Richard Nixon photo

Speech by Vice President Richard M. Nixon to Luncheon at Annual Convention of National Federation of Republican Women, Convention Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

September 15, 1960

I can only say that the introduction I received by your presence is one that I have heard quite a few times - at least the last line, the last part, "The next President of the United States," as I have traveled around the country since the convention. That can happen. But I can assure you that if it does happen, it will be because of what you do because you are the front line of our ticket and of our party in this campaign and that is why I welcome the opportunity in talking to you today.

I am not alone in this conviction. In speaking to the President on many occasions, he has said that in 1952 and 1956 the men did the talking and the women did the working and, certainly, it has been my experience and the experience of every man and every woman who has been active in political life that the women play a tremendously important part because they do do the work in the campaigns, the voluntary work that is essential if we are going to get our story across to the Nation.

In speaking to you today there are many things that I would like to cover but, because of the makeup of this platform here I want to say some things first about New Jersey, the State in which I am presently appearing. I am glad that appearing with me today on the platform is Senator Case who is running for reelection, our candidates for the Congress of the United States, our incumbent Congressmen, and also the candidates also present at this meeting as well as party officials of New Jersey; and then, of course, you couldn't possibly have a meeting in Atlantic City without Senator Hap Farley, as you well know.

Now, I mention these men and I mention, of course, our friend Flo Dwyer because she is our city Congresswoman from New Jersey, I mention them for a reason: in a political campaign where you are running a ticket for the Presidency, the national tendency is for everybody to get tremendously excited by the top of the ticket and not pay too much attention to the rest of it and I just want you to know that I don't think that is the right thing to do. It isn't good, frankly, for the one running at the top. What is more, it isn't good for your State, for your district; it isn't good for the Nation.

The only way we can have a strong national party is to have a strong State party and a strong local party. I am proud to stand here on the platform with our candidates as I have in every State which I have visited in which I will in every one of the 50 States which I still hope to visit between now and November 8, stand with them, because I want to help build this party of ours not only on the national levels but in the Senate, in the House, State legislatures and in the governorships as well. So, if all of you forget everything else, I say today, carry that message back to those particular areas from which you come. Remember, these local officers are tremendously important and work for them just as hard as you work for us who may have the good fortune or responsibility as it may be to run for office. May I say, too, that I deeply appreciate the fact that we have had such delightful entertainment today with Tex and Jinx McCreary and Jules Stein and the stars from "Gypsy" which we have, of course, seen on Broadway. I think sometimes we don't appreciate the sacrifice that those in the entertainment world make in order to come and give the extra flavor to our meeting and, certainly, I want to take this opportunity to express on your behalf our appreciation for what they have done to brighten up our meeting today.

I am sure that all of us are aware of the fact that Pat and I have been doing a lot of traveling. We have been traveling a little more in the last 3 or 4 days than we have in the past several weeks, and I know that if we had an opportunity to sit down with you individually and talk as I would like to, if time would permit, and if there weren't 40 or more States to cover between now and November 8, I know I would like to sit down with you to talk over the various situations through the States in which we have traveled.

In telling you about the States and what I have seen, I have been tremendously encouraged. As you know, we left Washington, or I should say Baltimore, on Monday of this week in a pouring rainstorm. The President, of course, carried it off with great skill when he pointed out that it rained even harder when he had his first meeting in Abilene, Kans., in 1952. Since then we have had what is called "Eisenhower weather" all the way around. We had good weather in California, not only from the standpoint of weather, but also from the standpoint of political climate. We had good weather in Oregon and this morning in St. Louis, and now here in New Jersey.

What has encouraged me the most about this particular trip have been these things:

1. The crowds have been extremely big, particularly so for this stage of the campaign.

2. What is more important, they have been enthusiastic. They were the most enthusiastic I have had the opportunity to see in this campaign.

3. We have a great many more young people in the current campaign than we had in 1952 and 1956.

The fourth thing - and this is important to you - I have been impressed by the fact that the women in the various States we visited have been more evident in the crowds and seem more interested in this campaign than in any in which I have had the opportunity to participate. This is a good omen. This means as far as our party and as far as our candidates are concerned that we are on the march.

