Richard Nixon photo

Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Atlanta, GA

August 26, 1960

Vice President NIXON. I want to say first how very moved my wife, Pat, and I are at this wonderful reception we have had this afternoon here in Atlanta. When we arrived at the airport, the mayor told us as we were driving in that we were going to see really somethin' when we got downtown. But, believe me, it exceeded all our expectations - and we thank you for making this such a memorable occasion. [Applause.]

And I can say, incidentally, that after hearing the mayor speak, his eloquence, his sincerity, after having seen the tremendous progress that has taken place in this city since my wife and I last visited it in 1942, I was telling the mayor it was the day after the big hotel fire there, I can say that after hearing him and seeing him and seeing that progress, I can understand why he has held the job of mayor longer than any mayor of a major city of America and why he's respected by Democrats and Republicans alike in this city and in the Nation. [Applause.] And I congratulate him and I congratulate the people of this city for the magnificent progress which has been yours in these years. I understand, as a matter of fact, that in the time since President Eisenhower appeared here in 1952 there are nine major new buildings, skyscrapers, that have been under construction in this city. It's an indication of the progress, not only of Atlanta, but of also of this State and of the South, and certainly you are leading the way, and for that you deserve congratulations and the appreciation of Americans.

May I say, too, it is indeed a very gratifying and moving occasion, not only to see such a splendid crowd but also to be introduced by a man who is a member of the other party, a man who has been a distinguished leader of that party, who got a majority of the votes in this State, and then to have him say what he did. I want to thank Jimmy Carmichael for his very, shall I say "unexpected" statement; it wasn't in the script, I know, because I'd seen the script before, and I thank him for what he said. [Applause.]

If I could be permitted just a couple of personal reminiscences before I speak to you on some of the issues confronting our Nation and the world today, I have gained a great respect for people of this State for a reason that Stan Myerson, who also attended Duke University Law School as I did, will well understand. I entered that law school in 1934. It was a highly competitive class that year, lots of Phi Beta Kappas strung through the class (I wasn't one of them), and I remember that the man who graduated first in that class (and, incidentally, he was my roommate) was a man who had graduated first from Emory University in Georgia and who now is a real success; he's the vice president of the Ethyl Corp. in New York - making a lot more money than I am! [Applause.] And since I roomed with Bill Perdue for 3 years at Duke University Law School, I learned much of the tradition, the culture, and the intelligence of the people of this State; and so I know you better than you might think that I would.

And then I recall, too, other occasions when we have been here - your magnificent beaches at Sea island, a very brief visit to the other side of the State out around Albany, and the occasion that I spoke of in 1942. I remember, too, occasions when we saw lots of Georgians in the Duke University Stadium. As you know, Georgia Tech and Duke have always been great rivals, and sometimes in those 3 years Duke won, sometimes Georgia Tech won (you remember Bill Alexander and Wallace Wade were great rivals as coaches), but I'll say this - and every Duke man will agree - that a Georgia Tech team was never uninteresting, it was never dull. And I can say the people of Georgia are never dull - given this reception we've had today. We thank you for that. [Applause.]

And so, you can gather from what I have said that I like this State, I respect its people, and I am certainly most happy that one of the first occasions of a campaign visit should occur under such circumstances, under such friendly surroundings.

And having spoken of this State in this way and having heard the mayor and Mr. Carmichael speak as they have, I think I should tell you why I'm here. Before I came down here on this trip there are those who said: "Why are you going to Alabama? Why are you going to Georgia?" They said: "After all, Dwight Eisenhower, who was the most popular man ever to be President or run for President in this century [applause] he won by 9 million votes in 1956, if he couldn't carry Georgia, why should any Republican candidate for the Presidency ever bother coming here?" And so I did a little checking of history and you know what I found? In the last quarter of a century there hasn't been a Democratic candidate for President that has bothered to campaign in the State of Georgia. [Applause.] In fact, mayor, Mr. Carmichael, I'm proud to say that the only presidential candidate to campaign in Georgia in that quarter of a century was a Republican candidate, Dwight Eisenhower, in 1952! [Applause.] And I bring to you his greetings and his best wishes, and he recalls the magnificent welcome he had on that occasion.

