Richard Nixon photo

Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Grand Lodge Convention, International Association of Machinists, Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO

September 15, 1960

President Hayes, distinguished guests on the platform, delegates to this convention of the International Association of Machinists and our guests, I first want to express my appreciation to the delegates and to the officers of the IAM for allowing me to come at this rather early hour for the purpose of speaking to you. I must admit that making a speech at 8 o'clock in the morning isn't something I would choose for the purpose of making a living, but certainly the fact that the schedule was such that I could not be in St. Louis later today has inconvenienced you, and I appreciate the fact that with all of your business of your convention that you are here and giving me the opportunity to meet you and to discuss some of the great issues before the country. Also, may I say that I appreciate the fact that you have invited my wife "Pat" to come with me.

I bring her for a very selfish reason. I am going to lay it right on the line, incidentally. I heard a fellow over here say, "We want Pat," when they introduced me.

I recall the last time we were visiting Nebraska, we had a big receiving line. A farmer came through the line from western Nebraska. This meeting was in Lincoln. He said, "I drove 200 miles to this meeting, Mr. Vice President," and after he shook hands with me, and he shook hands with my wife, he said, "My wife is going to vote for you, but I am going to vote for Pat." So all of you who aren't going to vote for me, I would like you to vote for Pat.

I am very proud of this badge. This makes me an official delegate or guest of this convention. I asked the secretary-treasurer if it made me a member of the IAM, and he said, "No; not until you pay your dues."

And I can only say that I guess the only union that I can qualify for would be the union of vice presidents. With the number that we have up on this stage we'd have a pretty big one incidentally, too.

I am not going to suggest that vice presidents be automatically promoted at the national level as they are in this union, incidentally, because that would be going further than I should, but I suppose there is one other union to which I could well qualify to be a member. Mr. Khrushchev said that I was not a spaceman but a grocery clerk. My answer is that I would rather be a grocery clerk in the United States than head of the Soviet Union.

Last night at the airport when President Hayes and my colleagues and the vice presidents of your organization and others were out to greet me at 11 o'clock, in speaking to the people that were gathered there I made a statement to the effect that my talk this morning would be nonpolitical, and I got a message from President Hayes this morning saying:

Mr. Nixon, we appreciate the fact that you apparently were willing to follow the rules of fairness in making this a nonpolitical talk under the circumstances, but since we want you to discuss the issues, we want you to be just as political as you need or want to be in order for us to understand where you stand on issues.

I want you to know that I appreciate that attitude. I think too often in this country the idea has gotten abroad that only the candidates of one political party would be welcome to speak to a great organization of labor such as this one, and I think the fact that you have invited me as well as my opponent indicates that you are fair minded. It indicates that you realize that one of the two of us might win and that therefore you ought to hear from both of us.

Now if I can move directly into the issues, I first want to say some things about this organization itself with which I am familiar; to pay my respects to you, and in paying my respects to you, to inform the American public and the American people of some things about this organization and others like it which are too often forgotten.

One, I have deeply appreciated the cooperation which President Hayes and the members of this organization have given to me as Chairman of the President's Committee on Government Contracts. The Committee, as you know, which was set up for the purpose of seeing that the American ideals - quality of opportunity for all in employment, particularly - was to apply whenever the public funds are to be spent, and in this area may I say I think we can all agree that where tax money is used for the purpose of letting out a Government contract, that everybody who pays taxes, regardless of what his background is, is entitled to an equal break in getting a job under those contracts and President Hayes has been most helpful in this regard.

As a matter of fact, I was telling him just before this meeting that I recall the last time we met was in Washington at a forum of that Committee over which I presided. We had brought leaders from over the country in order to give them an opportunity to see what was being done in labor, in management, in our churches, and in all the other groups, to work against prejudice wherever it might exist, and I told Mr. Hayes, I said, "You know, I have the greatest respect for you in a number of ways, but particularly as a speaker," because that day I remember that he made the most eloquent of all addresses. His answer, incidentally, was one - I see that you agree. Before you know it, I will be nominating him for something. But in any event, his answer was rather interesting.

