Forty years ago today, President Nixon spoke quite candidly at the Mississippi Economic Council, treating those gathered not only to an economic lesson but allowing them — and those listening on television and radio — to grasp his strategic vision of a new set of international policies that would truly bring peace to future generations. Dr. Kissinger later described the President’s vision as “a new international order that would reduce lingering enmities, strengthen historic friendships and give new hope to mankind – a vision where dreams and possibilities conjoined.
The President spoke the following on China:
Why do we talk to the Soviet Union leaders? Why do we talk to the leaders of the People’s Republic of China? Because we agree with their philosophy? No, they don’t like our philosophy; we don’t like theirs. But taking, for example, China, one-fourth of all of the people in the world live in China. They are among the ablest people in the world. They are not a super power today. They will be, 15 years from now. And far better to have the United States talking to them now than waiting until then. That is why the opening to China is so important to peace in the world–not just now but in the generations to come.
On the Soviet Union:
Why do we talk to the leaders of the Soviet Union when we are both now approximately equal insofar as our nuclear power is concerned? Not because we agree in all of our interests around the world, because some places they are adverse to each other, and not certainly, as I have indicated, because our philosophies are the same, because they are not, but because both sides recognize a simple fact of life: that the leader of America–whoever he is–and the leader of the Soviet Union–whoever he is in the foreseeable future–if he ever resorts to the use of nuclear war, will be committing, in effect, national suicide for his own country. That must not happen, and that is why we are negotiating a limitation on nuclear arms.
On the need for strong presidential leadership:
Let me tell you what that leadership entails. First, it entails strength. I refer, first, to military strength. By that, I do not mean military strength in terms of the arrogance of power in which we attempt to push others around. That is never the way we want to use it…
Strength in the hands of America is a good thing for those who love peace in the world, and let’s keep America strong. And I would strongly urge, never send an American President to the conference table with any other leader of the world as the head of the second strongest nation in the world. Let that be a goal for Americans to remember, too.
And on America’s future:
The time of greatest danger for a great country and society is when it is very wealthy, as we are, when it is very strong, as we are, because the tendency then is for a country to become soft, to become complacent, to turn inward from the thrust toward greatness that brought them where they were.
We must not let this happen to America… We often think that we live in the worst of times. We often think, wouldn’t it be better if we lived someplace else or were born at a different time? Let me say to this younger generation, don’t ever buy that, not about America, not about yourself, and not about the time in which you live, because you have a great future.
Jim Byron is a Communications and Marketing Assistant at the Richard Nixon Foundation. He is a third-year undergraduate student at Chapman University.