Richard M. Nixon
1960 Republican National Convention Acceptance Address
delivered 28 July 1960, International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL
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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Mr. Chairman, Delegates to this Convention, my fellow Americans:
I have made many speeches in my life, and never have I found it more difficult to find the words adequate to express what I feel, as I find them tonight.
To stand here before this great Convention, to hear your expression of affection for me, for Pat, for our daughters, for my mother, for all of us who are representing our Party, is, of course, the greatest moment of my life.
And I want you -- And I just want you to know that my only prayer as I stand here is that in the months ahead I may be in some way worthy of the affection and the trust which you have presented to me on this occasion in everything that I say, everything that I do, everything that I think in this campaign and afterwards.
And may I say also that -- may I say also that I have been wanting to come to this convention, but because of the protocol that makes it necessary for a candidate not to attend the convention until the nominations are over I've had to look at it on television; but I want all of you to know that I have never been so proud of my Party as I have been in these last three days, and, as I have compared this convention, the conduct of our delegates and our speakers, with what went on in my native State of California just two weeks ago. And I congratulate Chairman Halleck and Chairman Morton and all of those who have helped to make this convention one that will stand in the annals of our Party forever as one of the finest we have ever held.
Have you ever stopped to think of the memories you will take away from this convention?
The things that run through my mind are these:
That first day with the magnificent speeches; Mr. Hoover with his great lesson for the American people; Walter Judd with one of the most outstanding keynote addresses in either Party in history; and last night our beloved, fighting President making the greatest speech that I have ever heard him make before this convention; your platform and its magnificent presentation by Chuck Percy, the Chairman.
For these and for so many other things, I want to congratulate you tonight and to thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of Americans -- not just Republicans -- Americans everywhere, for making us proud of our country and of our two-party system, for what you have done.
And tonight, too, I particularly want to thank this convention for nominating as my running mate a world statesman of the first rank, my friend and colleague, Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts.
In refreshing contrast to what happened in Los Angeles, you nominated a man who shares my views on the great issues and who will work with me and not against me in carrying out our magnificent platform.
And may I say that during this week we Republicans, who feel our convictions strongly about our Party and about our country, have had our differences, but as the speech by Senator Goldwater indicated yesterday, and the eloquent and gracious remarks of my friend, Nelson Rockefeller, indicated tonight, we Republicans know that the differences that divide us are infinitesimal compared to the gulf between us and what the Democrats would put upon us from what they did at Los Angeles at their convention two weeks ago.
It was only eight years ago that I stood in this very place after you had nominated as our candidate for the President one of the great men of our century. And I say to you tonight that for generations to come, Americans, regardless of party, will gratefully remember Dwight Eisenhower as the man who brought peace to America as the man -- as the man under whose leadership America enjoyed the greatest progress and prosperity in history. But above all, they will remember him as the man who restored honesty, integrity, and dignity to the conduct of government in the highest office of this land.
And my fellow Americans, I know now that you will understand what I next say, because the next President of the United States will have his great example to follow, because the next President will have new and challenging problems in the world of utmost gravity. This truly is a time for greatness in America's leadership.
I am sure you will understand why I do not say tonight that I alone am the man who can furnish that leadership. That question is not for me, but for you to decide.
And I only ask tonight -- I only ask that the thousands in this hall and the millions listening to me on television, I only ask that you make that decision in the most thoughtful way that you possibly can, because what you decide this November will not only affect your lives and your future, it will affect the future of millions throughout the world.
And I urge you, study the records of the candidates, listen to my speeches and that of my opponent, and that of Mr. Lodge and that of his opponent. And then, after you have studied our records and listened to our speeches, decide -- decide on the basis of what we say and what we believe which is best qualified to lead America and the free world in this critical period.
And to help you make this decision I would like to discuss tonight some of the great problems which will confront the next President of the United States and the policies I believe that should be adopted to meet them.
One hundred years ago, in this city, Abraham Lincoln was nominated for President of the United States. The problems which will confront our next President will be even greater than those that confronted him. The question then was freedom for the slaves and survival of the nation. The question now is freedom for all mankind and the survival of civilization, and the choice you make -- you, each of you listening to me makes this November -- can affect the answer to that question.
What should your choice be and what is it?
Well, let's first examine what our opponents offered in Los Angeles two weeks ago. They claimed theirs was a new program, but you know what it was? It was simply the same old proposition that a political party should be all things to all men, and nothing more than that. And they promised -- they promised everything to everybody, with one exception: they didn't promise to pay the bill.
