Richard Nixon photo

Speech of Vice President Nixon, Television Appearance, WHO-TV, Des Moines, IA

September 16, 1960

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As you have just seen and heard, I've had a tremendously interesting day in Iowa. It began this morning at about 8 o'clock when I attended a breakfast at Omaha, and from there we crossed the river to Council Bluffs where we had the first of what were supposed to be four stops during the day and four meetings, but which turned out to be about eight because we found there were lots of people at some of the smaller towns that weren't on the schedule that were added as a result of their finding out that we were coming through town; but I can tell you that it was one of the most interesting and inspiring days that I've ever spent in traveling over this country either as a candidate or in my official position as the Vice President.

During the day among the unscheduled stops I think the one that will perhaps stand out in my memory the most was the one at the school for the deaf, which some of you may know is on the road between Council Bluffs and, I believe, Atlantic. The students were all along the side of the road there and we pulled up our car and stopped. I got up on the hood of the ear and one of the teachers translated what I was saying into sign language for those students who were unable to read lips and you know, as I was speaking to these young people as I saw the smiles on their faces, as I heard them cheer my references to this country and its greatness, I realized how small the troubles of most of us really are. For example, a bad knee, as I had a few weeks ago, or any of the other troubles that we may have are completely insignificant compared to the troubles that some of our other fellow citizens have; and if they can have this wonderful spirit they have, certainly we can go over our troubles and get through them without too much difficulty.

But during the course of the day I, of course, in addition, made a number of speeches. I had an opportunity to talk to literally hundreds - I suppose thousands - of people, hundreds individually, thousands by groups; but here on television I'm having a chance to talk to you in your homes and I appreciate your giving me this time. I know there are lots of programs you like to listen to at this prime evening hour, and the fact that you're listening indicates that you, like the people in the town squares at the various places and cities that I spoke today, and at the great plowing contest at Guthrie Center, just like they, are concerned about your future. You're concerned about the leadership America is to have. That's why you're listening to me now, and I express my appreciation to you for giving me this chance to talk to you in your homes.

Now, in these excerpts of my remarks at Guthrie Center you heard a partial discussion of the farm problem. I would like to add just a word about something that I said there that tune would not permit covering in this capsule that you were able to see on television tonight.

You know, I think we have put too much emphasis, as far as the so-called farm problem is concerned, on its negative aspects. Before I began to study it intensively, as I did a few months ago, I considered that this problem was one which was in an almost insoluble mess, that we had tremendous surpluses which were a terrible burden to the taxpayers and to the consumers and that the farmers weren't benefiting from these payments that were made to keep these crops in surplus because their farm income is going down, and that it seemed that this problem was just one of those political footballs that was being kicked around, for which no solution would be found. But, you know, after my study of the problem, I've reached an altogether different conclusion. I think that one of the most exciting and challenging problems that the next President of the United States will have is to make an asset out of the ability of our farmers to be the most productive farmers that civilization has ever known, make an asset out of it, make an asset out of it by making better use of these farm products, as I indicated, in our foreign policy activities, and make an asset out of it by seeing to it that our surpluses are put to productive use wherever possible, with the net result that we benefit and that the farmer is able eventually to get what he is not receiving today adequately, and that is a fair share of America's increasing prosperity.

Time won't permit me to expand on this particular subject now, but I do want you to know that I am confident that a solution can be found. I am confident that this solution can be found if both Democrats and Republicans in the next Congress will work with the next President in treating this not as a political question, but treating the farm problem as one of our potential great national assets, and just to point up how very great it really is let me give you a figure that you might not have thought of. When Mr. Khrushchev was here, as you know, he visited Iowa. He went out to the Garst Farm. I talked to him after he got back to Washington and I asked him what impressed him as he traveled through the United States. There were two things that he mentioned in our conversations. One was the city of San Francisco, in my native California, which many travelers, including Mr. Khrushchev, find very attractive, but what impressed him also was the productivity of the Iowa farm which he visited; and I'll tell you why it impressed him, because I visited farming country in the Soviet Union and I know what his problems are. Did you know that approximately 7 million farmers and farmworkers in this country produce as much as 50 million farmers and farmworkers in the Soviet Union produce? That's why Mr. Khrushchev was impressed by what he saw, and that's why we must realize that what our farmers are doing and have done is a great national asset. Because of what our farmers are able to do as far as productivity is concerned, we are not only the best clothed and best fed people in the world, but we also have a tremendous advantage economically over our competitors, the Communists, because the very fact it takes only 7 million to feed and clothe us and provide a surplus for use in our foreign policy, where it takes 50 million in the Soviet Union, means that we have just that many more people to put into other productive activities.

