"The Choice of the Century"

"The dream told us that we are a Nation of equals, a Nation where every man able to work can work, a Nation of peace and dignity, a government of men and laws and of truth. And yet the reality today is still discrimination, higher unemployment, war in Indochina and official deception about all of this by an Administration in which truth has become the ultimate casualty."
Detroit, MI • September 07, 1972

I have come here today because I know that the United Auto Workers represent a tradition of fairness and equity in American life. I have come because the trade unions of this country have been in the forefront of the struggle for decency and equality in our nation.

I have come because this campaign - this year - symbolizes the battles that the late Walter Reuther spent his life fighting.

Walter Reuther was a man of spirit, a man of vision. But most of all, Walter Reuther was a man of America. He symbolized what this country is all about.

Twelve years ago, John F. Kennedy told us that America must be willing “to pay any price and bear any burden” to maintain the strength of this country. John Kennedy spoke in another context, and in another time.

It was an earlier, easier time. It was a time when men were excited by ideas, when men were willing to serve. It was a time of promise and a time of hope; a time when we were young enough to dream and old enough to believe. It was a time when we knew that the least each of us did was the best we could do.

Twelve years ago, there was an idea called the Peace Corps. And because a lot of young people had the willingness and the spirit to want it to work -- they made it work. And they brought the message and the hope that symbolized America to a thousand different people in a thousand different lands. Young men and women from Detroit, from Boston, from Atlanta,...from all across this great land of ours - sat huddled in the night in thatched huts in Africa; organizing villages in the northeast jungles of Brazil; and living with people in deltas of Asia, helping them to assert their rights as human beings.

America meant something to those Peace Corps volunteers and it meant even more to the strangers who listened and learned from the best that this land could offer.

The dream faded when a President died in Dallas. It was shattered in a kitchen in Los Angeles, on a motel balcony in Memphis. The dream was tarnished with the flames and the debris of our cities burning in the night - evidence of the inability to live as neighbors. And dream turned into nightmare as the best generation of American youth was sent to die in a war in Indochina; a war that no general has been able to win and no reason has been able to make right; a war that still continues today, ravaging and destroying a country and a people -- innocent civilians who may not even know the cause of their dying.

The dream told us that we are a Nation of equals, a Nation where every man able to work can work, a Nation of peace and dignity, a government of men and laws and of truth.

And yet the reality today is still discrimination, higher unemployment, war in Indochina and official deception about all of this by an Administration in which truth has become the ultimate casualty.

What have we allowed to happen to our Nation? What has happened to that dream?

Today the question is no longer one of memory--or dreams. We all know what once was--and we all live with the hope of what could be.

Today the question is one of choice.

Richard Nixon has said that this election represents the clearest political choice of the century.

I agree.

And that is what we must make it. Not just a choice between men, but between principles and traditions. A choice between a Republican Party which believes that political power exists to protect islands of privilege and preserve those who wield economic power; and a Democratic Party which believes that the highest duty and priority of government is to respond and to be responsible to the people of this democracy.

It is the tradition of “Stand Pat with Coolidge,” “Back to Normalcy with Harding,” and “You Never Had It So Good” with Richard Nixon, -- against the visions of the New Deal and, Fair Deal and New Frontier.

Today the Republican Administration again parades new promises and optimistic prophesies. Their campaign is based on the belief that Americans can be fooled. It is based on the belief that the skill of political cosmetics will be able to gloss over the facts of failure. They have led this country for four years. And this time we can judge them by the facts and their actions.

Richard Nixon promised to bring peace in Vietnam--but the war continues.

Richard Nixon promised to end inflation--but prices and rents continue to go up.

Richard Nixon promised to reform a demeaning and unwieldy welfare system -- but the same burgeoning bureaucracy is with us and his inept economic policies have forced hundreds of thousands off of payrolls and onto welfare rolls.

Richard Nixon promised to make our streets safe, to make our air clean, “to bring us together” -- but fear and crime grow, the environment decays and divisions deepen.

His is a record of failure -- the record of an administration and a party unable to master the complexities of modern America-- unwilling to confront the growing afflictions of daily life -- indifferent to the struggles of the many.

In addition, he has mortgaged the trust and confidence that each American must have in our government upon an altar of partisan politics.

He has risked the credibility of the President’s cabinet by using his Secretaries of Defense, and State, and his Attorney General in the narrowest, most partisan manner.

And while Richard Nixon has been practicing the politics of privilege and the politics of neglect, too many Americans have found themselves living in anxious suspension -- above poverty but well below comfort.

Richard Nixon’s record is indeed one of failure -- but it is more than just a failure, to deliver. It is a failure to lead.

But living with this failure need not be our fate. It need not be our fate because we can address the problems that the President had chosen to ignore. We can make life better for every American.

In the early sixties, we faced many of the same problems. Some were solved; others weren’t. But we tried. The country moved. And for most families, each year was a little better than the year before. Despite mistakes and failures, we were confident of our ability to improve human life and reduce injustice. We were proud of our nation, not only of its power but of what it stood for in the eyes of the world.

