Richard Nixon photo

Speech by Vice President Nixon, Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX

September 12, 1960

Thank you. After the Democratic convention in Los Angeles I received a number of letters from people around the country suggesting that because of the makeup of that ticket we really shouldn't bother to come to Texas because there was no chance to carry it. [Audience shouts "No."]

I want you to know that after what I have seen today, not only in this hall, but the thousands of people on the city streets of Dallas and on the outskirts, and I think those people were wrong.

And I can tell you that we're going to campaign Texas as it has never been campaigned before, in this campaign. [Applause.] And we intend to win Texas as we won it in 1952 and 1956. [Applause.]

Now, of course, those are pretty big words. This is a big State and you do things in a big way, and I want to be a Texan while I'm here; you can be sure of that. [Applause.] But while it is often said that Texans talk big, they also deliver big; and we intend to deliver big on our talk as far as our program is concerned and our promises in this campaign. [Applause.]

May I say at the outset of my remarks today, that in suggesting that we can carry this State next November, I recognize that from the standpoint of party registration, the odds are against us. I think Bruce has told me that it's two and a half to three-to-one registration Democratic as against Republican, and so the natural question of a political observer would be: How are you going to win? Sure you'll get the Republicans - the fellows who vote for Alger, and the ladies, too - and a lot of ladies vote for him, incidentally, as well as men, I know [applause] and work for him. But what about the Democrats?

And so today in my remarks I would like to talk not only to my Republican friends here, to tell you how proud I am of Bruce Alger, our only Republican Congressman. We only wish we had more from Texas of his persuasion because we can sure use them down there. [Applause.] As some of you who have watched our conventions know, Bruce and I don't always agree, but one thing about him, he's a man of principle and men of principle we can always use in the Congress of the United States. [Applause.]

And on the great fundamental issues we are drawn together, as are not only Republicans, but Democrats and independents in this campaign as well.

And so I speak not only to my Republican friends, not only to the independent voters, but I speak very frankly to the Democrats in the State of Texas today. And I speak to you along these lines. I present the case for our ticket not in partisan terms - it wouldn't be wise to do it here, of course, but there are other reasons that I do not present it in those terms - I present the case for our ticket to the Democrats of Texas in your giving the answer to this question: which of the candidates and which of the platforms are closer to your views? Ours or theirs? And I'll be willing to take my chances on your answer to that question this November, because I am confident [applause] I am confident what your answer will be. I think it will be the same as it was in 1952 and 1956, and I'll tell you why.

I have noted - and incidentally I well understand why they do so - that opponents have said: Show you party loyalty and vote Democratic. I say to you today, that they by what they did in Los Angeles on their platform forfeited their right to ask Democrats in this country to vote Democratic. [Applause.]

Now, of course, there are Democrats who share their views and there are Democrats who do not. There are differences in our party, too, and we recognize them. But just let me just read two quotes to you. Here's one: "If we can prevent the Government from wasting the labor of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy."

Do you know who said that? Not a Republican. That was Thomas Jefferson.

Here's another one: "Liberty has never come from the Government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of Government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of Government power, not the increase of it."

Do you know who said that? Not a Republican. Woodrow Wilson. [Applause.]

And I say to you today that the Democratic platform, the platform and the party of Galbraith and Schlesinger and Bowles, is not the platform and the party of Jefferson and Jackson and Woodrow Wilson, as far as this country is concerned. [Applause.]

I say to you today that those Democrats to believe in the great principles of their party as enunciated by the men to whom I have referred, will find a home in our party, because they will find that our platform is closer to their views than the Democratic platform.

That's my proposition, and now may I have the opportunity to prove it.

In the first place, let's understand exactly what we are talking about. We are talking not about the goals we seek, but about the ends we use to reach those goals. Let's all recognize right at the outset, whether were Democrats or Republicans or independents, we all want a better life for our children than we have had for ourselves in this country. We want better jobs, and better schools, and better health, and better housing, and progress. Americans are never satisfied with things as they are. We are not satisfied as far as our party is concerned and our platform. And I believe, certainly, that our opponents are not satisfied with things as they are.

And so immediately your question is: What is the difference then? If everybody is for these goals of better housing, health, education, and jobs, then it's tweedledum and tweedledee - take your choice.

But the difference is in means. How do you get them? And we say we know the way. We say we prove we know the way by the greatest progress and by producing the greatest prosperity that Americans have ever enjoyed under the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower, a native son of Texas. [Applause.]

And we say further, that as far as our opponents are concerned that while they think they know the way, they would go back, not forward - go back to methods that have been found wanting in the past - go back to the device of turning to the Federal Government as the primary source of progress for the people. Whatever the problem is, this is usually their answer. They say the Federal Government should set up a program and then the States and the local governments and

then the people should follow along.

And our approach, and I submit to you the approach of millions of Democrats and independent voters as well, is just the opposite. We say the way to greatest progress in the country is not by putting the primary responsibility on the Federal Government in the first instance for all of these things that we want, but to begin with the individual and individual enterprise. [Applause.] And then turn to our local governments and our State governments; and only when individual enterprise and local government and State government can't or won't do the job that needs to be done to produce progress, then only should the Federal Government step in to do what they will not do for themselves. This is the way to the greatest progress in America. [Applause.]

