Acceptance of the Republican Nomination for President
August 8, 1968
Mr. Chairman, delegates to this convention, my fellow Americans: - Sixteen years ago I stood before this convention to accept your nomination as the running mate of one of the greatest Americans of our time or any time - Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Eight years ago I had the highest honor of accepting your nomination for President of the United States.
Tonight I again proudly accept that nomination for President of the United States.
But I have news for you. This time there's a difference - this time we're going to win.
We're going to win for a number of reasons. First a personal one.
General Eisenhower, as you know, lies critically ill in the Walter Reed Hospital tonight. I have talked, however, with Mrs. Eisenhower on the telephone.
She tells me that his heart is with us. She says that there is nothing that he lives more for, and there is nothing that would lift him more than for us to win in November.
And I say let's win this one for Ike.
We're going to win because this great convention has demonstrated to the nation that the Republican party has the leadership, the platform and the purpose that America needs.
We're going to win because you have nominated as my running mate a statesman of the first rank who will be a great campaigner, and one who is fully qualified to undertake the new responsibilities that I shall give to the next Vice President of the United States.
And he is a man who fully shares my conviction and yours that after a period of 40 years when power has gone from the cities and the states to the Government in Washington, D.C., it's time to have power go back from Washington to the states and to the cities of this country all over America.
We're going to win because at a time that America cries out for the unity that this Administration has destroyed, the Republican party, after a spirited contest for its nomination for President and Vice President, stands united before the nation tonight.
And I congratulate Governor Reagan, I congratulate Governor Rockefeller, I congratulate Governor Romney, I congratulate all those who have made the hard fight that they have for this nomination, and I know that you will all fight even harder for the great victory our party is going to win in November because we're going to be together in that election campaign.
And a party that can unite itself will unite America.
My fellow Americans, most important we're going to win because our cause is right. We make history tonight not for ourselves but for the ages. The choice we make in 1968 will determine not only the future of America but the future of peace and freedom in the world for the last third of the 20th century, and the question that we answer tonight: can America meet this great challenge?
Let us listen to America to find the answer to that question.
As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home.
And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish:
Did we come all this way for this? Did American boys die in Normandy and Korea and in Valley Forge for this?
Listen to the answers to those questions.
It is another voice, it is a quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non shouters, the non demonstrators. They're not racists or sick; they're not guilty of the crime that plagues the land; they are black, they are white; they're native born and foreign born; they're young and they're old.
They work in American factories, they run American businesses. They serve in government; they provide most of the soldiers who die to keep it free. They give drive to the spirit of America. They give lift to the American dream. They give steel to the backbone of America.
They're good people. They're decent people; they work and they save and they pay their taxes and they care.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, they know that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it's a good place for all of us to live in.
And this I say, this I say to you tonight, is the real voice of America. In this year 1968, this is the message it will broadcast to America and to the world.
Let's never forget that despite her faults, America is a great nation. And America is great because her people are great.
With Winston Churchill we say, we have not journeyed all this way, across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar candy.
America's in trouble today not because her people have failed but because her leaders have failed. And what America wants are leaders to match the greatness of her people.
And this great group of Americans - the forgotten Americans and others - know that the great question Americans must answer by their votes in November is this: Whether we will continue for four more years the policies of the last five years.
And this is their answer, and this is my answer to that question: When the strongest nation in the world can be tied up for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world can't manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness, when a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is torn by unprecedented racial violence, and when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration - then it's time for new leadership for the United States of America.
Thank you. My fellow Americans, tonight I accept the challenge and the commitment to provide that new leadership for America and I ask you to accept it with me.
And let us accept this challenge not as a grim duty but as an exciting adventure in which we are privileged to help a great nation realize its destiny and let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth, to see it like it is and tell it like it is, to tell the truth, to speak the truth and to live the truth. That's what we will do.
We've had enough of big promises and little action. The time has come for an honest government in the United States of America.
And so tonight I do not promise the millennium in the morning. I don't promise that we can eradicate poverty and end discrimination and eliminate all danger of wars in the space of four or even eight years. But I do promise action. A new policy for peace abroad, a new policy for peace and progress at home.