Now, how is this going to come out It would be easy to say we have it made and that the tide is running in our favor and all we have to do is keep the momentum going and we will win. I don't have to tell you this will be a close campaign. I think we are going to win, not only because our crowds are large and we have enthusiasm, but mainly because we are on the right side. It is to that point that I particularly want to direct my remarks today. What are those issues? What are the American people thinking about both in Hawaii and Maine, both States which we have visited, and what about the South and North Carolina and the Midwest and the Far West and the North. The answer is, of course, they are thinking about a number of issues, but there are always a few and usually one which stands out above all the rest.

I think I can best summarize the issues that I have found traveling through all the States we have visited by a letter I received while I was in the hospital recovering from this knee infection that I had. The letter came from Kirby Maple, Route 2, Somerfield, N.J. He says: "Dear Mr. Nixon, I am a boy 12 years old. I am thinking seriously of the world's future. I don't want to grow up and be a soldier and be shot up. I am writing several important people of the world today asking them for their ideas as to how my friends and I even at our young age may help to keep the world at peace. I would like your ideas on this matter also. Thank you."

This letter from this 12-year-old boy sums up the concern that I found all over the United States as we have traveled this country north, east, west, and south. This concern and the idea that this is the major of this campaign is held not only by Republicans but by Democrats and independents, and I find that as far as this particular issue is concerned, it transcends all the rest, because while people, of course, are interested in how government can provide the climate in which we can continue to have good jobs and high wages and how government can provide the necessary procedures through which we can have social security in times of unemployment and better schools and hospitals - while they are interested in these things, they know it doesn't

make any difference if we had all those things if we are not around to enjoy them.

I say to you the biggest, major issue which we should talk about today above all others is this: Which of the two candidates for the Vice Presidency and the Presidency can best provide the leadership for America and the free world in these next 4 years which will keep the peace without surrender and which will extend the freedom throughout the world. This is the issue that we should discuss.

By the way, you have heard enough speakers talk about this issue and I know you have read about it because you are students of government; that is why you are delegates to this convention. I would like to summarize some of the attitudes throughout the country that I think have to be brought home to the American people and I think you are the ones to do it, because as good as I can talk, or Senator Case and the other candidates on the platform can talk, it is up to you. You can spread it out all over the communities and the States of this great Nation of ours.

First of all, I think when we consider this issue of peace we obviously must point to our record. We have heard a lot of criticism of that record lately. We have heard about the fact that the U.S. prestige has suffered, but they said the same things in 1956, as you recall. We hear the United States is getting weak militarily and economically and that we must get going again if we are to survive. And we hear the people are uneasy and that the situation isn't as desirable as it might be. Let me suggest this: All the criticisms in the world must not obscure the point you must make, and that is that the policies of this administration have worked because under the leadership of the President we have ended the war which we have engaged in and avoided other wars, and we do have peace today. This we must tell the people.

To maintain that peace we, of course, must do things which are essential to give us the instrument which will keep the peace and they are, of course, the ones that are familiar to you. I will repeat them only briefly today for purposes of seeing that the record is full in that respect. First, America must have the military strength regardless of the enemy we have, sufficiently so that if a surprise attack is launched, we will be able to knock out the enemy. We don't maintain this because we want war but because we do not. We keep this strength because it is the best standard of the peace we want and we must make it clear, and I make it clear, that as far as that strength is concerned, it must come before all other considerations and it is the responsibility of the American people that we always maintain that strength we presently have, which is greater than any other nation's, and maintain it in the years ahead so that we can keep the peace as we have in these past 7½ years.

In addition to that military strength we also need the right kind of diplomacy. Now, diplomacy is a subject we could talk about for a full hour here, or several days, as a matter of fact, going into each individual problem that the United States has had over the past 7½ years, and how they have been met. Every one of us would agree that no administration is perfect in this field because when we have men on the loose, like the men in the Kremlin and the men in Peiping, we will have problems and we will have them in the future. But as far as diplomacy is concerned, I think there are two guidelines which the President indicated by his conduct at the Paris Conference. I think these the President must follow in the dealings in the future: 1. The guideline of firmness - and we have learned through hard experience that when you make concessions to a dictator you do not satisfy him but only whet his appetite and create the conditions which might lead to war rather than conditions which will result in a lasting peace. That is why at the Paris Conference the President conducted himself with great dignity, as well as great propriety, in handling this situation because in this incident there were those well-intentioned people who suggested that when Mr. Khrushchev broke up the conference because of the U-2 incident, as he did, there were those who suggested that possibly the President could have saved it by apologizing, or by some other means of getting Khrushchev back to the table. Let me tell you why this is wrong. First of all, it was a misunderstanding of the Communist mind for the President to apologize to him. It would not have satisfied Mr. Khrushchev, but it would have encouraged him to have demanded more, because if he gets that kind of concession he isn't satisfied and inevitably he feels he has you on the run; so firmness is necessary in that respect. In addition, I think we will agree that the time must never come when any President, Democrat or Republican, should ever apologize or express regret to anybody for attempting to defend the security of the United States.

