Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Ozark Empire Fair Grounds, Springfield, MO
I want to thank all of those who have helped to make this meeting a success - the great bands that are here - I just wish that I could mention them all; I see them on the right, on the left and in front of me - The Nixon Voices that I understand we will hear again later in the evening, all of those hundreds of people who worked on this program, and particularly the thousands in this audience who have come so far, so many of you, and some of you at great trouble to be here. Let me tell you again how much we appreciate what you've done; and, too, may I also say that this ends a very great day of campaigning for Pat and for me. It began this morning in Fort Wayne, Ind., after we had flown there from Michigan. We had in Fort Wayne, in the center of the city what they said was the largest crowd they had ever had in that place in that city in history. And then we went to Louisville. They said again this was the largest crowd they had ever had in Louisville, Ky., on the streets and listening there in front of the statue of Thomas Jefferson. And then we come here tonight, and they say again that this is the largest crowd that we've had here in many, many years, if not the largest crowd in history.
What does all this mean? I'll tell you what it means. It doesn't mean anything personal as far as I'm concerned, but it does mean something about America. It means that the American people, all of them, Republicans and Democrats and independents, are interested in their Government. You want to hear what those who are running for public office have to say, and you're willing to go to a lot of trouble to come to a meeting like this and to sit and listen to the case that a candidate for the Presidency presents for you. And this is a good sign, and for those who say that America as lost its interest in our Government, that we are thinking only of our own selfish concerns, I can tell you that I've been tremendously encouraged by what I have seen not only here, by what I have seen today, but by what I have seen in every State that we've visited so far in this campaign.
You know what I find? No matter where we go - north, east, west or south, whether in Hawaii, in the far, Far West, or out in Maine, in what they call Down East, or whether in New Jersey or Pennsylvania in the East, or down in Alabama and Georgia and Texas and Virginia in the South, whether in Missouri or California or Oregon or Washington in the West - I find great crowds and I find that, as far as these people are concerned, they are interested in the same great issues.
You know, we often hear the things that are different about Americans. We have a lot of different habits. Down here you like turnip greens, and maybe we don't in California, although I learned to like them when I went to school down in North Carolina. Other people have differences in habits, in food and dress, and sometimes we have differences in accents, and we hear the northerners don't agree with the southerners and the easterners with the westerners, and the people in labor don't agree with those in management and the people on the farm don't agree with those in the city, and so on down the line. Let me tell you this: We can be thankful tonight the things Americans do agree upon, the things we do believe in are far greater and far stronger than those things that divide Americans in this country. And what I say to you tonight is that the great issue of this campaign, the one that stands out wherever you go - east, west, north or south - in whatever kind of an audience it is, is the same, and it is this: Which of the candidates for the Presidency and the Vice Presidency can furnish the leadership for America and the free world
that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world?
I say this is the great issue. This does not mean that people are not concerned as they well should be, about other things. They want a government in which they can have a good job and a good income. They want a government in which they can have and be able to earn security for their old age, and good medical care. They want a government in which they can have better schools for their children. All these things they want. But, you know, my friends, we can have all these things, the best jobs in the world, the best medical care and the best schools, and it isn't going to make any difference if we're not around to enjoy them.
So, the first responsibility of a President of the United States, I say, is to provide the leadership that will keep America at peace and will extend freedom throughout the world.
And I say tonight that the American people will be grateful to Dwight Eisenhower for many things. They will be grateful because of his leadership that enabled this country to progress economically as it never had before in an 8-year period. They will be grateful because he restored dignity and integrity to the conduct of government in Washington, D.C., in the highest office of this land. But they will be most grateful because President Eisenhower, through his leadership, got the United States out of one war, kept us out of other wars and has provided peace without surrender for America and the free world today.
But now the question comes: What about the future? How do we keep the peace? flow do we extend freedom? How do we avoid surrender?
I would like to talk to that subject for a few moments tonight so that you can know where I, one of the candidates for the Presidency, stand on this issue.