Look at our problems abroad. Do you realize that we face the stark truth that we are worse off in every area of the world tonight than we were when President Eisenhower left office eight years ago? That's the record.
And there is only one answer to such a record of failure, and that is the complete house cleaning of those responsible for the failures and that record. The answer is the complete reappraisal of America's policy in every section of the world. We shall begin with Vietnam.
We all hope in this room that there's a chance that current negotiations may bring an honorable end to that war. And we will say nothing during this campaign that might destroy that chance.
And if the war is not ended when the people choose in November, the choice will be clear. Here it is: For four years this administration has had at its disposal the greatest military and economic advantage that one nation has ever had over another in a war in history. For four years America's fighting men have set a record for courage and sacrifice unsurpassed in our history. For four years this Administration has had the support of the loyal opposition for the objective of seeking an honorable end to the struggle.
Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively. And if after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice, and all of this support, there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past. That is what we offer to America.
And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there. We need a policy to prevent more Vietnams. All of America's peacekeeping institutions and all of America's foreign commitments must be reappraisal.
Over the past 25 years, America has provided more than $150 - billion in foreign aid to nations abroad. In Korea, and now again in Vietnam, the United States furnished most of the money, most of the arms, most of the men to help the people of those countries defend themselves against aggression. Now we're a rich country, we're a strong nation, we're a populous nation but there are 200 million Americans and there are two billion people that live in the free world, and I say the time has come for other nations in the free world to bear their fair share of the burden of defending peace and freedom around this world.
What I call for is not a new isolationism. It is a new internationalism in which America enlists its allies and its friends around the world in those struggles in which their interest is as great as ours.
And now to the leaders of the Communist world we say, after an era of confrontations, the time has come for an era of negotiations.
Where the world super-powers are concerned there is no acceptable alternative to peaceful negotiation. Because this will be a period of negotiations we shall restore the strength of America so that we shall always negotiate from strength and never from weakness.
And as we seek through negotiations let our goals be made clear. We do not seek domination over any other country. We believe deeply in our ideas but we believe they should travel on their own power and not on the power of our arms. We shall never be belligerent. But we shall be as firm in defending our system as they are in expanding theirs.
We believe this should be an era of peaceful competition not only in the productivity of our factories but in the quality of our ideas. We extend the hand of friendship to all people. To the Russian people. To the Chinese people. To all people in the world. And we shall work toward the goal of an open world, open sky, open cities, open hearts, open minds. The next eight years my friends ...
This period in which we're entering - I think we will have the greatest opportunity for world peace, but also face the greatest danger of world war of any time in our history.
I believe we must have peace. I believe that we can have peace. But I do not underestimate the difficulty of this task.
Because, you see, the art of preserving peace is greater than that of waging war, and much more demanding.
But I am proud to have served in an Administration which ended one war and kept the nation out of other wars for eight years afterward.
And it is that kind of experience, and it is that kind of leadership, that America needs today and that we will give to America, with your help.
And as we commit the new policies for America tonight, let me make one further pledge. For five years hardly a day has gone by when we haven't read or heard a report of the American flag being spit on, and our embassy being stoned, a library being burned, or an ambassador being insulted some place in the world, and each incident reduced respect for the United States until the ultimate insult inevitably occurred.
And I say to you tonight that when respect for the United States of America falls so low that a fourth-rate military power like Korea will seize an American naval vessel in the high seas, it's time for new leadership to restore respect for the United States of America.
Thank you very much. My friends, America is a great nation. It is time we started to act like a great nation around the world.
It's ironic to note, when we were a small nation, weak militarily and poor economically, America was respected. And the reason was that America stood for something more powerful than military strength or economic wealth.
The American Revolution was a shining example of freedom in action which caught the imagination of the world, and today, too often, America is an example to be avoided and not followed.
A nation that can't keep the peace at home won't be trusted to keep the peace abroad. A President who isn't treated with respect at home will not be treated with respect abroad. A nation which can't manage its own economy can't tell others how to manage theirs.
If we are to restore prestige and respect for America abroad, the place to begin is at home - in the United States of America.