Now, what I have just suggested, of course, isn't the simplest way - at least not the simplest to explain. It is much easier to go before an audience, I can assure you, and say: You don't have a job - the Government's going to give you one. If your schools aren't adequate the Federal Government is going to provide it. If you don't have the right kind of health care, the Federal Government will set up a program that will do it. And you don't have to worry about it. Your State government, your local government don't have to worry about all these things; the Federal Government will do all these things.

It is much simpler, I can assure you. But there are two things wrong with that theory: One, it doesn't work. And, two, the other thing wrong with it is that even if it did work, it wouldn't be good for America or good for the American people. [Applause.] Because, remember, what has made this country great, what distinguishes our civilization, is that we have always recognized the fundamental dignity and the responsibility of men and women as individuals.

It is that we have not felt that the way to progress was to take responsibility from them and put it on others in the Federal Government. It is that we have respected individual responsibility.

Part of the greatness of America also is that we have proceeded on the principle that the closer you can keep government to the people, the better. That's why we believe in local government, in respect for and increasing the authority and the rights of the States, rather than reducing the rights of the States and the local governments and sending it down to Washington, D.C., as they would propose. [Applause.]

I could use a number of examples - I'm going to take a very difficult one to prove the point and then I'll move on to another one. I was asked last night on a program, "Meet the Press," - and some of these distinguished gentlemen of the press were questioning me very ably on it - about why it was that I voted against, as I did in breaking the tie, the Federal Government directly subsidizing teachers' salaries for elementary and secondary public schools in the United States. I was asked that in light of the fact that I have said, and I say again today, that teachers' salaries in this country are too low - in many places they're a national disgrace - and that we should do a far better job than we are doing in seeing that that level of those who spend more time with our children than we do - that the level of the salaries they receive is raised. How can I believe that and then vote against the Federal Government stepping in and doing the job.

I'll tell you why. First, because I believe that there is a better way to get at this problem if the Federal Government is to move in. I happen to believe that the Federal Government's activities in this field should be limited to aid in which there can he no possibility of Federal control of the school systems of this country, and that means [applause] and that means, as we have proposed and as even incidentally some of our friends disagree, but as we proposed and as I believe, a program of Federal aid to school construction with no problem and no question of Federal control.

Returning to the teacher salary problem, of course the answer there is that once you aid construction you then release the funds that can go to raising the salaries of our teachers as they should be. But primarily the responsibility must be placed upon and it must be assumed by the local communities and by the States to do this job, to provide for education, so that they can retain the control.

Now why am I so concerned about control of education? It isn't that I have a great suspicion of Federal bureaucrats. They're very honest, very loyal, hundreds of thousands of them, I've worked with them; I'm one of them as a matter of fact. The point is this: The greatest guarantee of freedom is diversity of control, local control. And this is particularly true where education is concerned.

And that is why I say, here is a principle - a principle that is closer to the thinking of those who are of the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and of Wilson than the platform adopted at Los Angeles. It's a principle that I support as I come before you today. [Applause.]

Another point that I would like to make in this connection in regard to the last session of Congress. I noted with great interest, as you did, the progress in that session. A lot of people said: What happened to the Democratic leadership? Let me say nothing happened to the Democratic leadership. It was the same leadership they had in the previous session. [Laughter and applause.]

And, incidentally, may I say that as far as that leadership is concerned it was leadership that had been very astute, and as I have said publicly, very able on many occasions in the previous session. Why was it that the leadership in the regular session of the Congress over the past 6 years which has succeeded in so many instances in getting things through, so terribly failed in this special session?

Now our opponents have suggested that there's a very simple answer. They've said: The reason we couldn't get our program through was that the people didn't want to vote for it - the Democrats - because they were afraid the President was going to veto it. It wasn't any use.

Well, now, just let me say this. If the Democrats in the House and the Senate felt it was a good political issue to vote for these things, why didn't they send it down to the President and let him veto it? But they didn't; despite the fact, you see, that they had a 2-to-1 majority in the House and the Senate, they couldn't even get a simple majority for the various programs in health and other fields which they had advocated.

My friends, I'm going to tell you why the leadership in the last session of Congress failed. It wasn't because the leadership was changed or lost its ability. It was because that leadership had lost touch with the people of this country - the people were against what their program was, not just the President of the United States. [Applause.]

And I submit to you that in the extreme position that our opponents took in their platform in Los Angeles, in the extreme positions that they advocated in the last session of Congress, that our opponents this year are out of step with the majority of the American people and I submit to you that they're out of step with a great number of Democrats, millions of them, in this country and in the State of Texas today. [Applause.]

And so, what is our answer? Its a very simple one. We say look at our record. It's been a record of progress. It's been a record of moderation as far as our economic policies are concerned. It's been a record in which we have recognized and have not been afraid to defend private enterprise, where private enterprise is good for the people of this country.

