Speech of Vice President Nixon, Columbian Republican League Luncheon, Commodore Hotel, New York, NY
Well, this has been a very interesting day in many respects. I've had several firsts. It is the first time I ever spoke in Rockefeller Center, it's the first time I've had the opportunity to speak down in the garment district, it isn't the first time I've had the opportunity to speak before this group. It is the first time I've been introduced twice but it couldn't have been done by two nicer fellows. [Laughter and applause.]
And as long as I can have that double whammy in introductions, I'm all for it. And may I say to have such gracious things said by the Governor - and he's been saying it all day, and to have such things also said by the good speaker which preceded me before I got here, but most of all to see you - to see you again, to get the chance to speak to you before we leave New York for our Philadelphia speech tonight, is indeed a great inspiration.
I think, as Governor Rockefeller well indicated, what meetings like this do for a speaker is something you really can't imagine. You know, you're contagious, you're full of enthusiasm, and [applause]. There's only one trouble with the Italian-Americans. They've made great contributions, I realize, in music, they've made great contributions in business, they've made great contributions in law, and the like, they've made great contributions in politics, but there ought to be more in the Republican Party - that's the only trouble. [Applause.]
Believe me, we're going to get more, I can tell you that. We're going to get more because we believe we have the programs that all Americans, clearly apart from what our backgrounds may be, that all Americans can and will support.
I remember very well, incidentally, the opportunity that I bad to speak before this group in 1952. I was down at Mulberry Street as you may remember. I cannot be with you on Columbus Day this year but I want to say that as a substitute I'm sending a man who, I think, will need no introduction, but certainly a man that I am pleased to say something about now, and that you, I think, will agree with.
I, of course - it would be presumptuous for me to say anything about the relative qualifications of the presidential candidates - that's for the people to decide, and I'm not going to stand before you and say this is a time for greatness and I'm a great man. [Applause.]
I can say something about my running mate. He agrees with me on the great issues. He agrees with me on the great issue of human rights. He will work with me and not against me. He talks the same way all over the country that I talk on this issue, privately and publicly [applause] and I am also glad to say that while his opponent is also an able man and I give him that respect, I will say that no man in the world today has been better trained or could have done a better job and has had more experience or could have fought more courageously and effectively for the cause of peace and freedom than our candidate for Vice President, Cabot Lodge. [Applause.]
So he will be with you on Columbus Day and I'm sure that he will bring you a message of great interest and I'm sure you will inspire him as you've inspired me by your presence today. Incidentally, the reason Pat isn't here, I think as it probably has been explained, is that she is now cutting a tape for the Dave Garroway show, so tune in on it. I never get up that early myself [Laughter.] Tune in on it. She's worth looking at and also hearing. [Applause.]
Could I say a word, too, about our music today? Madame Rigal, I was going to suggest that I remember my first trip abroad. I was as a young Congressman. I had never been out of the United States before except across the border at Mexico in California, and I went as a freshman Congressman to Europe in 1947 as a member of the Herter committee - the committee you may recall was studying the needs of European nations for Marshall plan funds. Our present Secretary of State was chairman of the committee. He was then a Member of the House. And I just squeezed on it. They needed a westerner and they needed a new man, and I just happened to fit it.
You know, that's how all these things happen. I wouldn't be here today unless I happened to come from the right place at the right time. [Laughter.]
But anyway - so I got on this trip and I went to Europe. My assignment was the Mediterranean countries and particularly Italy and Greece. I spent a week in Greece; I spent 2 weeks in Italy. It was at a very difficult time in Italy. I know that the people in this group, most of you have perhaps not been there as recently as that because you have been here so long, but you have parents, and relatives, and friends, and your hearts also would be there in many respects, and I can tell you I never had a more interesting experience because, difficult as the times were - many people were hungry; I could see it; I traveled among them; many people certainly had much cause for discouragement - I have never as I visited those cities - Roma, Milano, Firenz - I have never been so inspired to see the hope on the faces of the people.