My friends, we live in an age of revolution in America and in the world. And to find the answers to our problems, let us turn to a revolution - a revolution that will never grow old, the world's greatest continuing revolution, the American Revolution.
The American Revolution was and is dedicated to progress. But our founders recognized that the first requisite of progress is order.
Now there is no quarrel between progress and order because neither can exist without the other.
So let us have order in America, not the order that suppresses dissent and discourages change but the order which guarantees the right to dissent and provides the basis for peaceful change.
And tonight it's time for some honest talk about the problem of order in the United States. Let us always respect, as I do, our courts and those who serve on them, but let us also recognize that some of our courts in their decisions have gone too far in weakening the peace forces as against the criminal forces in this country.
Let those who have the responsibility to enforce our laws, and our judges who have the responsibility to interpret them, be dedicated to the great principles of civil rights. But let them also recognize that the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence. And that right must be guaranteed in this country.
And if we are to restore order and respect for law in this country, there's one place we're going to begin: We're going to have a new Attorney General of the United States of America.
I pledge to you that our new Attorney General will be directed by the President of the United States to launch a war against organized crime in this country.
I pledge to you that the new Attorney General of the United States will be an active belligerent against the loan sharks and the numbers racketeers that rob the urban poor in our cities.
I pledge to you that the new Attorney General will open a new front against the pill peddlers and the narcotics peddlers who are corrupting the lives of the children of this country.
Because, my friends, let this message come through clear from what I say tonight. Time is running out for the merchants of crime and corruption in American society. The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America.
We shall reestablish freedom from fear in America so that America can take the lead of reestablishing freedom from fear in the world.
And to those who say that law and order is the code word for racism, here is a reply: Our goal is justice - justice for every American. If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect. Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress.
And so as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress.
And this brings me to the clearest choice among the great issues of this campaign.
For the past five years we have been deluged by Government programs for the unemployed, programs for the cities, programs for the poor, and we have reaped from these programs an ugly harvest of frustrations, violence and failure across the land. And now our opponents will be offering more of the same - more billions for Government jobs, Government housing, Government welfare. I say it's time to quit pouring billions of dollars into programs that have failed in the United States of America.
To put it bluntly, we're on the wrong road and it's time to take a new road to progress.
Again we turn to the American Revolution for our answers. The war on poverty didn't begin five years ago in this country, it began when this country began.
It's been the most successful war on poverty in the history of nations. There's more wealth in America today, more broadly shared than in any nation in the world.
We are a great nation. And we must never forget how we became great.
America is a great nation today, not because of what government did for people, but because of what people did for themselves over 190 years in this country.
And so it is time to apply the lessons of the American Revolution to our present problems.
Let us increase the wealth of America so we can provide more generously for the aged and for the needy and for all those who cannot help themselves.
But for those who are able to help themselves, what we need are not more millions on welfare rolls but more millions on payrolls in the United States of America.
Instead of Government jobs and Government housing and Government welfare, let Government use its tax and credit policies to enlist in this battle the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of man-American private enterprise.
Let us enlist in this great cause the millions of Americans in volunteer organizations who will bring a dedication to this task that no amount of money can ever buy.
And let us build bridges, my friends, build bridges to human dignity across that gulf that separates black America from white America.
Black Americans - no more than white Americans - do not want more Government programs which perpetuate dependency. They don't want to be a colony in a nation. They want the pride and the self-respect and the dignity that can only come if they have an equal chance to own their own homes, to own their own businesses, to be managers and executives as well as workers, to have a piece of the action in the exciting ventures of private enterprise.
I pledge to you tonight that we shall have new programs which will provide that equal chance. We make great history tonight. We do not fire a shot heard round the world, but we shall light the lamp of hope in millions of homes across this world in which there is no hope today.
And that great light shining out from America will again become a beacon of hope for all those in the world who seek freedom and opportunity.
My fellow Americans, I believe that historians will recall that 1968 marked the beginning of the American generation in world history. Just to be alive in America, just to be alive at this time is an experience unparalleled in history. Here's where the nation is.
Think: Thirty-two years from now most of the Americans living today will celebrate a New Year that comes once in a thousand years.
Eight years from now, in the second term of the next President, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.