And I say tonight that with their convention, their platform, and their ticket, they composed a symphony of political cynicism which is out of harmony with our times today.
Now, we come to the key question: What should our answer be? And some might say, "Why do as they do -- out-promise them, because that's the only way to win." And I want to tell you my answer.
I happen to believe that their program would be disastrous for America; it would wreck our economy; it would dash our people's high hopes for a better life; and I serve notice here and now that whatever the political consequences, we are not going to try to out-promise our opponents in this campaign.
We are not going to make promises we cannot and should not keep, and we are not going to try to buy the people's votes with their own money.
And to those who say that this position will mean political defeat, my answer is this: We have more faith than that in the good sense of the American people, provided the people know the facts -- and that's where we come in.
And I pledge to you tonight that we will bring the facts home to the American people, and we will do it with a campaign such as this country has never seen before.
I have been asked by the newsmen sitting on my right and my left all week long: "When is this campaign going to begin, Mr. Vice President? On the day after Labor Day or one of the other traditional starting dates?"
And this is my answer: This campaign begins tonight -- here and now -- and it goes on -- and this campaign will continue from now until November 8th without any letup.
And I've also been asked by my friends in the press on either side here -- they say, "Mr. Vice President, where are you going to concentrate? What states are you going to visit?" And this is my answer: In this campaign we are going to take no states for granted, and we aren't going to concede any states to the opposition.
And I announce to you tonight, and I pledge to you, that I, personally, will carry this campaign into every one of the 50 states of this nation between now and November the 8th.
And in this campaign I make a prediction. I say that just as in 1952 and in 1956 millions of Democrats will join us -- not because they are deserting their Party, but because their Party deserted them at Los Angeles two weeks ago.
Now, I have suggested to you what our friends of the opposition offered to the American people. What do we offer? First, we are proud to offer the bait: the best eight-year record of any Administration in the history of this country. But my fellow Americans, that isn't all and that isn't enough, because we happen to believe that a record is not something to stand on, but something to build on. And building on the great record of this Administration, we shall build a better America; we shall build an America in which we shall see the realization of the dreams, the dreams of millions of people, not only in America, but throughout the world for a fuller, freer, richer life than men have ever known in the history of mankind.
Let me tell you something of the goals of this better America toward which we will strive. In this America our older citizens shall not only have adequate protection against the hazards of ill health, but a greater opportunity to lead a useful and productive life by participating to the extent they are able in the nation's exciting work, rather than sitting on the sidelines.
And in this better America, young Americans shall not only have the best basic education in America, but every boy and girl of ability, regardless of his financial circumstances, shall have the opportunity to develop his intellectual capabilities to the full.
Our wage earners -- Our wage earners, shall enjoy increasingly higher wages in honest dollars, with better protection against the hazards of unemployment and old age.
And, for those millions of Americans who are still denied equality of rights and opportunity, I say there shall be the greatest progress in human rights since the days of Lincoln a hundred years ago.
And America’s farmers – America’s farmers to whose hard work and almost incredible efficiency we owe the fact that we are the best fed, best clothed people in the world. I say America’s farmers must and will receive what they do not have today -- and what they deserve -- a fair share of America’s ever-increasing prosperity.
And to accomplish these things, we will develop to the full the untapped natural resources (our water, our minerals, our power) with which we are so fortunate to be blessed in this rich land of ours. And we shall provide for our scientists the support they need for the research that will open exciting new highways into the future, new highways in which we shall have progress which we cannot even dream of today.
And above all, in this decade of the sixties, this decade of decision and progress, we will witness the continued revitalization of America’s moral and spiritual strength, with a renewed faith in the eternal ideals of freedom and justice under God which our are priceless heritage as a people.
And now I’m sure that many of you in this hall and many of you on television might well ask, “But, Mr. Nixon, don’t our opponents favor just such goals as these? “ And my answer is; “yes, of course.“ All Americans, regardless of Party, want a better life for our people.
What’s the difference, then? And I’ll tell you what it is. The difference is in the way we propose to reach these goals, and the record shows that our way works and theirs doesn’t, and we’re going to prove it in this campaign.
We produce on the promises that they make. We succeed where they fail. You know why? Because we put, as governor Rockefeller said in his remarks, we put our primary reliance not upon government, but upon people for progress in America. That is why we will succeed.
And we must never forget that the strength of America is not in its government, but in it’s people; and we say tonight that there is no limit to the goals America can reach, provided we stay true to the great American traditions.
A government has a role, and a very important one, but the role of government is not to take responsibility from people, but to put responsibility on them. It is not to dictate to people, but to encourage and stimulate the creative productivity of 180 million free Americans. That’s the way to progress in America.