Now this does not mean only that a President is to answer insult by insult, or refuse to negotiate. He must be willing to negotiate and the Secretary of State, and all others under his administration, must always be willing to negotiate. That President Eisenhower has indicated on so many, many occasions.

But conducting the negotiations we must remember the rules and who we are dealing with, and we must not make the errors that would lead to an illusory peace, but that in the end would lead to surrender or to war in the process.

So, on this whole policy of diplomacy, we must have firmness and nonbelligerence and we must have diplomacy in which the President does not answer insult with insult, but maintains the dignity of the Office of the President of the United States.

When you are confident of this strength, and when you know you are right, you do not engage in a war of words for that reason, and also for the other reason that it is irresponsible to an extreme for anyone to engage in activities that might heat up the international atmosphere and run the risk of igniting nuclear conflict.

Up to this point I have deliberately touched on only those things that will hold the line: strength that deters an aggressor; diplomatic policy that will see that war does not break out. How can we make yardage? How can we keep on the offensive for peace? This is the great challenge. This is the responsibility of the President and the Vice President and the next administration of this country. May I say in connection with that that time won't permit me to go into it in detail, but among the things that we must do is strengthen the instruments of peace, and, of course, strengthen the United Nations, strengthen the Organization of American States, and strengthen the other organizations which will provide the forums for discussing our differences, not on the battlefield, but at the conference table.

Obviously there are those who will suggest that the other ticket can do this just as well as we can. It would be presumptuous to talk about my experience as compared to my opponent, but I can talk about my running mate. And I will say this: He will be a partner in this enterprise, not only in the campaign, but afterward. He will have new assignments in this area of strengthening the peace and developing new instruments of peace. As I have traveled about the country I find that Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that there is no man in the world today who has had this experience, and who has done a better job in representing the United States in the cause of peace than Cabot Lodge.

I pledge to you that we will work together in this enterprise, not only to hold the line, but to extend the peace and extend freedom to people throughout the world.

Now, if I can turn to a related issue, I said at the outset that while people were interested in peace, they were also interested in issues that seemed to be much closer to home, and actually are. Every person wants a good job and good income, security for old age, protection against the hazards of ill health. We want progress in this country, better ideas, progress toward our great goal of equality for all of our people. All these things we want in America, and I think on this particular issue, it is perhaps time to set the records straight with respect to: (1) What is the record of this administration; and (2) to let you know what the prospects for the future are as far as progress toward a better life, and a better America here at home.

You have been reading the newspapers, and you have been looking at the television and listening to the radio, which I have not, but I know what they have been saying because it is in the press. You heard this over and over again. It started at the Los Angeles convention - before that - but there it reached the high point and since then both the other candidates keep hammering home, "America has stood still 7½ years, and it is time we get moving again." America has started to move into a new world, across new frontiers because our society is free, and we have made progress in all the areas to which I have referred. They have even suggested that in this problem of civil rights this administration is not interested, and has done nothing about it. Let's set the records straight. Fortunately, we have a very convenient way to do it at the present time. I am sure when you have two opponents getting up and making speeches it is hard to know which one you should believe, because one says I am for this and this, and I can do it better than the other fellow, and it is hard to believe which one is right. In this instance, you don't have to listen to what we say. You can look at what we have done, because we have a record. Look at it for just a moment. You may not have looked at it in this way. It has been 15 years since World War II has ended; 7½ years of that we had a Democratic administration under President Truman, and 7½ years we have had a Republican administration under President Eisenhower. I challenge our opponents on any area of progress to compare our record of our 7½ years with their record of 7½ years.

Let's take the area of civil rights, where Cliff Case has done such a good job working with me in the Senate and the country, generally. We have not only done more in the last 7½ years than they did in their 7½; not only that, we made more progress in that 7½ years than they did in 20, and we are certainly proud of that.

Schools. Not only have we built more schools in the last 7½ years than were built in the Truman years - we have built more than they built in 20 years. This gives the lie to the charge we are not interested in better schools in this country.

I could repeat the same line for all the other areas which spell progress in America.