Well, so much for that subject. let me now turn to another one that I found, as a matter of fact, running through all the meetings which I addressed today. Obviously, I found that every one of the towns that I visited in Iowa, and Omaha as well, were tremendously interested in farm policy, but I also found that there wasn't a crowd to whom I spoke in which the people were not also tremendously interested, and in some instances perhaps even more interested, in foreign policy. If this seems strange, let me tell you that it isn't just characteristic of Iowa. As you know, I've been traveling all over the United States in the past few weeks. I've been clear out to Hawaii, our 50th State. I've been to Maine in the far northeast. I've been down to the south in Texas, and North Carolina and Georgia and Alabama. I've been in my own State of California, in Nevada, in Oregon and Washington, in North Dakota, in Illinois, and here I am today in Iowa. I've been before all kinds of groups, before groups of students, before groups of labor union members, before groups of farmers, and every place I go, north, east, west, and south, regardless of what the group is, I find that everybody is concerned about this one great issue, the issue that I described a moment ago as foreign policy, but an issue which can perhaps better be described by this sentence: I think that the major decision the people of the United States will be making next November 8 when they elect a President of this country and a Vice President is to decide which of the two candidates can best provide the leadership for America and for the world which will keep the peace without surrender and which will extend freedom throughout the world.

Why is it that everybody is so tremendously interested in this problem? Oh, I'm sure you know, just as I do and all of these great audiences to whom I have talked. They know that we can have the best farm income that we can possibly think of; we can have the best jobs, the best schools, the best medical care, a splendid social security program, better than any of us have ever dreamed of, and all of these things at home won't mean anything at all unless we're not around to enjoy them. So, therefore, people are concerned about foreign policy. They are concerned that we have leadership that will keep the peace, so that we can enjoy this wonderful freedom we have in the United States, so we can enjoy the prosperity that we do have in the United States, which is so richly shared by most of our people.

I would like to talk to you for just a few moments about that problem - keeping the peace, extending freedom. I would like to tell you how I think it can be done, and in the process, of course, I would like to indicate why I believe our ticket can better do this job than our opponents.

First, in analyzing the problem, I think we all recognize that if we're going to keep the peace the United States must be the strongest nation in the world militarily.

Now, this is necessary not because we ever want to use our strength aggressively against anybody else, because we don't. That's our record as a country. In the last three wars in which we have fought - World War I, World War II, and Korea - thousands of American boys have died. We've poured out billions of dollars of our wealth. For what? Not an acre of territory. Not a concession from any other person or any other nation. Simply for the right of all people to be free and for ourselves to live in peace and freedom. So, the reason we maintain this strength is to keep the peace, but in maintaining this strength let me first say that today America is the strongest nation in the world.

I know there are those who raise questions about our strength, and we can never be complacent about it because new inventions are always coming along. The Soviet Union is determined to outstrip us here as well as in other fields, but I can assure you that I am convinced that both our present strength and the plans that we have for the future, combined with the kind of preparations and thinking that we can and will do to meet Soviet threats in this area in the future, will keep America stronger than the Soviet Union or any other potential enemy of peace.

But this alone, of course, is not enough to keep the peace, just being militarily strong. We must combine that with the wise use of that military strength, and that means the right kind of diplomatic policy.

What kind of diplomatic policy do I refer to? I mean one that is firm, one that is not naive, one that knows what the Communist is like and knows that he does not react as do the statesmen of the non-Communist world, like Mr. Macmillan, Mr. De Gaulle, Mr. Adenauer, President Eisenhower, our own President.

Why do I emphasize this point? Just to give you an illustration, you recall at the recent Paris Conference which Mr. Khrushchev blew up, he said, because of the U-2 incident that a lot of people suggested that perhaps the President might have tried to have conducted himself differently. There were some on the one hand who thought that the President made a mistake in not answering back when Mr. Khrushchev insulted him. Let me say I think the President was absolutely correct in his conduct in that respect for two reasons: One, when you're confident of your strength, when you know you're right, you don't have to get down to the level of a man who insults you, as Mr. Khrushchev was insulting the President. The best way to show your attitude toward him is to maintain the dignity of your office and your country, as President Eisenhower did so magnificently on that occasion.