And I want to say to you here today, as I said a little earlier over in Birmingham, Ala., that I don't think that's a good thing, a good situation. I don't think that it's good for the people of Georgia, and more than that, I didn't think it's good for America to have a situation exist where the candidates for the Presidency don't feel it's necessary to campaign in a particular State. What I believe is this: I think it's time for a change. I think it's time for the Democratic candidates for the Presidency to quit taking Georgia and the South for granted. [Applause.] And just so I can show you there's no partisanship intended there, I think it's time for the Republican candidates to quit conceding the South to the Democratic candidates and to come down here too. [Applause.] Because the people of this State, the people of all of our country, should have a choice, and should exercise the right to make a choice in selecting the man who is going to lead this Nation and the free world in the next 4 years. And that is why, may I say, that I announced in my acceptance speech that I intended to do something that hasn't been done for many, many years in this country as a presidential candidate: I intend to visit every one of the 50 States and I hope that in the years to come the Democratic and the Republican candidates for the Presidency will do likewise - that they carry their campaigns and let the people of all the States get a chance to hear the candidates and make up their minds on the great issues confronting the Nation. [Applause.]

And now, may I tell you something about those issues? May I tell you how I feel you should consider them in this crucial year 1960? If you are to make a choice, a choice in the best interests of the Nation and of Georgia and of yourselves, it must not be as has been indicated by the mayor and by Jimmy Carmichael a "blind" choice, it must be an intelligent choice. Don't make that choice on the basis of the age of the candidates, on the basis of their religion, on the basis of their personality; don't make that choice on the basis of the party labels they wear, but make it on where they stand on the great issues, and if they stand closer to you -regardless of the party label - vote for the man who agrees with you more than the other man. This is the way to make the choice. [Applause.]

And that is why today I present the case for our ticket to you, not on the basis of blind partisanship, not on the basis that you should vote Republican because you are a Republican if you are, but I present it on this basis and on this basis only: Forget your partisan affiliation for a few moments; think of the Nation, think of the issues uppermost in your mind, and then decide which of the candidates, which of the tickets, will best serve the Nation in the interests you deeply believe in.

Now in speaking of that choice, I want to say right at the outset that I recognize that there are those who feel they don't really have a choice between the two parties in this election campaign. I see some signs over here that might indicate that, and I must say that I received a few letters - quite a few, as a matter of fact - some of my good friends in the South saying after our convention: "Well, a plague on both your houses. We don't see any difference between what the Democrats did in Los Angeles and what the Republicans did in Chicago." I want to face up to that issue very honestly, very directly with you.

Those who would say that, of course, were speaking of only one issue, the civil rights issue. It is a difficult issue. I went to school in the South; I know that issue. My convictions are well known to you: I have spoken of them on many occasions - last week in Greensboro I reiterated those beliefs. But may I say to you that as we consider that issue that I recognize these things also to be true as you do; I recognize that as far as this issue is concerned it is not just a southern issue, it's a problem for the North and for the West and for the East as well. I recognize that this problem must be solved not just on the basis of one part of the country pointing the finger at another, but it must be solved on each American and each part of the country - recognizing the problem in his own backyard before he talks about the problem in the other backyard as well. [Applause.]

And I want to say that I congratulate those, including the mayor of this city, who had been dealing with this difficult issue and making progress on it, and I would trust that the next President - be he a Democrat or Republican - will be able to provide leadership which will mean progress in this field, mean progress and eventual solution of one of the most difficult issues confronting the American people today.

But when you consider this issue, and assuming that many of you will find yourselves in disagreement with both party platforms, may I say that you also consider some other issues as well. And may, I turn now to what I believe is the overriding issue confronting us in this election campaign. You know what it is. Look at those boys sitting there around that pool. We want those boys to grow up in a world of peace without surrender. This is the great issue of our time. [Applause.] Because we can have the best social security program and the best health program and the best job that anybody can possibly imagine and it isn't going to make any difference if we're not around to enjoy it.