I'll give you an example of that. When I was in Houston a few weeks ago, I was asked on a press conference question - I was asked about the oil depletion allowance, and I indicated that I had voted for it when I was in the House and in the Senate, and that I still supported it. I received some letters after that saying, why did you do this? After all, there are only just a few of those rich Texans, and there are a lot of people who'd like to have more taxes from the oil depletion allowances.

Do you know what the answer is? People who make that argument don't understand our individual enterprise system. Yes the oil depletion allowance may make some Texans and some Californians rich in the oil business, but it also makes the American people rich in the oil that is produced as a result of the incentive that is given by that allowance. This is what we must remember. [Applause.]

I could go on and give other examples, but I think that I have illustrated my point. I believe in our system. I believe in the tried and true principles that are building progress on individual enterprise, on the recognition and the strengthening of local government and State government, with the Federal Government stepping in where necessary to assure that progress goes at its ultimate limits in this country.

And now, if I could turn for just a moment to what I consider to be the major issue of this campaign. It is related to one I just discussed, but this one is even more important. This is what I said when I was in Indianapolis; I said it also in Baltimore; I'm going to keep repeating it from now until election day. Major issue, I said. And I suppose many of you people in this audience with children home, and the like, would say, "What could be more important than better schools? What could be more important than better jobs?"

And my answer is: Being around to enjoy the schools and the jobs that we have. The major concern of Americans as they go to the polls this November must be which of the two candidates - which of the four candidates for President and Vice President - which of the two of these four offer to America and the free world the type of leadership that gives the best chance to keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world. This is the great issue of this campaign. [Applause.]

Now I, of course, will not be so presumptuous as to compare my qualifications with those of my opponent. That is for you to do. I can say something about my vice presidential running mate without in any way implying that his opponent does not also have ability. I will say this: I am proud that he's on the ticket with me and I think all Americans recognize that in putting him on the ticket, we put a man on that ticket who has no peer in the world when it comes to experience in sitting down and negotiating with and standing up to the Soviet leaders as he demonstrated at the United Nations - Henry Cabot Lodge. [Applause.]

And I'm proud to tell you today that we will work as a team for peace; peace without surrender and for the extension of freedom. And I think I also might as well announce while I am here to my friends in Texas, that I talked to him before I came and he will come to Texas to campaign as well, during the course of this campaign. [Applause.]

Now on this issue of peace there is much that I would like to say, but time will not permit it. I can only summarize my views very briefly. One, we stand, as do all Americans, for keeping America second to none militarily, economically, scientifically, in the field of education, and all the other areas of competition in the world.

Military strength - and we must be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to maintain the advantage that will deter aggression - military strength must be maintained. We have it today and we will continue to have it.

The economic strength of this country must be maintained and we believe our economic policies rather than those of our opponents will keep America ahead of the Soviet Union as we are, and will not allow the gap to be closed, but will even widen it.

We believe also that our other policies are designed to maintain the advantages that we need. In addition to this strength, we need a firm diplomacy - a diplomacy that recognizes that in dealing with dictators who are aggressive, that you do not gain by appeasing them; that you must stand firmly for principle [applause]; that you must stand firmly for principle; and while the suggestion was well intentioned I am sure, may I say referring to the President's conduct at the Paris Conference, may the time never come when a President, Democrat or Republican, feels that it is necessary to apologize or express regret for defending the United States of America. [Applause.]

And by the same token, may the next President of the United States be one who, while he is firm, will be nonbelligerent; who like our President in Paris in the face of terrible insults maintained his dignity because it was the right thing to do; and maintained his dignity also because he would know that answering insult with insult might risk heating up the international atmosphere and risking war.

And finally today, may I say that in addition to this military strength to which I have referred, the economic strength, the first diplomacy, we need another ingredient which is most important of all. And that is an idealism, a flaming idealism; an idealism equal to that that our founders had during the course of the American Revolution which caught the imagination of the world 185 years ago; an idealism that will recognize that freedom, and not communism, is the way to the future; an idealism which will be confident in America's strength, that will never buy the false doctrine that America is second rate in anything, and we are not in the world today. [Applause.]

And now may I say to you as I conclude, will we win? Can we keep the peace? [Applause.] You, of course, are referring to the election; I'm referring to the struggle for peace and freedom. They may be related; I think they are. But in this struggle for peace and freedom, we will win and I'll tell you why. I have traveled the world with my wife, Pat, to 55 countries and I have seen in the faces of millions of people around this world - I have seen in their faces a desire for peace. We're on the right side there, and a desire for freedom in Poland and even in the Soviet Union - we're on the right side there. And if America, which has the strength and the idealism, will give the world the leadership it needs, we can build a new world in which men everywhere will enjoy what we enjoy today - peace with freedom and justice for all.

This is our cause, and if you believe as I believe; if you believe that our ticket offers the best chance for the kind of leadership that America needs and the free world needs, then I say forget whether you are a Democrat or a Republican; go out and work and vote, not just for a party, but for America and what is best for America. Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Speech by Vice President Nixon, Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project