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Toasts of the President and Governor John A. Love of Colorado at a Dinner Honoring Governors Attending the Governors' Conference

December 03, 1969

Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet, Governor Love, members of the Governors' Conference :

We want to welcome you here tonight in this house, which is your house, and to say that it is a very great privilege for us to have you here at this time.

This is the first occasion at which we have hosted the Governors and their wives. We are delighted you are all here. We also, in welcoming you, want you to know that it has made it a special day for us, because in an unprecedented invitation, I understand, we not only have the honor of having you here but having your children here. We just wish they could be in this room with us.

Now, I am not going to impose on your time long, because they are having dinner in another part of the house or on the grounds, and we are all going to join in a few moments in what I understand is some very exciting entertainment. I thought it was the Temptations, but I understand it is the Fifth Dimension [singing group], and Al Hirt [jazz musician]. I know him, but I don't know the Fifth Dimension. But I will know them before we finish. In any event, they are waiting for that, and we are, too.

But I did not want this occasion to pass in this room, in this historic house and in this meeting, without saying a word about our program today and about our children-all of our children.

I had the sense this morning, which I am sure you also felt, that perhaps we have a greater responsibility than we have realized, to provide for our children a challenge and excitement that they are seeking in other directions.

I noted that over and over again in the theme that ran through the drug abuse briefings, that those who turned toward drugs were turning to escape or turning for challenge or turning for excitement.

And now I am going to say something that will be unfashionable, unfashionable perhaps not in this room but certainly it will be unfashionable in most of the academic community, if I may use that term, Dr. Kissinger. I know that we say these days that the problem with American youth, where they have problems, is that life is so hard. I don't agree. I think the problem with American youth is that life is so easy. Perhaps what American youth needs is a challenge.

As they turn to these drugs and to all of the other things other than drugs, to give that lift, it is because of boredom, the boredom of a life in which, perhaps, they do not have the necessities, the necessities that some of us may have had to work to achieve in order to meet the challenges of life.

What I am really trying to say is this: We sit here in a room tonight that is full of history, and all of the memories of the men who were here. Every man who has been President of the United States has been in this house except George Washington. John Adams was the first one who was here. And then through the years you can think of them in this room. Andrew Jackson was here---Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy.

We think of all of those men. We think of the history that has passed through these rooms. The heads of state and heads of government and all the rest have been here.

And we think of this country, what it means to us, what it meant to them. We think of this country at the beginning, what it was then, not very populous, 3 million people, certainly not very strong. Militarily it was a weakling among the nations of the world, even though they won the Revolutionary War.

It was a poverty stricken nation among the nations of the world, even though it had great physical resources. And yet when America was only 3 million and 13 States, and weak and poor, America even then had something--let's call it a fifth dimension. It meant something to the world. It was the hope of the world. It was a challenging, exciting place in which to live.

I should say something else. The air was clean then and the water was clean then and America had all of its frontiers in front of it.

So now we move through 190 years and we look at America today, the strongest nation in the world, the richest nation in the world. Sure we have some problems, problems that I will refer to very briefly before I close.

But as we look at our strength and our wealth, we find, too, this enormous frustration that seems to infect so many of our people--and I refer not to those who are poor. They have their problems but they are different. But I refer to those who are really our children and the children of our friends and our neighbors, others whom we have known.

And the problem, it seems to me, is summarized in the fact that sometimes we have lost sight of the fact that great wealth and great military strength is not enough, that a nation and a people must have something more. It must have a great ideal and it is the idealism of America that has made this country great. That is what we had in the beginning. That is what we really have now, if we only knew it. And if you have any doubt about it, go abroad. Go to all the countries of the world, and I have seen all of them. Go to Bucharest, Romania, and see 1 million people on the streets shouting and cheering, not for a President--they don't know me from anybody else--but for an idea. America stood for them and meant for them something that was far more important than military strength, something far more important than economic might.

This is what I would remind us of on this occasion.

Now I come to the concluding point. How can we give a challenge, a challenge to young America? As your conference in February--and I would just like to lift the curtain a bit on What I am going to talk about then. I think it is time to move forward on the whole subject of the quality of life in America, the environment, how we can clean up our rivers and our water, how we can clean up our air, how we can clean up our streets and our cities, how we can move forward on all fronts so that life in 'this country in addition to being very rich and very strong, can also have that extra dimension, the extra dimension of idealism that somehow caught the imagination of the world, that still has a great deal of that imagination, but that has been lost upon a great part of the younger generation, a great part of it-not all, not a majority--but a part of that generation who may be the leaders of the future.

This is our challenge. You as Governors, all of us in leadership positions, we have a responsibility, a responsibility to deal with the hard facts, the problems of crime and the problems of delinquency and the problems of environment and all the others, and budget and so forth that we wrestle with day by day. But our greatest challenge is to provide some sense of idealism and some sense of challenge to the younger generation so that they can be proud of this country as they should be proud of it.

They are lucky to be born in the United States of America. Anyone who has a choice in the world today would not choose any other country but the United States. Never let them forget it. Never let us forget it.

Having said all these things, let me say, I enjoyed meeting your children. They are wonderful children. It is difficult, as Art Linkletter said, for a child to grow up any time and it is particularly difficult for a child to grow up as the child of any celebrity, and particularly a politician.

There is one thing Harry Truman and I share in common. When he wrote the letter to that music critic,1 I was with him all the way.

1In a strongly worded letter in 1950, President Truman took issue with music critic Paul Hume over Mr. Hume's unfavorable review of a singing performance by the President's daughter Margaret.

And I can tell you, they can say and write anything about me they want, and they will, but if they say anything about Tricia or Julie, believe me, I am going to be after them.

And so, I, in the last conference, proposed a toast to the first ladies of the 50 States. At this conference, will you all rise and join in a toast to our children?

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:03 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Governor John A. Love of Colorado, Chairman of the Conference, responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Agnew:

I thought of so many great things that I wanted to say, but to follow and respond to those wonderful words leaves me in a position where I can't say all that I would like to say.

I know I speak for all the Governors and their wives and their children here in voicing our gratitude for this wonderful day. I am sure that the various participants on the great problem of drugs, the briefing on foreign affairs, the opportunity to be with, and ask and exchange ideas with the various Cabinet members and, of course, to be here this evening in this, as you say, historic house, and perhaps most important of all, to be here with our families and in a minor way, but the first time I have ever come in the front door [laughter]--which is wonderful.

I couldn't agree more with your definition of the problem that confronts us all. It has been said in many ways today, by you more eloquently than anybody else. But perhaps for the first time in the history of mankind a substantial portion of the population of this Nation has a choice. Now this has not been true forever, or ever before this.

And choice is an uncomfortable thing and it presents, perhaps, even a greater challenge than our forefathers were faced with.

We were most appreciative of the opportunity to be here. We are appreciative of this increment and additional commitment to your belief in the viability, the necessity of the Federal system.

I would simply like to, with a great deal of affection and gratitude and respect, propose a toast to the President of the United States.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Governor John A. Love of Colorado at a Dinner Honoring Governors Attending the Governors' Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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