And also the thing that impressed me - everybody in Italy sings - everybody, believe me. No wonder you produce [applause]. No wonder the great opera stars are those who have this wonderful background. And so for this contribution which is best known, and for others that are less well known but just as significant, be sure we are aware and be sure that I wanted to mention to you how deeply the Nation appreciates it, how deeply the American people appreciate the contribution which you have made.
Now, in the time that I have today I could of course select a number of issues that would be of interest. If I did I would run you past 3 o'clock and I can't do that, so I'm going to have to talk perhaps more briefly than had been expected and I just want to hit a few highlights.
In the first place, the importance of this election you know. It is so important that we must not base our decisions on any but the most important basic issues. We must not be diverted by any collateral issue. We must not be diverted by what might seem to be important basic issues to us but which really aren't. And I include, for example, party labels, that seem terribly important. You're Republicans here. That is how you got in. But I will say this, it isn't enough just to vote for a Republican for President because he happens to be of your party. Not for President. Not this year.
It isn't enough for a Democrat to vote for a Democrat just because he's a Democrat. Not for President. Not this year.
This is our theme. I do not say what my opponent says - vote Republican because I'm a Republican, that this is the party that counts. What counts today is not our party, but this country. And we want the best man for the country whether he's a Democrat or a Republican. And this is our theme throughout. [Applause.]
Now, I'll have to admit I'm a little prejudiced on that, but on the other hand [laughter]. I do think, and I do want you to judge me, and I do want you to have your colleagues and friends and the undecided and others to whom you will be talking, to judge me and my running mate on the basis of that test - what does America need? What does it need in the sixties in the way of international leadership? In the way of national leadership?
What does it need in the way of dealing with the issues in which most Americans are interested and concerned? I touched on some of them today. I will just hit two or three highlights now.
First, above everything else we need leadership that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world. [Applause.] We need this because all the other things aren't going to matter unless we're around to enjoy them.
And so, therefore, look at Cabot Lodge and his record and his background and experience. And look at mine - our record, background, and experience. Look what we stand for. Compare it with our opponent and then decide, and make the decision on that basis. Americans can do nothing less. The country calls for nothing less than that.
And we say it because the decision we make for a President this year will determine not only the future of our country and our children but perhaps the future of the world. So that is point one.
We say that on this particular issue we do have something to offer. We have been part of an administration for 7 years - an administration that has been pretty successful in dealing with this issue.
Oh, there are things that have been wrong; yes. And our opponents have a right and a responsibility to point them out as they have. But on the other hand, while we're talking about the things that are wrong with this record, it is my right and responsibility to point out the things that are right, and nothing can obscure the fact that under Dwight Eisenhower we ended one war, we kept out of other wars, and we do have peace without surrender today. [Applause.]
And to those that say that the U.S. prestige is low, to those that say that we have failed here and there and are failing around the world at the present time, to Mr. Kennedy who said just a couple of days ago in upper New York something to this effect: "I am tired of reading in the newspaper what Premier Khrushchev is doing; I'm tired of reading in the paper what Premier Castro is doing; I want to read in the paper," he said, "what the President of the United States is doing."
Well, my answer to that is if he'd quit talking and start reading, he'd find out what President Eisenhower is doing. [Applause.]
No, he isn't making a fool of himself in the U.N., thank God. [Applause.] And President Eisenhower isn't trying to muscle into the Congo unilaterally to take over this newly independent country as Khrushchev is, and again, thank God for that. [Applause.] President Eisenhower isn't setting up a phony disarmament scheme as Khrushchev is. All those things make news.
It looks as if he's doing things. But what are we doing? We're standing for what's right. Oh, it isn't as spectacular; no. It isn't as spectacular to work through the United Nations patiently negotiating to help this new country, the Congo, keep its independence, keep its freedom. That's what we've been doing and that's what we're going to continue to do. It isn't as spectacular as President Eisenhower has done to go before the U.N. and to lay it on the line for controlled disarmament - not phony disarmament - not where you simply have empty pledges, but a case where both sides will disarm.
Because remember this: If we ever have disarmament where we disarm and the other side doesn't, that means that we increase the risk of war rather than reduce it, and we're not going to do that and we can be sure of that. [Applause.]