The first thing we have to do is this: We must remember that in developing a policy that will keep the peace it must be geared to deal with those who threaten the peace. And who are they? Not Americans. Not the British. Not the French. Not any of our allies. Not any of the great countries of Asia or Africa, outside of the Communist bloc. The only threat to the peace of the world is the one presented by the international Communist movement, from Moscow, from Peking. Why do they threaten it? Because they are determined, as they have indicated, to conquer the world, by war if necessary, by other means, if possible, and they have told us this. So, therefore, we must make our policies accordingly.
And, as Mr. Khrushchev is visiting the United States today as he is attending the United Nations' General Assembly, it is well for us to look at the meeting there and to look at him to see what kind of man we are dealing with and what kind of policy America must follow if we are to avoid war.
So, first, because he is a man who understands power and respects it, because he is a man who will use power, if he can get away with it, to accomplish his ends, we must make sure that he never believes he is strong enough and that we are weak enough that he could start something without risking national suicide on his own part.
And, so, the first necessity of leadership in these critical years ahead is that the United States must continue to be what she is today - the strongest nation in the world. And, my friends, we must continue to maintain that advantage that we presently have, and the next President must be prepared to ask the American people for whatever was necessary to maintain it because through that strength in our hands, we serve the cause of peace. We serve it because we will never use it in aggression. We will only use it to deter those who would threaten the peace or threaten the freedom of others.
Now, what else do we need? Along with great power there goes the responsibility for great leadership, and particularly for wise diplomacy.
Let me spell that out in a moment. By wise diplomacy again, it must be geared to the man and the men who are on the other side of the conference table, Mr. Khrushchev and his colleagues.
What do they respect? What do they understand? Well, first of all, they understand firmness. We must never make a concession to them without getting a concession in return.
As President Eisenhower has said, the United States wants disarmament. We are willing to make all kinds of proposals for disarmament, but we are never going to disarm unless we are sure that the Soviet Union is also disarming at the same time through inspection, because if we did we would not be serving the cause of disarmament or of peace. We would be limiting our power at a time that the only one that threatens the peace of the world would be maintaining an advantage and gaining one that he did not previously have. And, so, this firmness is a necessary requirement of policy. What else does firmness mean? Let me give you an example. You remember the summit conference in Paris, the one Mr. Khrushchev broke up when President Eisenhower, you recall, had ordered the U-2 flights. Mr. Khrushchev said that was the reason he broke it up. We don't think that was the reason. We think there were others. But after President Eisenhower came home he was criticized on two counts and two extremes. There were some who said that the President wasn't tough enough with Mr. Khrushchev. They said, "After all, he had insulted the President of the United States, and why didn't the President of the United States go in and insult him, too?"
And let me tell you why he didn't. First of all, when you're confident that you're right, when you know that you're strong, you keep your dignity and you don't get down to the level of one who engages in insults. And may the next President of the United States and every President always bear this in mind, bear it in mind for that reason, and bear it in mind also for another reason: That he must never engage in a war of words simply to satisfy his own ego, simply to answer insults that are personal in nature to satisfy his ego. He must never do that because he might heat up the international atmosphere to the point that a nuclear explosion could be set off.
So, for these two reasons, the President was right in maintaining the fine dignity that he did in the face of those insults.
But all the critics didn't think that. There were others who said, "It wasn't a case of the President not answering insult for
insult." There were some who said, "The President should have taken a different line." They said, for example, that he should have tried to save this conference, that he might have expressed regrets, for example, for these flights and maybe that would have saved it.
Let me tell you why he couldn't do that. First, because that shows a very naive attitude about Mr. Khrushchev and men like him. Expressing regrets to him for these flights would not have saved the conference. It would not have satisfied him. It would only have whetted his appetite and made him ask for more. This is always the case when you're dealing with a dictator and give him a concession without getting a concession in return.
But, beyond that, there is another reason. No President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, must ever feel it necessary to express regrets or apologize for defending the United States of America against surprise attack.