But there were others, of course, who criticized the President after the breakup of the Paris Conference on other grounds, and this shows a naive attitude toward the Communists and the Communist mind. They suggested possibly the President should have tried to save the conference by apologizing to Mr. Khrushchev for expressing regrets that these flights had ever taken place. I say this was a naive attitude because I know Mr. Khrushchev. I think I know many of the Communist leaders around the world, and I can assure you that simply apologizing to them or expressing regrets, as they demanded, wouldn't have satisfied them. It wouldn't have saved the conference. It would only have whetted their appetite and made them ask for even more concessions. This doesn't mean that we don't negotiate with them because we must negotiate at the conference table or else we will be negotiating on the battlefield, and this we must not do; but it does mean when we negotiate with the men in the Kremlin we negotiate with hardheaded realism, just as they are hardheaded realists. We must take nothing for granted and nothing on faith, just as they will take nothing on faith. They will respect us if we negotiate this way and we will accomplish far more than being naive as to how their conduct would be.

Another reason, of course, the President couldn't and shouldn't have apologized or expressed regrets to Mr. Khrushchev for these flights was that the flights were maintained, as you know, to defend the security of the United States against surprise attack, and no President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, can ever consider, of course, expressing regrets for attempting to defend this country from surprise attack.

So, now, I have mentioned two things that I think are important if we are going to maintain this peace which we've had for the last 7 years under President Eisenhower's leadership. I have mentioned military strength second to none. I have also mentioned diplomatic firmness, but firmness without belligerence. But this will simply hold the line. It will defend the cause of peace. It will not extend freedom. It will not promote this cause on an affirmative basis, as we must promote it if we're going to have the kind of peace that we all want for our children.

What more can we do? First of all, we've got to strengthen the instruments of peace, and I mean by that organizations like the United Nations, which has done a very effective job with a very difficult Congo situation. Just think of this: If we didn't have the United Nations today, we, the United States, would have to be trying to stop Mr. Khrushchev in the Congo; but, by working with our friends in the United Nations, we develop a threat of all peace-loving, freedom-loving people in which we work together to keep this newly developing country, this newly independent country, to permit the people of that country to develop in independence and in freedom without outside interference.

So, we should try to strengthen these organizations and make them even more effective in the cause of peace, and in this respect may I say if I should be elected I will have as a partner in this enterprise a man, Henry Cabot Lodge, that I think has done one of the finest jobs - in fact, I don't think anybody in the world has done a better job - of representing the cause of peace and freedom than he has as our representative in the United Nations over the past 7 years.

So, now we have military strength. We have diplomatic firmness. We have strengthening the United Nations and other organizations which will keep the peace. May I mention just two other points before I close.

We also have to keep the economy of this country strong and sound and productive and prudent. A strong, prosperous farm economy is essential if the national economy is to be strong, productive, and free. The farm programs that I have announced first in this speech and in the next one in South Dakota I think will help to keep our farm economy strong and sound and will give our farmers what they do not presently get - a square deal, a deal in which they have a fair share of America's increasing prosperity. If we are to have the kind of economy that we want, may I say also that we must recognize that America's progress economically in the past has been the result not of what government in Washington has done but it's been a result primarily of what individuals, 180 million free Americans, have been doing and doing because their Government has encouraged them and stimulated them to do it.

Then the final point that I would make is this: Military strength, economic strength, diplomatic policy - all of these things are important if we are to keep the peace and extend freedom, but more important than all the rest is moral strength, being on the right side, and, my friends, tonight we are on the right side. We are on the side of freedom and justice, belief in God, recognizing that every man and woman and child in this world is one who has God-given dignity and God-given rights and freedoms which no man should be allowed to take away.

As I close, may I say, let us strengthen the moral fiber of this country, through the church, through the school, through our home.

As I close, may I say to you that if you believe, on the basis of what I have said tonight on the basis of what you will hear during this campaign, that Henry Cabot Lodge and I are the best men to provide the leadership that America needs in these critical years to keep the peace, then will you please go out and work for us as well as vote for us, and as you work and as you vote remember: Vote not just for a man. Vote not just because you are members of our party, but vote because you believe what we stand for is best for America - and if it's best for America it will be best for you.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Nixon, Television Appearance, WHO-TV, Des Moines, IA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project