Richard Nixon photo

Television Speech by the Vice President at Chicago, IL

October 29, 1960

Good evening my fellow Americans. Well, as you can see, I've had a rather busy day here in the suburbs of Chicago, and I want to start this broadcast by thanking all of you for listening in and giving up "Gunsmoke."

As a matter of fact, my two daughters like it very much, and sometimes they entice me into seeing it also. But I think that you very properly are listening to this broadcast. I say that not only because I'm a candidate and want you to listen, but because I think the decision you're going to make this year on the Presidency is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life.

Of course, I'm sure that many of you might react when I say that by saying, "Well, it is important to him, he's running."

But I think all of you realize that now, in this decade of the sixties, what the President of the United States does affects every home, every family, every person in America, and that's the reason that I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you in your homes tonight through this broadcast.

You've just seen a little bit of what our political rallies are like, and I have spoken to literally thousands of them over the period of my life and hundreds in the course of this campaign.

As a matter of fact, I've been now in 47 States, from Hawaii to Maine, in the North, East, and the West, and South. I have only 3 to go to complete the 50-State circuit before November 8.

And in speaking at such rallies, I have seen literally hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even up to the millions.

As I look over these people, people that you have just seen on your television screen, this thought sometimes comes into my mind: I'm sure that when the people hear me speak or Senator Kennedy speak, they wonder sometimes why we don't ask them what they want from Government, because I know when I speak I say this is what I want to do; this is what I intend to do; this is what I believe America needs, and Senator Kennedy, of course, does the same thing.

But, after all, it's what you want that counts. You are the ones who must determine who will be the next President of the United States.

And, so, tonight I want to reverse the procedure of the rally speech. I want to talk to you just as if I were sitting in your living room. I want to talk to you about the issues that I think the average American family are concerned with, and, as I think of those issues, I naturally go back to my own family, and I recall what my father used to say. He never used to say we wanted to go back to the good old days. He said as far as those good old days were concerned, he remembered they weren't as good as the time in which we were living then. And also he never used to tell us, there were five boys in our family, that we were pretty lucky to have it as good as we were. He always said in America, we wanted progress. We were not a standstill people. We're a go-ahead people. I think that's the spirit of all American families, just as it was the spirit of my family.

And as you think that way, as you think of what you want for your family, I'm sure that first of all you want progress. You want a better life for your children than you've had for yourselves.

You want better opportunities for them than you have had for yourselves. That's why we're a great country, and that's why I want to talk to that point first of all tonight.

Now, on this score, I'm sure you've heard my opponent and perhaps you've heard me say we stand for progress. You've also heard us discuss the record of the administration of which I am proud to be a part. I am sure that you've heard my opponent say over and over again as he has said in our television debates that America has been standing still for the last 7½ years, and that we've got to get her going again, and you've heard me say that isn't true. America hasn't been standing still. She's been moving, but we should move her further ahead. Now, that leaves you in somewhat of a quandary, doesn't it? I say one thing; he says the other thing. Whom are you to believe? Well, you know, you don't have to believe either one of us. Just look at the record. Think of yourselves. Look at your community. You will find that three times as many schools, for example, have been built in the Eisenhower years than were built in the Truman years. That's real progress. You'll find that more hospitals have been built in the Eisenhower years than in the Truman years, the 7 years before. The same is true of highways.

Look at the tremendous complexion of highways here in Illinois, around Chicago, over which I have been riding today. They weren't here 7 years ago. And then just consider your own family, your jobs. You will find that your wages have gone up more in the Eisenhower years than they did in the Truman years, but there's something else, too, that's far more important. They're real wages, because you have found that prices have been held in check so that the wage increases haven't been eaten up by price increases.

All these things you know. You know, in other words, America hasn't been standing still. You can see the new factories, the shopping centers, all of those evidences of progress which indicate what I am just about now to conclude, and that is that the 8 Eisenhower years will be the years of the greatest progress in any administration in history.

Those are the facts. You don't have to take my word for it. Look at your own community, your own State, and you will find that that is true.

So, since the argument that we have been standing still won't hold up, we next come to the key question: Where do we go from here? Who will move America forward the most, because, while we have not been standing still, we cannot be satisfied with where we are.

I often say that a record is never something to stand on, but something to build on. And, so, in your homes tonight, I suppose you're wondering: What about the future? What about our jobs? What's going to happen? Are we going to have good times or bad times?

Now, I have some strong feelings on this subject and some convictions, but before I discuss them I would like to lay to rest one Halloween story that's been going around. I call it that, because it has just about as much credibility as some of the Halloween stories, the ghost stories that you hear around Halloween time.

A couple of days ago when I was in Detroit, I picked up a copy of the Detroit Free Press. I have it here on my desk. I think you can read the headline, if I hold it up, on your television screen. It says: "United States Facing Slump, Kennedy Declares."

Now, that must concern many Americans, when they read, the presidential candidate of one of our parties says, "United States Facing Slump." Is it true? And the answer is, Of course it isn't true. The answer is - and now I'm going to give you my version - the answer is that America, is moving forward, that unemployment went down more than usual last month and employment went up to record heights. The answer is that America will continue to move forward, continue to move forward, that is, unless we have some of our politicians talk us into a recession - and we aren't going to allow that to happen. Now, let me show you the other headline in this same paper, which gives the lie to the one I just read. You see this one at the top? "Ten Day Auto Sales Set Record." And then in the story: "An Alltime Record for Auto Sales, These Last 10 Days." Does that sound like a slump? This means, in other words, that the American people, if there is going to be a slump, haven't heard about it.

You know what causes a recession is when people lose confidence, when they quit buying, when they get afraid; but when people are buying more cars than ever before in history, that means the people of the United States have faith in this country. They don't downgrade her. They don't downgrade our economy, and I say on this score the people are right and Senator Kennedy is wrong.

And we're not going to have a recession. We're not going to because the American people recognize that good times are with us today and that they can be better tomorrow.

So, if we're not going to have a recession, how about our programs for progress for the future? Well, here, as you might expect, the voter again is confronted with a real problem, because I say that I have programs that will produce progress, better schools and better housing for all Americans, a program of medical care for the aged, a program that will expand job opportunities for all of our people; a program in the field of civil rights that sees that all Americans move forward together, leaving none behind.

My opponent, of course, has programs in these same fields, and, so, here again you have the predicament. Which one of us are you to believe? Well, first of all, I can point to the record, the record to which I referred a moment ago. When you look at the progress in the Eisenhower years; in every one of these fields that I have mentioned; you will find that we have more than in the Truman years. But some of you may say, "Well, now, just a minute. But Mr. Truman isn't running."

But, yes, he is. His policies are. That's all my opponent has offered in this campaign to date - a return to the same monetary policies that led to the biggest inflation in history, a return to the same economic policies that would increase our Government operations and controls of our economy. Going back, in other words, is what he offers, going back to the good old days.

But, my friends, the American people have a long memory. They remember those days. They remember that it was a period when we did not have progress, when we didn't have progress except at the cost of war or as a result of war.

And, so, I say that on this score - first, our record proves that we can produce the progress that our opponents talk about.

Of course, there is something else that's being said in this campaign that I want to lay to rest tonight. My opponent constantly has been saying: "Mr. Nixon and his party don't care. They don't care for the problems of the old people. They don't care about the unemployed. They don't care about the unfortunate. They just like things as they are."

Now, I resent this. I resent it as an individual. I resent it, too, as the representative of a great political party.

What does he mean saying. I don't care? I know what it means to be poor. I know what unemployment means to families in my community. I know what it means to meet a family budget. I remember, as far as medical care is concerned, the day and the year that my father died, in 1956. We had lots of medical bills that year. My mother had an operation the same year. Over $3,000 worth of bills. They were able to pay them out of the savings that they had, but I realize how hard it was for them - and that's one of the reasons why I have felt that we must get a program in which our citizens over the age of 65, who get catastrophic illnesses will be able to have better protection than they have at the present time.

You just can't say, "Let them go off and die." You just can't say "Let them go on relief." You just can't say, "Let them wait until private health insurance will take care of them," because the problem is here. It's here and now. So, here we have a choice, and entirely different approach. My opponent says he cares for the older people. You know how he cares? He would set up a program under which he would compel all people who have social security to buy health insurance, after the age of 65, which would take effect after the age of 65. They would be compelled to take it whether they needed it or not, and this would cover, in other words, the wealthy as well as those who might need it.

But, on the other hand, his program doesn't provide at all for 3 million Americans over 65 who aren't covered by social security.

Some of you listening probably are in that category - no coverage at all for you - and these 3 million are the ones who probably in many cases need it the most.

Now, let's look at my program.

My program, instead of turning this over to the Federal Government, making it compulsory operates in the traditional American way of having the Federal Government and the State governments work together; setting up a program under which every American over 65 who needs health insurance is enabled to get it, but where he has a choice - he can buy either private health insurance, if he would prefer that, or he can get government health insurance, but where no American is compelled to have health insurance if he doesn't want it.

Why is that better? Well, first, because it covers all the people over 65; and, second, because it's voluntary, and not compulsory.

Why is this important? Because the moment you have a compulsory health insurance program that is the first step toward socializing the medical profession in this country. And, my friends, whatever we may think about the costs of medical care - and they're high, and they come particularly hard for families - not only older families, but younger ones as well - who have catastrophic illnesses, remember this: we've got the best medical care in the world, and the reason it is is that our medical profession is free, that they aren't working for the Federal Government and I don't want to reduce the standard of medical care. That's why I say let's continue to have a program that is voluntary. Let's continue to have one in which all people over 65 who want health insurance can get it, but none are compelled to have it against their will.

One other example to comment on this whole question of who cares. The other day somebody spoke to me about this business of making promises in a campaign, and they said: "Mr. Nixon, why are you so reluctant to outpromise your opponent? After all, why wouldn't it be easier to do just what he does - go around the country and say, if there is a problem, 'We'll have the Federal Government solve it by spending billions of dollars?'"

It wouldn't cost me much. After all, it's not my money, or his, but yours we would be spending; but that's the whole point of the exercise. The reason why I stand for programs that will produce progress, but cost less, about $15 billion a year less of the Federal Government's money, and that's your money, is that I know what it means when the Federal Government spends more than it takes in. I know the difficulty that literally hundreds of thousands, millions of families, are having meeting their obligations today. I know that if my opponent's programs are enacted into law, it will mean higher prices. It will mean higher taxes, or both, for the American people.

I know that that would be the greatest cruelty to the people living on pensions, people who are saving for their old age, people on social security, people with life insurance, and that's virtually everybody listening to me, virtually everybody in America.

You remember what happened in the Truman years, those of you on pensions, those of you who had life insurance, those of you with social security? The value of the dollar went down 50 percent, and that meant a terrible cruelty to all of you to make both ends meet.

I say we must never let that happen again. That's why I am fighting in this campaign against the policies of my opponent that would spend billions of dollars unnecessarily and that also would inflate our currency, reduce the value of our dollars.

This is why I said at the outset of this program you will not make a more important decision this year or maybe in your lives than you make in this election, because as you vote, you will be determining your taxes, but you also will be determining the prices of the things you buy in the stores.

If you vote for my opponent, those prices are going to go up. They have to. The money has to come from some place - either taxes or prices, or both.

And, so, I say in this field again that we will have progress and prosperity without .inflation, and this will mean something to every American listening to me tonight.

Now, I want to turn from these domestic issues to what is an issue that I have found is even more important. I suppose some of you may wonder: How can Mr. Nixon possibly say that anything is more important than a good job, security for our old age, medical care and the like? And, of course, the answer is: Being alive is more important.

I have traveled to 55 countries since I've been Vice President. I have seen the devastation that war brought to countries which felt it - World War II and Korea. America has suffered in war, but war has never come to our shores before.

If there is a third war, war will come to America. It will come to Chicago. This is a major target area, and I say the major responsibility of the next President of the United States is to develop policies which will continue to do what President Eisenhower has done, and for which the American people will be eternally grateful to him for, and that is: Keep the peace. Keep it without surrender, and extend freedom - extend it throughout the world - and the two go hand in hand together.

Now, who of the candidates is best qualified in this field?

Naturally, you're going to expect me to say that I am. All that I am going to say is this: I do know what the problem is. For 7½ years Cabot Lodge and I have sat in the National Security Council, in the Cabinet. We have sat with the President and we have discussed with him in making the great decisions that avoided war on the one side and surrender on the other.

We know what peace demands. We also know Mr. Khrushchev. We have sat at the conference table with him. I have had him shake his fist right under my chin and say, "We're going to catch you, Mr. Vice President. We're going to conquer the world. We will not have to do it by war, because our system is superior, and we challenge you to competition, but we will win."

He meant it. I think he believes it. But, on the other hand, let us not be fainthearted about the outcome. He isn't going to catch us. He isn't going to win, not in 7 or 70 years, if we are true to the principles that have made America great.

And may I just say in that connection that I think it's time for my opponent and those who support him to quit downgrading the United States of America, calling this a second-rate country in education, second in science, second in space.

Now, if these things were true, that would be one thing, because one of the strengths of a free country is for the opposition to criticize those things that are wrong; but, first, they're not true, and, second, when you say the things that are wrong about the United States, let's keep in mind the things that are right.

We have the best educational system in the world, and what would make it second would be for us to attempt to ape the atheistic Communist system of education.

We also have the best scientists over all in the world. We aren't first in every field, but overall we're infinitely ahead, and we can stay ahead - and I have programs in education and in science that will move American forward in the years ahead.

And, so, in all of these fields, don't lose your confidence in America just because of some political comments that have been made in this campaign.

But, getting back to this whole issue of peace, what are my opponent's qualifications?

Well, in these debates we have been having, and in this campaign you have seen three evidences where he would have disagreed with the President of the United States in the past 5 years - first on Quemoy and Matsu, where he would have drawn a line and, in effect, surrendered an area of freedom to the Communists, in the name of peace, but I believe in a way that would have brought war or surrender, or both; second, when he indicated that he thought the President could have apologized to Khrushchev for the U-2 flights; and, third, on Cuba, in our last debate, where he indicated that our policies were too little and too late in quarantining Castro and what he favored was a policy which would, in effect, have the Government of the United States give support to the rebel forces in and out of Cuba.

Now, on all three of these counts, he was wrong; the President was right, but some people have said to me since, "But, Mr. Nixon, aren't you being a little hard on him? He changed his mind."

And he did. He indicates now he supports the President on Quemoy and Matsu. He indicates now that he didn't really mean that the President should have apologized. He was only talking about it theoretically, and he indicates now that he didn't really mean that the Federal Government should intervene in Cuba. He was only talking about what we're already doing, as a matter of fact, giving moral support to the cause of freedom in Cuba and all around the world.

But, my friends, think what would have happened if he had been President. I have seen the President make decisions. I remember the day that we went into Lebanon. I was in his office. He paced the floor. He knew what was involved. He knew that if he didn't send in the Marines, the Communists would move down through that area. He knew that if he did send them in, there was the risk of war. But he had to take the risk, because he knew the greater risk was in the other direction. He made the decision. It was the right decision.

When a President makes a decision, it's for keeps. A candidate can say something and take it back, but if he becomes President and shoots from the hip, is impulsive or rash, the whole world may suffer, and that means everybody.

And my question to you is this: Can we afford inexperience? Can we afford the rashness - can we afford the impulsiveness - that my opponent has indicated by these three glaring examples!

I don't think so. I don't say that Cabot Lodge and I offer perfection, but I do say we have been through the fire of decision. We know what responsibility means. We know how to deal with Mr. Khrushchev, and, I assure you that, with your support, we will work for the extension of freedom, and I am confident that we can strengthen the instruments of peace - the United Nations, the Organization of American States - strengthen them so that in the years ahead the forces of peace and freedom will be so overwhelmingly strong that those who oppose peace will never dare to launch an attack which would mean war. This is what we all want. It is this kind of leadership that Cabot Lodge and I offer to America. If you believe that this is the leadership that America needs, then we ask you to work and vote for us, remembering you're working and voting not just for a man, not just for a party, but for what is best for America.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Television Speech by the Vice President at Chicago, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project