He said:

That reminds me of a story about Yogi Berra. When he went up to the World Series to play the first series with the Braves and the Yankees, there was an occasion at that time when one of the wives of the Braves wanted to meet this very colorful catcher of the Yankees, now outfielder under Casey Stengel's system.

Yogi Berra was there and one of the wives of the Braves went up to meet him, and she said he looked like a very cool fellow and his answer was, "You don't look so hot yourself."

But be that as it may. Using that word "cool" in the sense that my teen-age daughters use it, Mr. Hayes, when it comes to presenting his point of view whether it is on labor, whether it is on equality of opportunity or in any other area, you can be proud, as he is one of the most effective men among American leaders today, and I am proud to say that.

The second thing that I would like to say with regard to this union is the work that President Hayes has done on the Ethical Practices Committee of the AFL-CIO. We hear about and have heard a lot about what is wrong with organized labor in the United States and I have been always interested to know and learn that the men who are most concerned about the derelictions of those few leaders of labor who have broken trust with their members and the people are the great majority of labor leaders who keep trust with their members and as the leaders of this union have over the many years during the period of your existence.

And while we pass laws, as we must, and as we sometimes should, for the purpose of playing down standards which we would trust that all unions would follow, that will protect their members from the excesses of the few and see that all unions follow the good practices of the great majority which do follow such practices and not those that are the battlers of the few may say as far as particular work is concerned, it can come most effectively from within the union movement itself. A law is only as good as the will of the people to keep it. And I would like to say that the very work that Mr. Hayes has done to clean up, in those few instances that have been brought to the attention of the leaders of his organization, has been an admirable example for all and in the great American tradition, and I pay tribute to him today for his work along that line.

Now, there was a third area I would like to mention. This one I will touch on briefly now, and I will touch on it, if I may be permitted, a little more later, because when I came in President Hayes said he would give me 30 minutes to talk, if I liked, or 45. I won't take 45. I may take 30, 50 if you will bear with me, I would like to mention this point at this time and then expand a little more later.

We hear a great deal these days about the enemies of the United States. Books have been written about the enemy from within. We hear a great deal these days about the enemies of the United States abroad, and what we can do to meet the forces of slavery and communism and defeat them without war, or, putting it another way, how we can extend freedom throughout the world. And may I say that there has been no group in America that has been more aware of the true nature of the Communist threat, more aware of the fact that it is the enemy of freedom and the enemy of free trade union leaders and free trade union movement throughout the world, there has been no group that has been more aware of that than the American labor movement, and you have proven it, and I will tell you how. You have proven it by, in effect, putting your money where it is most needed. You have sent your people for what purpose? Not for the purpose of serving your own selfish ends but for the purpose of serving America and the cause of freedom. To help the leaders of unions in the newly developing countries abroad to be oriented in the paths of freedom rather than in the paths of slavery, and I can tell you, and I have made this statement over and over again to business groups, to educational groups, and to labor groups, I can tell you today as one who knows something about this field who has traveled in 55 countries, who has been most to the newly developing countries, there is nothing that is more important if these countries are going to develop in freedom and not in slavery than to see that the new labor movements that are developing in those countries develop along the lines of the labor movement in the United States and not along the lines of the so-called labor movement in the Soviet Union which is not a labor union as all of you know.

I am sure that the delegates of this convention are perhaps scratching their heads and saying, "Well now this fellow says he is for this, he is for this and he is for this and these are all things that we are for." That sure sounds like politics, doesn't it?

It does. Now I am going to tell you something I am not for. I want to be completely honest - I want you to know exactly where I stand and I appreciate the opportunity that is presented to tell you exactly where I stand.

I have here a report of a speech made by my opponent in Detroit before a labor group and this is what it says:

What the American labor movement wants for America is what I want for America; and what the American labor movement opposes I oppose.

