President Nixon addresses the young crowd of 119 Presidential Scholars in the East Room of the White House, June 4, 1970.
The President’s schedule is often, if not always, consumed with meetings and formal presentations. So much so that he does not always have time to collect his thoughts in between. However, on June 4, 1970, when President Nixon was scheduled to speak to a crowd of the year’s exceptional youth scholars, it appeared that he had plenty of time to collect his thoughts.
Shortly after President Nixon escorted President Rafael Caldera of Venezuela out of the White House at the conclusion of the latter’s state visit, the President immediately made his way into the East Room for a special presentation honoring the elite of all high school and secondary school graduates for the year of 1970.
Speaking to this young generation, and speaking to them as America was beginning to wind down its involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon spoke candidly about the potential of this next generation in a new era of peace.
He wanted to assure the students that what his generation was doing now for the younger generations would result in a nation and world premised on peaceful coexistence. But a world of peace, where Americans can travel to all around the world and know the people in it just as they know people in their own country, would ultimately hinge on the actions of the next generation:
What I am really trying to say is this: I don’t know where each of you will end up, whether in government or out, and if in government, whether local government, State government, or national government, but I do know that everything you do is going to matter.
President Nixon concluded with these sage words:
At this time in history, the United States, and its leadership, is going to have an enormous impact on the future of the world for the next century. That is why I think the Presidential Scholars of 1970, while they will look back on a year of turmoil, and they will look forward to what they think are years of uncertainty, will also say, what a fortunate time to be alive because the challenges are great. And what a fortunate time to be alive and to be recognized as the top scholars of your class, as those that we are counting on.