And so I say to you that as you consider how you will vote next November, uppermost in your minds should be this: Which of the two candidates, which of the two tickets, can best provide the leadership which will keep the peace for America without surrender in the years ahead. And I say to you today (and I'm a bit prejudiced, I admit), that I believe that our ticket offers the best record, the most experience, the best program, the best leadership in this field. [Applause.]

As far as the record is concerned, I can sum it up in a word. The man that spoke here in Atlanta 8 years ago got the United States out of one war, he's kept us out of other wars, and we have peace without surrender today and the American people will be eternally grateful to Dwight Eisenhower for that. [Applause.]

As far as our leadership is concerned and our experience, it would of course be presumptuous for me to compare my qualifications with those of my opponent, but I can say something about my vice presidential running mate. I say to you today that there is no man in my opinion in the world who has had more experience and who has shown more ability to deal with the Communist leaders across the conference table than the man that I trust will be the next Vice President, Henry Cabot Lodge, our representative at the U.N. [Applause.] And I can assure all of you that if we have the opportunity, you will have a team, a partnership, working day and night in the interests of peace without surrender for America and the world. [Applause.]

Now, in gaining that peace, there are some things we must understand. First, we must keep America strong militarily, and that means that the military strength of this country must come before all other considerations. I'd like to come before an audience like this and say: I'm going to cut your taxes, I'm going to give you this and that and the other thing. But I say that our lives come before tax cuts and we must have military security and strength above everything else. [Applause.] I would also like to say that the road is easy - to keep peace without surrender - but it is not. In addition to strength we need diplomatic policies that are firm without being belligerent. And I think the best way I can describe such policies is to refer to the conduct of the President at the summit conference.

You remember Mr. Khrushchev, insisting our President as no chief of state had ever been insulted at a conference in the world's history before, and you remember the President - not responding in kind. And after that conference there was disagreement about the President's conduct. There were some who said: "Well, the President shouldn't have stood there and taken all those words; he should have slapped back at that fellow." And I want to say that I think the President was right in the way that he handled it with dignity and courage, rather than tossing insult with insult [applause] because I've had a little experience in talking with Mr. Khrushchev, even if it was just in the kitchen. [Applause.] And I can tell you that one thing you have to learn to do is to keep your temper and learn not to answer insult with insult, because remember - whenever the President of the United States indulges in a war of words he may heat up the international atmosphere to the point where they could set off a nuclear disaster. And so our President must be firm but not belligerent.

And by "firmness" what do I mean? Referring again to the summit conference, there were those who said that the President erred in another way. They say that he might have saved the conference, or at least could have tried to have saved it, by expressing regrets to Mr. Khrushchev or apologizing to him * * * [shouts of "no" from the audience] for the U-2 flights. And may I say that in that connection I realize that those expressions were well intentioned, but they show a great lack of understanding, first, of Mr. Khrushchev and the Communists, because an expression of regret or apology would not have saved the conference; it would only have whetted his appetite and made him ask for more. And second, may I say, may the time never come when a President, Democrat or Republican, feels that it is necessary to apologize or express regrets for defending the United States against surprise attack from a potential enemy. [Applause.]

Time will not permit my discussing this issue much further. I want to turn just briefly to one other great issue, one which involves our problems at home, and here I'm going to say first what you expect me to say. I want a life, as my Dad used to tell me when we were growing up, that is better for my children than I've had myself. My father had a very humble background and he was never one to point to the good old days; however, he was always looking to the future, to progress, a better life for his children than for himself. We lead a wonderful life in this country today, we're the richest nation, we have the highest standard of living, the greatest freedom that people have ever enjoyed. But we want progress, we want better housing, better health, we want better jobs, better income, better security for our children than we've had for ourselves.

