders to do everything they possibly can to see that this situation is remedied, but also it's our responsibility to tell the truth about our country, particularly when those who are the opponents of freedom, those who have enslaved millions, are in this country. Let's tell them the truth.

What is the truth? That the 180 million people of this country are the best fed, best clothed, best housed people of the world. That's the truth.

What is the truth? That we've come closer in this country to the ideal which Mr. Khrushchev claims is his own, but has never been able to approach, of prosperity for all in a classless society.

And what's the truth? We find that there is a lower percentage of people who suffer from malnutrition in the United States than in any major country of the world.

That's the truth, and that is the truth that I state tonight, and I hope Senator Kennedy will do likewise so that the world will know that this Nation is not - a 10th of its people - on the brink of starvation, as he has indicated by this report.

And now, since my television time will run out, I want to speak for 1 minute more for the television audience, and then I have one other message for this audience before I conclude.

To you in the television audience, to those in this audience, I have mentioned primarily tonight the issues that are very close to your homes - jobs, health, schools, education for your children, but, you known, all of these things mean nothing unless we're around to enjoy them. The most important issue before the world today, before America today, is this: Which of the candidates can provide the leadership that will keep the peace without surrender for America and the world?

I say to you tonight that on our record, a record in which we ended one war, have kept the United States out of other wars and have peace without surrender today - I say that on our experience - and I will speak not of my experience, but I can say of my colleague Cabot Lodge, that no man in the world has done a better job of defending the cause of peace and freedom than he has at the United Nations in New York. I say further, on the basis that both he and I know the Communist leaders, that we know they are tough, that we will keep America strong, economically, militarily, ideologically, and that we will be firm, and you can be sure that neither of us will ever consider apologizing or expressing regrets to Mr. Khrushchev. We will never consider that because we know that this is not a kind of diplomacy that will bring peace. It is the kind that would lead to just the wrong results, because I know this man - I have seen him; I have talked to him - and the moment you show weakness, the moment you make concessions that are not also offered in his case in return, the result is that he gets contempt for you and he demands even more from you.

And, so, I say to you tonight, as I conclude that, as far as our record is concerned, we're proud of it, proud in all areas, but we don't stand on it. We're going to build on it. This Nation is a rich country. It's a strong country. It's a prosperous country but, with our leadership, we are going to build a greater country in the future, but we are going to build it remaining true to the principles that have made America the greatest country in the world, and not by violating those principles.

And in the field of foreign policy we say, with your support, we will keep the peace. We will keep it without surrender. We will give you the devoted leadership that President Eisenhower has given you, to the best of our ability, but may I say that, in giving you that leadership and making that promise, I must ask something of you, too, and I say this particularly in the light of the fact that we often have a tendency in this country to think in terms only of our great strength militarily, of our great richness and prosperity economically. My friends, we could make no greater mistake than to meet Mr. Khrushchev and the Communists on that ground alone. Because, you see, that's all they have to offer. I remember when I was in Poland, with Pat, a year ago. I remember on that occasion we received a tremendous welcome - 250,000 people in the streets on a Sunday afternoon, and no notice from the Government that we were coming through the streets. They just passed it by word of mouth. Hundreds of bouquets of flowers thrown into our cars, people crying with tears running down their cheeks. We saw these crowds shouting and cheering and singing "Long life, Niech Zyje America."

Why did they say it? Not because America was strong militarily or rich economically, because Mr. Khrushchev had been there and he bragged of his economic and military strength. No. Because America stands for more than military strength, more than simply sheer atheistic materialism. We stand for ideals. We stand for faith in God. We stand for belief in the dignity of man. We stand for the right of every man, woman and child to have an equal opportunity, to have a chance at the starting line. We stand for the ideals that have caught the imagination of the world 185 years ago, and still hold it. This is what America offers to the world, and this moral and spiritual strength must come from you. Oh, leaders can talk. I can talk about it as I do now, but the moral and spiritual strength - the love of country, faith in our country, confidence in our country, faith in our moral and spiritual values - comes from the home. It comes from the church. It comes from the schools. It comes from the heart, the minds, and the souls of the American people.

And I ask you tonight, as I close - I say to you: Keep America strong in her idealism. Keep her young people well grounded with their flaming loyalty to this country because we need that in these periods. When we find the Communists working for the victory of communism, every young American must have as his goal doing his best for America so that America can do her best for the world and for the victory of free men throughout the world.

This is what we need, and this is the cause to which I am devoting this campaign, and with which I close this speech tonight, and I say to you that, if after hearing me you believe that the leadership that I can offer, that Henry Cabot Lodge can offer, clearly apart from your party, is what America needs; if this is the leadership that will provide the good life that you want for your children in this State and in this Nation, but, most important of all, if this is the best leadership that can keep the peace, without surrender, that can extend freedom throughout the world, then I say, my friends, I can ask for your support, and will you go all out and work as you never have before, work to carry this State, carry it for the national ticket, carry it for the Senate, carry it for the governorship, carry it for the Congress, remembering that you're working not just for a party, but for what is best for America and all the world.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Speech by the Vice President at the Civic Center, Charleston, WV Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project