If I were solely concerned about both, I would tell you that today. I would say that I was 100 percent for everything that the officers of this grand lodge and on this platform were for. I would say that I was 100 percent for something that the delegates to this convention are for, representing a great number of voters in this country. I would say that I was against 100 percent everything that you are against. I could tell you that. It might win votes but I don't tell you that. I want to tell you why - because it would not be good for the labor movement and for labor union members and it would not be good for America for a President of the United States to make that kind of a statement to an organization of this kind.

Now may I spell it out for a moment. If we are talking about the goals that you seek - good jobs, a high standard of living; developing this country; in peace, in the paths of peace and doing everything that we can to avoid war; if we are standing for the great slogans I see - justice on the job - service to the community - security for the family - of course I am for it and so is my opponent.

Let's get one thing straight right now. He has indicated that anyone who disagrees with him in this field is in effect opposing the interests of the people and the interests of America. I don't say that where he disagrees with me that he opposes those interests. I think he wants a good life for the American people but let me say to him I do too, and I don't think that it serves the cause of uniting America for one presidential candidate to suggest that another is only for the selfish few and fighting against the interests of the many, because it isn't true and I deny it today and I would prove it isn't true to this great organization and to this audience.

After all, you know how many people there are who are wage earners in this country? Sixty-seven million. More people on the job today than ever in the history of the country. Do you think that any presidential candidate, merely apart from the fact that he wants to win, could in good conscience take a position that was not in his opinion in the best interests of those 67 million people who are the great majority of the people in the country? Of course not.

Consider my own personal situation. I know what it is in the little store in which I worked to see a child of an unemployed man come in and have to ask to put things on the bill, knowing that his dad or hers probably wasn't going to get a job for a while.

I know what continued unemployment can do, not only to the men, but worse, to the morale of the children.

I know what it is for a family to attempt to meet the bills at the end of the month. I have seen housewives come in and refuse to buy strawberries out of season. I have seen them come in and instead of buying that good-looking steak, get the stewed meat or the hamburger in order to balance the budget.

As far as I am concerned if what you are interested in is whether I feel in my heart a concern for the things that your organization is dedicated to realize, then, my friends, all that I can say is that my whole life I trust shows that I do feel it and the only difference between my opponent and myself is not in the goals we seek, a better America for us all, but in the means that we would reach to get those goals.

I said a moment ago that I could not say that I would be 100 percent for everything that the leaders of this movement or any other movement would be for. I could not be 100 percent for what the leaders of the junior chamber of commerce, before whom I spoke in this auditorium in St. Louis the last time I was here would be for.

I could not be 100 percent for what those who hold themselves out as leaders of America's farmers would be for. It is the obligation of the President of the United States to be President of all the people and not to set one group against another and if I become President, that is what I am going to do.

Let me tell you why I think that is so important. I had some first-hand experience in settling a labor dispute, as you may well recall, a few months ago. Mr. McDonald and Mr. Blough were in my home on business for 8 straight nights and believe me, I know what negotiating is. I know all about the creeps and all these other things you experts in this audience could, of course, give me a great lesson in, since you are more familiar than I. But I have learned something about it, and you know what I have found?

It would have been a mistake if I, representing the Government, had recommended a settlement that went all the way with Mr. McDonald. It would have been a mistake if I, representing the Government, had gone all the way with Roger Blough. The only way we can get a settlement was for me, representing the President of the United States, to think of the whole people, think of union members, to think of the productivity of our economy and then represent and then come out and recommend the settlement that both could live with and one that would be in the best interests of America.

When we were through, Mr. McDonald wasn't completely satisfied with it. He did not get 100 percent what he wanted. Roger Blough wasn't satisfied with it. He did not get what he wanted in connection with a 100-percent settlement, but I got what I thought was good for America and that is the test that I am going to follow all through my public career, I trust, in handling matters of this kind.

Now, I said a moment ago that I was going to prove that those who claim that I and the party I represent are against the interest of America's wage earners and America's union members and the union movement, that those who claim that are wrong, and that I am going to prove that they are wrong. Let me start right now.