What about jobs? Let's look at the key figure. That is the family income or take-home pay that the average American wage earner gets. We hear over and over again that we are the enemy of the the working people of this country and our policies are designed to help the rich, and not the poor. That is not so because in the 7 years of Truman administration the real income of the American workers went up only 2 percent in real dollars; but in the 7½ years of the Eisenhower administration it went up 15 percent and we are proud of that record.

Of course, I realize there are those of you who will run into difficulty as you go out and do your campaigning because of some of the charges made by our opponents, charges that we are really not concerned despite this record - charges that we are not interested in the American people and the wage earners and the like - charges like this one:

I spoke this morning to a great convention, the International Machinists Union in St. Louis, just as I am speaking to a great convention here. It was a labor convention, my first one to address during this campaign. I told you in that convention what my opponent said in speaking to a labor rally in Detroit just a few days ago, and this is what he said: "The American labor movement stands for what I want for America," and he went on to say that what the American labor movement opposes, "I oppose." In other words, what the American labor movement stands for, for America, he said, "I stand for" and what the American labor movement opposes, "I oppose." Do you know what I told this group? I said, "I would like to tell you that I stand for everything that your leaders on this platform stand for and that I oppose everything that they are against, but I don't say that to you and I won't say that to the leaders of business and I won't say that to those who represent themselves as the leaders of the farmers or any other group in this country, and I will tell you why: because an American President must not be for or against any one group, he must be President of all the people of this country - he must be President of all the people, and he must stand for those things that the leaders of labor want when they are right for America, but he must be against them when they are wrong. He must stand for those things the leaders of business want when they are right, but be against them when they are wrong, farmers, all the rest of the groups in our society." I want this made absolutely clear in this campaign that I am not going to indulge in the practice of going to this group and that group and, for the sake of getting votes, make promises that not only I know I can't keep but, what is more important, that in the interest of the American people should be kept because we need a united America and not a divided America.

So, I will say in summary in regard to these domestic issues that I am proud of the record but the record is not something to stand on, it is something to build on. And we are going to go into this era of the 60's building a better life than Americans have ever enjoyed before.

Our opponents say they stand for this, too, but I say to you we can produce whereas they set great goals for themselves; the means that they would use to reach those goals are the discredited policies that America left behind in 1953. So today we shall move forward but we shall move forward based on the principles that have been proved out during this administration and principles that will provide even greater progress in the next 10 years than we have enjoyed in the last.

Finally, today I have one last thought that I would like to leave with you before we fly on down to Roanoke, Va., and then on tonight to Omaha, Nebr. Up to this point I have been speaking of things we can all understand because when we speak of military strength and economic strength and diplomatic policy, these are things we see and feel and describe with words. I want to speak now of another kind of strength that is more important than all these, that will be more decisive in this great struggle than all these, and I speak of the moral and spiritual fiber of this country that makes it strong and to build within the American people a flaming idealism that will inspire people around the world to follow the courses of freedom rather than to follow the ways of communism. That is what we need today in this country.

It would be easy for me to say that the President of the United States can provide this moral and spiritual leadership that we need, but a leader can only be as effective as his people are effective with him, he can only be as great as the people themselves are great. I would suggest to all of you that as you go back and work in your party activities, remember, also, that the moral and spiritual strength of America must come not from government but it must come from the family, from the home, from the church, from the schools, from your hearts. I say to you today as you go back, go back recognizing that America is today first in the world militarily and economically, but what is more important is that that we must stay first as far as our ideals are concerned. And it is this idealism in the end that will prevail in the struggle in which we engage.

And finally, may I say to you, Madam President, as this campaign begins, I say, as I indicated at the beginning, it will be a hard one but we can win, and we can win, as I said before, because we are on the right side. But being on the right side alone is not enough; we need your help, we need your devotion, we need your dedication. I ask you to go out and work, not thinking just that you are working for our party, which is in itself a great goal, or for an individual, which, of course, can be a very inspiring goal at times, but remembering that you are working for an even greater goal, you are working for your country and you are working for the opportunity for America to realize its destiny, to lead this world as it must, to lead it to peace and to provide hope for peoples on both sides of the Iron Curtain, for freedom and for justice. This is our goal. Let this be the great inspiration of our campaign.

Richard Nixon, Speech by Vice President Richard M. Nixon to Luncheon at Annual Convention of National Federation of Republican Women, Convention Hall, Atlantic City, NJ Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273924

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