Now, you gather that I'm proud of the record, but I'm not standing on it because a record is never something to stand on, it's something to build on, and this is particularly true in this age in which we live - true because we're faced with a ruthless, deadly threat.
You've seen the face of it. You've seen it with Mr. Khrushchev on your television screen and you see the fanaticism, you see this man who knows no rules and follows none. And we need men who will be able to deal with him. I can only say that Cabot Lodge and I have had the experience of sitting across the conference table with him. And we've done pretty well up to this time and I think we can do pretty well in the future. [Applause and cheers.]
I know there were some people who said when I came back from Moscow, they said, "Why did you get into debate with Mr. Khrushchev? Why have a debate in the kitchen?"
Let me point out something. I'll tell you why I got into a debate with him. It wasn't my choosing. He was there as a guest of the American Exposition. I was there representing the President of the United States. And then he stood there and started to run down the United States. He said that we were warmongers; said that we had them ringed with bases; he attacked our economy; he attacked everything we stood for. I say no American could stand there and take that without answering back and standing up for the United States of America. [Applause.]
Ah, but they said, "But, Mr. Nixon this isn't going to be decided by debating with him, it's going to be decided by power." Of course, it's going to be decided by power, but not only the power of your military which must be first in the world as I have said over and over again; not only by the power of your economy; but the power of your ideals. And anybody who thinks that talking, debating, as Cabot Lodge has done in the U.N., as we will continue to around the world, that this isn't going to be decisive just doesn't know what the world struggle is about. Of course we've got to stand up for our principles.
Oh, I remember another occasion. I remember when I was speaking at the American Exposition. This was my turn to talk, and I was speaking about America - what it had done. I pointed out that here in this land, this so-called capitalist land as he described it - but capitalism altogether different from anything he had ever known or read about - and as I was speaking of that I remember that Mr. Khrushchev started to interrupt me.
And I said, "Just a moment. I've got the floor." And I just want to point this out that in this whole world struggle in which we're engaged we must never underestimate the power of our ideals. And America must strengthen her ideals - strengthen her appeal around the world.
Now let me get to something very current and to build on something Governor Rockefeller referred to earlier today. He referred to the visit of the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Why would anybody mention the Prime Minister of Nigeria to the Columbian League? Why don't I just talk about the interests of people who have Italian-American backgrounds? I'll tell you why.
It's the responsibility of a leader not to talk about just the things that you may be interested in but to talk about America's responsibilities in the world. You, like myself, like Governor Rockefeller, we're interested in America and our whole position, and not just in what may be those particular issues that are closest to your hearts.
Let's look at Nigeria for a moment. Why would we raise it now? This new country is going to have approximately 40 million people in it. It is tremendously rich. The British have prepared it - as the Congo was not prepared, unfortunately - for independence. We hope and we trust that it will be able to develop its independence. And I hope and I trust that the people of New York with all of the greatness of heart which they've always shown will give him a magnificent welcome here. I hope that they do it because [applause] - I want to tell you what happens to Africa, my friends, affects us in America. It affects us in Europe, the Middle East, in Asia.
In other words, we live in a world now that is involved - is interdependent in every sense. We can never think of the world as simply being our own little group or our own little state, our own little community, our own big nation, and say just so things are good here, just so we're doing okay, we can forget the rest of the world.
We are in a race for survival and this means militarily, economically, ideologically America must move forward. That's why we don't stand still, we have programs in all of these areas that will move America forward.
Now, let's get back to Africa and what does it involve? Do you know what I would like to tell a group like this? You obviously are people that are immensely successful. You are obviously people that know what it means to get a 10-percent forgiveness on your income tax. [Applause and laughter.] Thank heaven you pay enough to appreciate it.
And may I say in this connection, the easy thing would be to get up here and say, this foreign aid - it's time we started thinking of the United States. It's time we start thinking of building dams in California rather than helping to build them in India. It's time that - why do we worry about Nigeria, and the Congo, and India, and all the rest? Why can't I get up here and tell you, my friends, we've been pouring a lot of money down a rat hole? What we've got to do is to make America strong at home; that alone will do it - to build a lot more missiles; that alone will do it - to see that all these happen. We have to do those things, of course.
