On August 13, 1969, President and Mrs. Nixon hosted a huge state dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles to honor the Apollo 11 astronauts on their safe return to Earth. Over 50 members of Congress and representatives from 83 foreign nations attended the star-studded gala, often recognized as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – state dinners held outside of Washington.
RN presented the astronauts with the Presidential Medal of Freedom that night, noting,
I want to say very simply to our three astronauts, we thank you for your courage. We thank you for raising our sights, the sights of men and women throughout the world to a new dimension–the sky is no longer the limit.
And we thank you, too, for the men that you are, you and all of your colleagues, what fine men, what fine examples to young America and young people all over the world.
It has been my privilege in the White House, and also in other world capitals, to propose toasts to many distinguished people, to emperors, to kings, to presidents, to prime ministers, and, yes, to a duke; and tonight, this is the highest privilege I could have, to propose a toast to America’s astronauts.
Jimmy Byron is a Marketing and Communications Assistant at the Richard Nixon Foundation. He is a second-year student at Chapman University.