In other words, we have faith in the people and, because our programs for progress are based on that faith, we shall succeed where our opponents will fail in building the better America that I’ve described.
But if these goals are to be reached, the next President of the United States must have the wisdom to choose between the things government should and should not do. He must have the courage to stand against the pressures of the few for the good of the many, and he must have the vision to press forward on all fronts for the better life our people want.
Now, I’ve spoken to you of the responsibilities of our next President at home. Those which he will face abroad will be infinitely greater. But before I look to the future let me say a word about the past.
At Los Angeles two weeks ago, we heard the United States – our government – blamed for Mr. Khrushchev’s sabotage of the Paris conference. We heard the United States blamed for the actions of Communist-led mobs in Caracas and Tokyo. We heard that American education and American scientists are inferior. We’re heard that America, militarily and economically, is a second-rate country. We heard that America[n] prestige is at an all-time low.
This is my answer: I say that at a time the Communists are running us down abroad, it’s time to speak up for America at home. And my friends, let us recognize America has its weaknesses, and constructive criticism of those weaknesses is essential -- essential so that we can correct our weaknesses in the best traditions of our democratic process. But let us also recognize this: while it is dangerous to see nothing wrong in America, it is just as wrong to refuse to recognize what is right about America.
And tonight I say to you no criticism – no criticism – should be allowed to obscure the truth, either at home or abroad, that today America is the strongest nation, militarily, economically, and ideologically, in the world; and we have the will and the stamina and the resources to maintain that strength in the years ahead.
And now, if we may turn to the future, we must recognize that the foreign policy problems of the sixties will be different and they will be be vastly more difficult than those of the fifties through which we have just passed.
We are in a race tonight, my fellow Americans, in a race for survival, in which our lives, our fortunes, our liberties are at stake. We are ahead now, but the only way to stay ahead in a race is to move ahead; and the next President will make decisions which will determine whether we win or whether we lose this race.
What must he do? These things, I believe: he must resolve, first and above all, that the United States must never settle for second best in anything.
Let’s look at the specifics.
Militarily, the security of the United States must be put before all other considerations. Why? Not only because this is necessary to deter aggression, but because we must make sure that we are in never in a position at the conference table where Mr. Khrushchev or his successor is able to coerce an American President because of his strength and our weakness.
Diplomatically, let's look at what the problem is. Diplomatically, our next President must be firm, firm on principle. But he must never be belligerent. He must never engage in a war of words which might heat up the international climate to the igniting point of nuclear catastrophe. But, while he must never answer insults in kind, he must leave no doubt at any time that, whether it is in Berlin or in Cuba or anywhere else in the world, America will not tolerate being pushed around by anybody any place.
Because we have already paid a terrible price in lives and resources to learn that appeasement leads not to peace, but to war, it will, indeed, take great leadership to steer us through these years, avoiding the extreme of belligerency on the one hand and appeasement on the other.
Now, Mr. Kennedy has suggested that what the world needs is young leadership; and, understandably, this has great appeal because it is true -- true, that youth does bring boldness and imagination and drive to leadership, and we need all those things. But I think most people will agree with me tonight when I say that President de Gaulle, Prime Minister Macmillan and Chancellor Adenauer are not young men, but we are indeed fortunate with -- that we have their wisdom and their experience and their encourage [sic] on our side in the struggle for freedom today in the world.
And, and, I might suggest, that as we consider the relative merits of youth and age, it’s only fair to point out that it was not Mr. de Gaulle or Mr. Macmillan or Mr. Adenauer, but Mr. Kennedy who made the rash and impulsive suggestion that President Eisenhower could have apologized or sent regrets to Mr. Khrushchev for the U-2 flights-which the President had ordered to save our country from surprise attacks.
But formidable as will be the diplomatic and military problems confronting the next President, far more difficult and critical will be the decisions he must make to meet and defeat the enemies of freedom in an entirely different kind of struggle.
And now I want to speak to you of another kind of aggression, aggression without war, where the aggressor comes not as a conqueror but as a champion of peace, of freedom, offering progress and plenty, and hope to the unfortunate of the earth.
And I say tonight that the major problem, the biggest problem, confronting the next President of the United States will be to inform the people of the character of this kind of aggression, to arouse the people to the mortal danger it presents and to inspire the people to meet that danger. And he must develop a brand new strategy which will win the battle for freedom for all men, and win it without a war. That is the great task of the next President of the United States.