You know, we can have political speakers get up here and say, "I am doing better for you and more for you than the other fellow," and one will say it his way and the other will say it his way, and the problem with the poor voter is that he can't tell which one to believe because he usually has to simply listen to the one who speaks last, and I suppose that is the one that makes the greatest effect in some instances. But you know, in this case we don't simply have to rely on what Senator Kennedy says about the record. We don't simply have to rely on what I say about how I feel about wage earners and about a strong America economically because we do have a record and a very good one.

Let me explain it to you. Fifteen years have elapsed since World War II. For 7½ years we had an administration in Washington under Mr. Truman which followed the economic policies - an administration that followed the economic policies that Senator Kennedy is advocating today.

For another 7½ years we have had an administration under President Eisenhower. Incidentally, that is American democracy in action. The present administration under President Eisenhower has followed the economic policies generally that I advocate for the country, and so I say to you to those who say that our policies are against progress, against the workingman, against what people want, to look at the record, this is what you are going to find.

One, do you want schools? Yes. More schools were built under the Eisenhower administration than were built in the Truman administration. As a matter of fact, we have built more than were built in 20 years when we came to office in Washington, D.C. All right.

Do you want more hospitals? More hospitals were built in the Eisenhower administration than were built in the Truman administration or any other administration in the history before the Eisenhower administration.

Let's get right down, however, into the area that is vitally important to every wage earner in this country, the ability to meet the bills at the end of the month. Take-home pay, family income in real dollars. Do you want that? All right. In the 7 years of the Truman administration real income of wage earners in this country went up 2 percent. In the 7 years of the Eisenhower administration real income of the wage earners of this country went up 15 percent. That is what we got.

And I say to you without going into further statistics before you take the promises of my opponent, before you just take on face value without checking his chart, that anybody that opposes what he says is an enemy of progress, look at the record.

Now, let's look to the future as far as economic progress is concerned. You know, Mr. Hayes has often been quoted as saying that he is a liberal, and may I say I would trust that every person in this audience is a liberal in the best sense. Let me give you a definition of the word "liberal." And this is one you may not recall. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said - and incidentally, you know, I am sort of expert at this - Franklin D. Roosevelt once said - and listen to this. It is a wonderful definition, and I agree with him. "A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life." Listen again. "A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life."

I want to build bridges. You want to build bridges over those chasms that separate humanity from a better life, but, my friends, speaking to one of the most highly skilled groups of workers in this country and representatives of those workers, I want those bridges to be sound and strong so that they don't break down, and we end up in the chasm having to get up to the top again.

And I say to you, it is easy to tell you today that the way to build bridges to a better life is to set interest rates at artificially low levels so we can have inflation and more jobs. It is easy to tell you that Government is going to be primarily responsible for producing the progress we want, but believe me, while I do not question their intention, I say that those who advocate the economic policies that we left in 1953 would not produce more progress for America than we have produced. They would produce less, and I say we should go forward with the tried and true principles that we have adopted.

Now, I realize in all fairness that many of the things I have said the gentlemen and ladies in this audience agree with, and many of them you disagree with. I understand that, and I ask you only to consider it. You have been most kind to do so, and before I conclude - and I have only 7 minutes left out of the 40 minutes, Mr. Hayes, before I conclude - I want to turn to the most important issue of all, and now you people are going to think I really have a hole in my head. How can anything be more important than our jobs, our schools, our medical care and the answer is: being around to enjoy it. What is more important, and the major test, that you should apply in electing the next President of the United States is which of the two men can best lead the free world and keep the peace without surrender for America and for the free people throughout the world.

Now, obviously, I think that I, with my colleague, Henry Cabot Lodge, I think that the two of us can do the job more effectively than can our opponents, and I understand that they think they can do it more effectively, as Senator Kennedy indicated yesterday to you.

I only want a few moments to tell you what America must do, if we are going to keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world.

One, we must, as he indicated, have military strength that is not only second to none, but military strength so great that regardless of what any other potential enemy may have if they should launch an attack, we will be able to destroy his warmongering capabilities. Now, honest men can only disagree about our military strength. I can only tell you today that I think I know something about it and I can tell you that we are that strong today and if I am elected President, I pledge to you that America's military strength will come first of all, whatever it may cost the American people to maintain that kind of strength in the future.