And so many of you will say: "Well, that sounds just like what the Democratic candidate would say." And that's right. Let's recognize right here and now, my friends, that all Americans, Democrats and Republicans, want peace for our country. And they all want a better life for our people. But the question is, not the goal but how do you get there? And I say to you that our Democratic opponents have lost the way and we know the way and we've proved it by what we have done. [Applause.] Because in Los Angeles what they said in effect was that the way to get progress for America, better homes and better health and better jobs, was by increasing the size and the functions of the Federal Government and by spending billions more of the people's money. I say "billions more of the people's money," because have you ever heard a man come before you and promise the Federal Government will do this for you and this for you and this for you - whenever you hear that remember you're going to pay the bill. He isn't - you are. And I say that one of the major differences between where our opponents stand and we stand is that they say: Send your money to Washington and we will spend it for you. And we say: You send it to Washington only when you think we can spend it better than your State can or you can for your own benefit. [Applause.]

Now, why do I favor this approach?. Not because it's the easiest. You know, somebody was speaking to me the other day about our health program, and they said: "You know, really Mr. Nixon, the opponent's program, the one that they supported which was defeated in the Senate (and, incidentally, to their credit, both Democratic Senators from the State of Georgia voted with the Republicans rather than their national leaders) [applause] wouldn't it be easier

to have the Federal Government just take care of the health needs of all of our older citizens, rather than have it done by the States working with the Federal Government and through a voluntary rather than a compulsory program." And the answer is: Yes, it would be easier. As a matter of fact, the easiest way to handle all problems would not to have any States and no city government, but just to have one Federal Government and then you have to go further than that, though - you shouldn't have any Congress, because that's a lot of trouble, too, you just have one man naming it all, and that's the easiest way to provide for people. But it's the wrong way and our 180 years of history proves its the wrong way and that is where we stand. [Applause.]

And in that connection, may I just say that it was Thomas Jefferson who stated it better than anybody else many, many years ago, when he said that the States should do those things that they can do as well as the Federal Government. We believe that. Our platform is based upon it and the platform of our opponents at Los Angeles denies it, and we believe it both because we realize that Federal and State cooperation achieves better results, but also because we know that the greatest guarantee of freedom that we have is diffusion of power, local government, local responsibility, rather than concentration upon power, sending all the problems to Washington and the power with it. This is the true Jeffersonian principle and it just happens that the whole situation is turned around and that today we, the Republicans, stand for that Jeffersonian principle and the Democratic platform denies it. [Applause.]

And you know what I think? I say today that millions of Democrats in this country are going to vote for the other ticket this year. You know why? Not because they are deserting their party, but because their party at Los Angeles deserted the party of Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson. [Applause.]

I could go on, but you have stood here a long time and you have been most patient, and I do not want to stop without a word of faith about the future of our country, based on my own experience in these past 8 years.

My wife Pat and I have had a very great honor which you, the people of this country, have made possible for us. We have represented America and the President in 55 countries abroad, and we have seen the affection that the great majority of the people of those countries, including even those behind the Iron Curtain, have for America. Not only affection, but trust and hope. Today America is in truth the leader of the free world. Whether we have and whether the world has peace with freedom in these next few years depends upon what we do, and I say to you we cannot and we will not let down the hopes of millions throughout the world who want peace, who want freedom and who want a better life. We will not let them down. And the way that you can help is by doing your best for America. You young people - do your best in school, so that when you grow up and get into business or whatever you go into, you can make a real contribution to this country. Those of you in your jobs - let's have the greatest efficiency that we have so that America can maintain the great lead we have economically. But most of all, let's keep the spiritual and moral strength of America high - this is our greatest advantage in this struggle. [Applause.]

And I say to you today that to those who claim that America is second militarily, second economically, second in prestige, they don't know what they're talking about. We are first today, we have the strength to maintain that position, but above all, the moral and spiritual strength of America is today the great hope of the world.

And as I conclude, may I say that as we travel throughout this country in these next few days and weeks and months, there will be long days, long hours, many speeches, when we will be very tired. But we will always look back on this beautiful afternoon here in Atlanta, this wonderful crowd, so typical of our country. We will look back remembering your courtesy in coming, but we will look back also with renewed faith in America. And I ask you only as I leave to do this one thing. Consider what I have said, consider what my opponents and others may say, and on election day don't just vote a party label, don't just vote a personality, don't just vote on some other inconsequential issue, but cast a vote for America, and if it's in the best interests of America it will be in the best interests of Georgia and of all of the people in this great audience.

Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Atlanta, GA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project