And this will be a difficult task, difficult because at times our next President must tell the people not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. Why, for example, it may be just as essential to the national interest to build a dam in India as in California.
It will be difficult, too, because, you know, we Americans have always been able to see and understand the danger presented by missiles and airplanes and bombs; but we've found it hard to recognize the even more deadly danger of the propaganda that warps the mind, the economic offensive that softens a nation, the subversion that destroys the will of a people to resist tyranny. And, yet, may I say tonight that the fact that this threat is, as I believe it to be, the greatest danger we have ever confronted, this is no reason for lack of confidence in the outcome.
You know why? Because there is one great theme that runs through our history as a nation: Americans are always at their best when the challenge is greatest.
And I say tonight that we Americans shall rise to our greatest heights in this decade of the sixties as we mount the offensive to meet those forces which threaten peace and the rights of free men everywhere; but there are some things we can do and things we must do, and I would like to list them for you tonight.
First, we must take the necessary steps which will assure that the American economy grows at a maximum rate so that we can maintain our present massive lead over the Communist bloc. How do we do this? There isn't any magic formula by which government in a free nation can bring this about. The way to assure maximum growth in America is not by expanding the functions of government, but by increasing the opportunities for investment and creative enterprise for millions of individual Americans.
And at a -- And at a time when the Communists have found it necessary to turn to decentralization of their economy and to turn to the use of individual incentives to increase productivity -- at a time, in other words, when they are turning our way-I say we must and we will not make the mistake of turning their way.
There is another step that we must take -- a second one: Our government activities must be reorganized, reorganized to take the initiative from the Communists and to develop and carry out a world-wide strategy an offensive for peace and freedom. The complex of agencies which have grown up through the years for exchange of persons, for technical assistance, for information, for loans and for grants -- all these must be welded together into one powerful economic and ideological striking force under the direct supervision and leadership of the President of the United States, because what we must do, you see, is to wage the battles for peace and freedom with the same unified direction and dedication with which we wage battles in war.
And if these activities are to succeed, we must develop a better training program for the men and women who will represent our country at home and abroad. And what we need are men with broad knowledge of the intricacies and techniques of the strategy of Communists, with a keen knowledge of the great principles for which free people stand; and, above all, men, who with zeal and dedication which the Communists cannot match, will outthink and outwork and outlast the enemies of freedom wherever they meet them any place in the world. This is the kind of men we must train.
And we must recognize something else. Government can't do this job alone. The most effective proponents of freedom are not governments, but free people; and this means that every American -- every one of you listening tonight -- who works or travels abroad must represent his country at its best in everything that he does.
And the United States -- the United States, big as it is, strong as it is -- we can't do this job alone. The best brains, the fullest resources of other free nations, which have as great a stake in freedom as we have, must be mobilized to participate with us in this task to the extent they are able.
But you know what is most important of all? Above all, we must recognize that the greatest economic strength that we can imagine, the finest of government organizations -- all this will fail if we are not united and inspired by a great idea, an idea which will be a battle cry for a grand offensive to win the minds and the hearts and the souls of men. Do we have such an idea?
The Communists proclaim over and over again that their aim is the victory of communism throughout the world. It is not enough for us to reply that our aim is to contain communism, to defend the free world against communism, to hold the line against communism. The only answer to a strategy of victory for the Communist world is a strategy of victory for the free world.
But let the victory we seek be not victory over any other nation or any other people. Let it be the victory of freedom over tyranny, of plenty over hunger, of health over disease, in every country of the world.
When Mr. Khrushchev says our "grandchildren will live under communism", let us say his grandchildren will live in freedom.
When Mr. Khrushchev says, "The Monroe Doctrine is dead in the Americans", we say, the doctrine of freedom applies everywhere in the world.
And I say tonight, let us welcome -- let us welcome -- Mr. Khrushchev's challenge to peaceful competition of our systems, but let us reply, "Let us compete in the Communist world as well as in the free world," because the Communist dictators must not be allowed a privileged sanctuary from which to launch their guerilla attacks on the citadels of freedom.
And we say, further, extend this competition, extend it to include not only food and factories as he has suggested, but extend it to include the great spiritual and moral values which characterize our civilization.
And further, let us welcome, my friends, let us welcome-the challenge, not be disconcerted by it, not fail to meet it -- the challenge presented by the revolution of peaceful peoples' aspirations in South America, in Asia, in Africa.
We can't fail in this nation. We can't fail to assist them in finding a way to progress with freedom so that they will [not] be faced with the terrible alternative of turning to communism with its promise of progress at the cost of freedom.