This is the same country it was then. We are the same people. We have the same capacity. But we are a country and a people that for nearly four years has found itself adrift in a dark sea of despair, brought to the point of frustration by men who can see no further than the next election.

But this can change. Progress can be made again. Not merely by believing in George McGovern and Sargent Shriver, or even the Democratic party. But by believing in ourselves and in our country.

That is why this election is indeed the choice of the century.

And the first choice we have to make is in Vietnam.

Like President Eisenhower, Richard Nixon took office pledged to end a war which he inherited. Unlike President Eisenhower he has not kept that pledge.

Richard Nixon keeps our men and our planes in Southeast Asia because he has a commitment to General Thieu; a man who jails his political opponents and shuts down his country’s newspapers; a man who cannot even command the respect of his own people. Each day that we remain there we remain not for a just cause but because of Richard Nixon’s commitment to the Thieu government--a commitment that has taken precedence over his 1968 election pledge to win the peace.

I promise you today that that war will end -- once and for all -- and our men and our prisoners of war will come home to America -- when George McGovern is in the White House.

Once that war ends we can turn our energies to the problems we face here at home.

Not too long ago, most Americans could expect a steady improvement in their standard of life. From Franklin Roosevelt until the onset of the war in Vietnam, those expectations were justified. But now for many, perhaps most Americans, things are actually getting hard. All of Nixon’s election-year statistics and self-serving prophecies cannot deny the experience of our daily lives -- the struggle to meet mortgage payments, the vacations that must be postponed, the concern over our children’s education and dangers of crime and drugs. Perhaps, as we are told, the statistics of growth are improving. But the rewards of that improvement, if any, are, not now flowing to you. And they will not: until Richard Nixon is defeated on November the 7th.

America needs a Democratic Administration, an administration that is concerned with economic justice as well as social justice.

George McGovern and I will reform the tax system and bring full employment home to America.

Under Richard Nixon it is a fact that the man who lives on wages is being cheated out of real income because we have an unfair tax system.

Let me give you one example of why tax reform is necessary. Take four possible families. Each takes in $10,000 - but each gets their $10,000 in a different way. The first family makes $10,000 a year in salary. It pays $900 in income tax. The second family sells some inherited stock for $10,000. It pays about $98 in Capital Gains Tax. The third family makes $10,000 through a stake in a Texas oil well. With the oil depletion allowance, it pays about $92. The fourth family makes $10,000 from tax-exempt municipal bonds. It pays no tax. Zero. These are only a few of the inequities. There are many, many more.

George McGovern says this kind of system isn’t fair. We propose, under a new Democratic tax reform program, that “money made by money should be taxed at the same rate as money made by men.” We say that tax justice demands equal treatment for all Americans whether they earn their living with a shovel or a slide rule-whether they live off the stock market and capital gains, or by the sweat of their brow.

We propose no further taxes on wages; no further taxes on salaries. Ordinary income earned in ordinary ways is taxed enough. The workers of America already pay their fair share. It’s time for the privileged few to pay the same kind of share the workers do. It’s time to end tax discrimination in America: And George McGovern and I will act to do so.

The proposed McGovern tax reforms will probably produce about $22 billion. This is $22 billion we could use to create jobs in America; jobs building homes, and schools, mass transit systems and hospitals. Jobs that create other jobs. Jobs that create wealth rather than destroy it. George McGovern and I stand in the great Democratic tradition that full employment is the prerequisite of a healthy economy.

And here, too, you have a critical choice.

The Republican approach to employment throws into sharp outline the issue between the parties. I could define the issue in many ways. But ‘I think one simple way to say it is that this November you are choosing between a party whose whole history and purpose has been one of caring first about people and a party whose history and purpose has been one of caring first about property.

There is a world of difference between these two approaches. One is Richard Nixon’s ... the other is ours.

When Richard Nixon left office in 1961, unemployment was more than 7%. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson reduced that figure by half. Richard Nixon has raised it to 5-1/2%. In Detroit, unemployment has gone up to 9.8%. A similar increase in the next four years would be disaster!

When Mr. Nixon campaigned four years ago, he promised workers that he would take special steps to increase jobs in their cities. What happened? The dependents of 175,000 unemployed workers in this city of Detroit can tell you what happened.

The dependents of unemployed workers in Buffalo, in Chicago, in Cleveland, in Boston, in every city where I have travelled--can tell you what happened.

What happened was another broken promise. What happened is that millions of men and women, both blue collar workers and white collar workers, are able to work, are willing to work, and anxious to work--but have no jobs.

And this Administration continually masks its economic failures with talk of game plans and new policies; of new missions and revised statistics. But their reality statistics and their theories cannot change the start reality of what happens to a week’s wages at the supermarket checkout counter.

Every housewife in Detroit knows that two years ago, hamburger cost 63 cents a pound. Now it costs 74 cents. That’s a Nixon tax. Hot dogs in 1970 were 79 cents per pound-- now they cost 86 cents. That’s a Nixon tax. Milk in 1970 was 49 cents a half gallon--now it’s 51 cents. That’s a Nixon tax. Tomatoes were 48 cents--now they’re 63 cents. