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Toast of the President at a Dinner Honoring Governors Attending the National Governors' Conference Winter Session

February 23, 1971

Ladies and gentlemen:

We have good news for you tonight. We have no speeches. I know that you have have been somewhat surfeited with speech making during the afternoon, the presentations of members of our Cabinet and of our White House Staff.

So tonight our remarks will be brief. I will speak briefly to welcome you, and I am going to ask Governor Hearnes to respond, if he will. Everybody from Missouri speaks briefly, so we have no problem on that score.

I simply want to say first, that as far as my remarks are concerned, I am not going to direct them to the Governors. I spoke to you earlier about some very practical matters that we were all interested in.

But I think in this great room, the State Dining Room, with all of the feeling of history in it and all of the magnificent events that have been held here, we somewhat like to think of those that have been honored here, really chief executives, emperors, kings, and prime ministers. And we think of the names--I have been here for dinner with de Gaulle and Churchill and Nehru. We go back through the years and you think of Lincoln in this room, and clear back to Jackson, and T. R. with all the excitement that he must have brought to this room, and F.D.R., and so on down the line.

But, in any event, we also think of the First Ladies who have presided in this room. And that is really the burden of my remarks. Mrs. Rockefeller 1 said something very nice a moment ago. She said this is a happy house.

Now, I reject any political connotation to that. In any event, what she meant to say was that, and we want you to feel that, this is your house. It belongs to all of us, whoever may be here.

I have noted that in the 182 years since Washington was President of the United States, that 50 percent of the time people who have been Governors have been President of the United States. So each of you can sort of look to the possibility.

This is a happy house, in any event. But in that respect I would also say, though, that we think back of the First Ladies and all that goes into the planning of a party.

I was talking to the first ladies of the States at this table and the first lady from Mississippi and the first lady from Arizona, from Connecticut, and from New York.

And I thought of all the parties that all of the first ladies have put on in your various capitals and all of them aren't like this. You won't have as many chief executives gathered in any one, perhaps, as we have here tonight, but each of them is enormously important.

You entertain legislators and VIP's and so forth and so on.

And we, the men, think it is tough. We have got to get up; we have got to make a speech; we have got to sort of make exciting conversations so that somebody will remember what we said, or forget it, we hope.

In any event, whatever the case might be, the ladies have an enormous responsibility. Look at this room, the flowers, the menu, the wines, the entertainment, who sits by whom and, what is often very important, who does not sit by whom, all of this is in the domain of the First Lady.

And I feel tonight that certainly, as all of you do, that we are very fortunate, those of us who are in positions as chief executives, whether in this house or in the statehouses or in the capitals of this country, that we have first ladies who have presided with such dignity, with such charm, who have saved us from ourselves so often, and it is for that reason that I simply want to say that for those who may have enjoyed this evening, the credit should go, naturally, to my First Lady and to yours.

And so, Governor, to introduce you rather than toasting you alone, I suggest that all of us rise, the men at least, and toast the first ladies.

The first ladies.

1 Margaretta "Happy" Rockefeller, wife of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York.

Note: The President spoke at 9:58 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Following the President's toast, Gov. Warren E. Hearnes of Missouri, chairman of the conference, responded. His remarks are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, p. 287).

Richard Nixon, Toast of the President at a Dinner Honoring Governors Attending the National Governors' Conference Winter Session Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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