And, so, the policy diplomatically, if we are to keep the peace and extend freedom, must he firm, but it must be nonbelligerent. It must stand firmly for the rights of our friends and of those who want to be free on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Now, what should the conduct of our candidates be at the present time with Mr. Khrushchev in the United States? I have addressed myself to this subject on several occasions. I want to do so again tonight. First of all, let me say that, as far as our country is concerned, in a political campaign it is the responsibility of those who think there are things wrong with our country, militarily, economically or otherwise to criticize them, and that responsibility goes forward whether Mr. Khrushchev or anybody else is in this country visiting at a particular time. You don't call off a campaign because of their visits. But let me say this: There is also a responsibility at a time like this - and at all times, for that matter - to be sure that the criticisms are based on fact and not on distortion; and also I say that when Mr. Khrushchev is in the United States, if we are going to criticize the things that are wrong about the United States, let's also emphasize the other things that are right about this country while he is here.
There are things wrong, of course. There are some things wrong about the United States; but, over all, what is it? Just the best country in the world. Let's never forget that.
Our military posture is not perfect. There are things that should be done to strengthen it, but what is our military strength? We're just the strongest nation in the world, and stronger than the Soviet Union. Let's not forget that.
Mr. Kennedy, speaking just a few days ago, made the point that Mr. Khrushchev might be tempted while he was here to make the most out of the fact that his economy, Mr. Khrushchev's, was growing - and I quote - "much faster than ours." Well, just let me say this: I have seen his economy and I have seen ours, and I believe that as far as our economy is concerned, it can and must grow just as fast as it can, not only because we're in a race with them, but because that is in the great American tradition.
But let me say this: That those who say that the Soviet economy is going to catch us, as Mr. Khrushchev says, and is going to pass us, just don't know what they're talking about, because they are not only not going to catch us in 7 years, as Mr. Khrushchev has claimed; they are not going to catch us in 70.
And may I say also, in that connection, that when we consider the weaknesses in our economy, let us not forget that America is the envy of and the admiration of the whole world as the richest, most productive nation in the world - and let's emphasize that good point about the economy while we're talking about the bad points.
Then, of course, we hear of other things. We hear from our political critics to the effect that the United States is losing its
friends around the world, that our prestige is at an alltime low, in spite of all the things that we've done, the money we've spent, the wars we've fought - World War I, World War II, and Korea - without getting a thing in return, that the U.S. prestige, nevertheless, is at an alltime low. This is the charge that has been made. It was made in 1956 by Mr. Stevenson. It is made again by our political critics today.
Well, let me say this: As far as prestige is concerned, I think we had a pretty good example just a couple of days ago in the United Nations. I noted in the papers just this past week you've had a football game in which the University of Missouri upset Southern Methodist by a score of 20 to 0. Now, that's a pretty good score in a football game. There was another kind of a game, a competition in the United Nations, and in the United Nations there was a vote on the Congo and the United States was on one side and the Soviet Union was on the other side. And you know how it came out? It wasn't just 20 to 0. It was 70 to 0, and that shows the U.S. prestige is pretty good.
What about the other things we hear that are wrong about the United States? Here's one: "17 million Americans go to bed hungry every night," Mr. Kennedy said: "17 million Americans go to bed hungry every night" - and what happens? The Chinese Communist newspaper, the People's Daily, picked it up and they said, "This means in capitalistic countries like the United States millions of people go hungry in the midst of plenty."
Now, what are the facts? The facts are, of course, the truth is that this country is the best clothed, the best housed, and we are the best fed people in the world - and go some place and see and come back to the United States and then be thankful that you live in this country if you don't believe it.
Of course, the Department of Agriculture apparently, if this statement was based on it, made a report to the effect that one-tenth of the U.S. population didn't have a proper diet - not that they were going hungry.
I remember, incidentally, what President Eisenhower said when the statement by Senator Kennedy - that 17 million Americans went to bed hungry every night - was brought to his attention. He said, "I go to bed hungry every night, but," he said, "the reason is the doctor has me on a diet."
And then we have another example of this shooting from the hip. Senator Kennedy, speaking in Alaska the other day, said that if Alaska still belonged to the Soviet Union it would already have a great hydroelectric dam project, which the people up there want. He might have added that if Alaska still belonged to the Soviet Union they might have the dam and they might, not, but they sure wouldn't have their freedom - and that's a lot more important.
My friends, I think you, with me, will agree it's difficult to understand these statements in the light of the present world
situation - and, you know, I think I found a clue to why they have been made, this statement about Alaska still belonging to the Soviet Union, this statement about expressing regrets, another one off the cuff, shooting from the hip, this one about 17 million Americans going to bed hungry every night. You know what it means? Well, Senator Kennedy apparently said yesterday, "We need a President in the sixties," he said, "who acts first and acts fast." Now, let me analyze that for you in a moment.