I'll tell you why. America can be the strongest nation that ever could be imagined. We could have them outdone 20 to 1 in terms of missiles and lose the world if we did not recognize where the battle is taking place right now. It's being fought - won and lost - in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America.
And we've got to get in and fight and we've got to fight it better than we have been doing. And I'm going to tell you here today we're not going to be able to cut what we're doing in terms of technical assistance to these people, in terms of economic assistance, in terms of exchange, in terms of information. We're going to have to do more, and the American people have to hear it.
It isn't a pleasant thing to hear, but it's the responsibility of a leader to tell you what you ought to hear rather than just the things you want to hear, and I'm sure that when the American people know what the challenge is, they know what they're confronted with, they are going to support doing what is right, and that is what we stand for in this campaign. [Applause.]
Now, I'm not going to suggest to you, however, that I have a plan in which we're going to pour billions of dollars into Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and we can forget the whole situation and think it's going to work out. It isn't. That would be just as irresponsible as to send nothing abroad, because you cannot take these newly developing countries, give them tremendous amounts of money, and not at the same time prepare them with the leadership that knows how to run an economy, run a government, and this brings us again to our responsibility in the field of exchange, in the field of technical assistance, in the field of helping in education.
If we are going to help these people with our loans and our grants, we doubly must help them in developing the ability to run the show in those countries. We have enough trouble here running 180 million people with a very advanced so-called democratic system - small "D" - we have this trouble. [Laughter.] But I can say this that on the other hand we find that in these other countries it is irresponsible and it is going to send them money without recognizing that we have to help them as well.
So we need new approaches in these fields - approaches that I'm going to spell out in a major speech in Los Angeles next week - new approaches in these fields that will recognize America's traditional responsibility not just to stand for freedom for ourselves, not just to stand for the right of self-government and independence for ourselves, but to help others around the world to have these same things that we believe in. This is our mission.
One other point that I would make that I think will be of interest to you is this: I have often been asked, "Why do we do these things? Why is it? What should our aim be?" And I emphasize to you today what I emphasized this morning at Fordham, it must not simply be the negative aim of fighting communism. That is a good enough reason because certainly these people in these countries would be worse off than they presently are if the Communists come in and take over. But I go back to Italy. In 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1949, when I was voting for, and Ken Keating and Jake Javits, when we were all voting for aid to the Marshall plan countries, it's true that the justification was fighting communism.
It is also true that we did it because it was the right thing to do. Even if there had been no Communist threat, we would have been concerned about the plight of hundreds of thousands of children in Italy who didn't have enough to eat, of people who were homeless, of people who just wanted a chance to get on their feet.
And when you go to Italy today and see the tremendous development there, it was a wonderful investment. It was true in France, it was true in England, and in all the countries we helped. And that is the last point that I make to you.
When we talk about what we're going to do in this field of foreign assistance, we're helping the Nigerians, and we're helping the Indians, and the other people, remember, we do this not solely for the negative reason that we're trying to keep what we've got, that we're trying to keep communism from spreading in the world. We do it because we Americans traditionally have had a heart.
We have a great humanitarian concern, and one of the reasons that we have developed this concern because of the contribution made by people that make up the mainstream of American life. Who are they? They came from all the countries of the world. Warmhearted Italians, people from Europe, from Asia, from Africa, these are Americans. And because America is the whole world, America will always have a feeling and a concern for misery and hunger and want in the whole world.
It is this that we must get across, and if we get this across to the people of Asia and Africa and Latin America, that our concern for them is not simply because we're trying to save our own bacon, but because we really want to help them so that they can help themselves, that we want the whole world to progress with us.
If they can see America at its best, you can be sure there will be no question about the outcome of this struggle. And it's that, that Cabot Lodge and I ask for the opportunity to serve you in. We believe that we can present that case of America at its best to the world. We hope that we can. And if you believe so, we ask for your support. We ask for you to spread it all through this great community here in New York, and if you do, we shall win and it will be a victory not just for our party, but for the Nation and the world. Thank you. [Applause.]
Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Nixon, Columbian Republican League Luncheon, Commodore Hotel, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273761