Along with that strength we are going to use a plan, and that means we have got to be diplomatically firm, but we have got to be nonbelligerent. Why do I say nonbelligerent? Believe me, it would be very easy for me over these past few days, simply to answer Mr. Khrushchev every time he calls me a name. But you know, it is a lot harder to keep your temper than it is to lose it. And you can't have as the President of the United States, anyone who has the luxury of losing his temper and thereby run the risk of heating up the diplomatic atmosphere to the point a nuclear explosion would be set off. Does it mean he doesn't answer back? No, but it means that the President of the United States, such as happened after Mr. Khrushchev blew up the Paris Conference, it means that the President of this country has confidence in his strength and never loses the dignity of his office by getting into the ring with Mr. Khrushchev, but maintains his strength and stands firmly on his principles as President Eisenhower did so magnificently at that conference. But may I also say, that the President, if we are to see our diplomatic strength correctly, must be nonbelligerent. He also must not make the mistake of failing to be firm.

I know that there were those who criticized President Eisenhower after the Paris Conference on the grounds, why doesn't he do all he said? Why couldn't he have, for example expressed regrets or apologized for the U-2 flights, to save the conference? I will tell you why he couldn't. Those that suggested that would save the conference are naive in dealing with men like Mr. Khrushchev. Appeasement in dealing with a dictator never satisfies him. It only encourages him to ask for more and the President of the United States can never engage in that activity for that reason.

And then there is another reason.

May the time never come when any President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, feels he has to apologize or express regrets for defending the security of the United States.

Well, now, I go back to the promise I made a few minutes ago. I am coming back to the part the American labor movement has played so magnificently in the fight for peace and freedom and the even greater part you must play in the years ahead.

I have spoken of military strength. I have spoken of the need for America to be strong economically, and I have spoken of the need to have a firm diplomacy. But, my friends, all this will simply hold the line. What we must do is to mount a great offensive for the minds and hearts and the souls of men and how do you mount that offensive?

You must get to the people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and how do you get to the people? You get to the people who talk to the people; not just the government officials, because many times they have nothing to do with the people of these countries, but to the labor leaders, to the leaders of the information media, to others in these newly developing countries abroad.

That is one of the reasons that I have been so strong for increasing exchange in these areas. That is one of the reasons why I shall have some new programs to offer these areas and that is one of the reasons I congratulate you for what you have done in helping these newly developing labor unions abroad to develop in freedom rather than in slavery and as you do that, you are helping not only the cause of freedom abroad, you are serving the cause of freedom at home, because as long as any man or woman is not free any place in the world, freedom is threatened where it exists, as it does exist, thank God, in the United States of America.

And so I say here today to you, as I close, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you. I know that I have said some things that may have pleased you and some things that may have not pleased you.

I respect your sincerity and your work for a better life in our country and I would only hope you would respect mine.

And I would finally say that if given the opportunity, I will work for the best interests of the 180 million Americans. I will never divide Americans on any class or group or sectional basis. I will work for peace, I will work for freedom, I will work also to strengthen the moral and spiritual fiber of this country so that the idealism of America will be an example for all the world to see.

These things I promise you I will do.

And, finally, may I say this, I recognize that this great organization has in times past, endorsed members of other parties than my own - you may this time. Whatever you may do, I want to say Mr. Hayes and all the rest, a President of the United States must always have the door of that White House open to the representatives of any great group, representing a great segment of American people such as you represent, and whatever you do, whatever decision you may make, you will have a friend in the White House of the United States. Thank you very much.

(A souvenir convention briefcase was presented to Vice President Nixon.)

Vice President NIXON. Ladies and gentlemen, just so there will be no mistake about the record, I was just handed this by your secretary-treasurer and he said, "Here is your convention souvenir, Mr. Vice President. There is no significance in the black bag."

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Grand Lodge Convention, International Association of Machinists, Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project