Let us make it clear to them that our aim in helping them is not merely to stop communism, but that in the great American tradition of concern for those less fortunate than we are, that we welcome the opportunity to work with people everywhere in helping them to achieve their aspirations for a life of human dignity. And this means that our primary aim must be not to help governments, but to help people, to help people attain the life they deserve.
In essence, what I am saying tonight -- that our answer to the threat of the Communist revolution is renewed devotion to the great ideals of the American Revolution, ideals that caught the imagination of the world a hundred and eighty years ago and that still live in the minds and hearts of people everywhere.
I could tell you tonight that all you need to do to bring all these things about that I have described is to elect the right man as President of this country and leave these tasks to him. But, my fellow Americans, America demands more than that of me and of you.
When I visited the Soviet Union, in every factory there was a huge sign which read: "Work for the victory of communism." And what America needs today is not just a President, not just a few leaders, but millions of Americans working for the victory of freedom. America -- Each American must make a personal and total commitment to the cause of freedom and all it stands for. It means wage earners and employers making an extra effort to increase the productivity of our factories. It means our students in school striving for excellence rather than adjusting to mediocrity.
It means supporting and encouraging our scientists to explore the unknown, not just for what we can get, but for what we can learn; and it means, on the part of each American, assuming personal responsibility to make this country which we love a proud example of freedom for all the world.
Each of us, for example, doing our part in ending the prejudice which, one hundred years after Lincoln, to our shame, still embarrasses us abroad and saps our strength at home.
Each of us participating in this and other political campaigns not just by going to the polls and voting, but working for the candidate of your choice.
And it means, my fellow Americans, it means sacrifice, but not the grim sacrifice of desperation, but the rewarding sacrifice of choice which lifts us out of the humdrum life in which we live and gives us the supreme satisfaction which comes from working together in a cause greater than ourselves, greater than our nation, as great as the whole world, itself.
What I propose tonight is not new. It is as old as America, and as young as America, because America will never grow old.
You will remember -- listen -- Thomas Jefferson said: We act "not for ourselves alone, but for the whole human race."
Lincoln said: “In giving freedom to the slaves we assure freedom to the free. We shall nobly serve or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.”
And Teddy Roosevelt said: "Our first duty as citizens of the nation is owed to the United States, but if we are true to our principles we must also think of serving the interests of mankind at large."
And Woodrow Wilson said: “A patriotic American is never so proud of the flag under which he lives as when it comes to mean to others, as well as to himself, a symbol of hope and liberty.”
And we say -- we say today that a young America shall fulfill her destiny by helping to build a new world in which men can live together in peace and justice and freedom with each other. But there is a difference today, an exciting difference; and the difference is because of the dramatic breakthroughs in scientists [sic] -- for the first time in human history we have the resources, the resources to wage a winning war against poverty, misery, and disease wherever it exists in the world.
And upon next President of the United States will rest the responsibility to inspire and to lead the forces of freedom toward this goal.
I am sure now that you understand why I said at the beginning that it would be difficult for any man to say to that he was qualified to provide this kind of leadership. I can only say tonight to you that I believe in the American Dream because I have seen it come true in my own life. I know something -- I know something of the threat which confronts us, and I know something of the effort which will be needed to meet it.
I have seen hate for America not only in the Kremlin, but in the eyes of communists in our own country and on the ugly face of a mob in Caracas [Venezuela].
I have heard doubts about America expressed not just by Communists, but by sincere students and labor leaders in other countries searching for the way to a better life and wondering if we had lost the way.
And I have seen love for America in countries throughout the world, in a crowd in Jakarta [Indonesia], in Bogota [Columbia], in the heart of Siberia, in Warsaw -- 250,000 people on the streets on a Sunday afternoon singing, crying, with tears running down their cheeks and shouting, “Niech Zyje!” "Niech Zyje!" – "Long live the United States."
And I know -- And my fellow Americans, I know tonight that we must resist the hate; we must remove the doubts, but above all, we must be worthy of the love and the trust of millions on this earth for whom America is the hope of the world.
A hundred years ago, Abraham Lincoln was asked, during the dark days of the tragic war between the States, whether he thought God was on his side. His answer was, “My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.”
And my fellow Americans, may that ever be our prayer for our country, and in that spirit, with faith in America, with faith in her ideals and in her people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.
Research Note: Audio provided by Joseph Slife, Emmanuel College Communication Dept. (Franklin Springs, Ga.)
Image Source: Chicago History Museum
Copyright Status: This text = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com. Audio = Public Domain (Credit AmericanRhetoric.com). Image = Uncertain.