Yes, we do need to act first and act fast, sometimes, but I would suggest, on, the strength of these statements that I have just recited to you tonight, that what America needs in the sixties is a President who thinks first and then acts wisely for America and the world, because it is essential in the world in which we live that the man who is President of this country think first, act wisely, because the greatest wisdom is going to be needed to keep the peace without surrender, the difficult line between surrender on the one side and belligerence on the other.
And now there is a last point I would make, and it is the most important one of all. "What could be more important," you might ask, "than military strength and diplomatic firmness?" And I will tell you what it is. When I visited Poland just a year ago with my wife on a Sunday afternoon, we had the most memorable experience of our lives - yes, even more memorable than this wonderful reception we've had here in Springfield and in the other cities in the United States. Let me tell you about it.
We came in on a Sunday afternoon with no notice from the Government as to when we were arriving or where we would be driving because Mr. Khrushchev had been there 2 weeks before and they didn't want to have a comparison between our reception from the people of Poland behind the Iron Curtain and his reception. So, as we drove through the city, we expected some people, but you know, in a dictatorial country the word gets around by word of mouth and, as we drove into the suburbs, the crowds began to collect, and they were crowds like this one, cheering, but they were more than that. They were throwing flowers, hundreds of bouquets of flowers, into our car as we passed by, and when the car got into the middle of town they jammed around it and stopped the caravan eight different times, stopped it and they were shouting, and I looked into their faces and I saw that many of them were crying with tears of joy coming down their cheeks and they were shouting at the tops of their voices. You know what they were shouting? "Niech Zyje, America." "Long live America."
Why did they say it? Not because we are strong militarily, because Mr. Khrushchev represented a strong military country, and they hadn't shouted and cried and cheered like that for him; not because we were strong and rich economically, because he claimed to represent that kind of country, and they hadn't done that for him. No. Because to the people of Poland, and to the people of all the world on both sides of the Iron Curtain, the United States, we can be thankful, stands for something more than just military strength and economic might and gross atheistic materialism. We stand for moral and spiritual strength, for the great ideals that have always been the wonder of the world.
What are those ideals? You know what they are. A faith in God; a recognition of the equal dignity of every man, woman, and child in this earth, regardless of his background; a recognition of the right of all people to be independent and to be free. These rights are rights that come not from men and, therefore, cannot be taken away by men. They come from God. These are the things that the United States has stood for for a hundred and eighty-five years, and it is this moral and spiritual strength that will he decisive in this struggle for peace and freedom.
What can you do about it? This strength can't come from a President in Washington. Oh, he can help by a speech, but what he says, maybe by his own conduct, but it must come from the hearts and the minds and the souls of a people. It must come from the church. It must come from your schools. It must come from your home.
And I say to this great audience in Missouri here tonight: Do your best for America. Do your best in strengthening the moral and spiritual fiber, the love of country the great ideals that make America strong today. Do this so that America, her President, can lead a strong nation to peace and to freedom with all the world.
These are the things that I ask you.
And, finally, tonight, I come to the contest for the Presidency. I have not yet told you what I think you should do. I want to say to you tonight: Consider what I have said. Consider it not as Republicans or as Democrats but as Americans - and if you believe that the leadership that I can provide with my colleague is the leadership that America needs, then I ask for your support.
May I say a word about my colleague. I would not be so presumptuous to talk of my qualifications, but as far as he is concerned, he will be a partner with me, working to strengthen the instruments of peace - and, my friends, I don't believe any man in the world today has had more experience and has done a finer job defending the cause of peace and freedom than Henry Cabot Lodge as our representative in the United Nations.
So, that is our case. If you believe that this team of ours is the leadership America needs, then I say go out and work as you never worked before. Missouri is always a close State, and it's going to take a lot of work to win it, but it can be won if you work not just for a party and not just for a man, but recognize that you are working for leadership that is best for America and for the cause of peace and freedom for the whole world.
Thank you very much.
Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Ozark Empire Fair Grounds, Springfield, MO Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274080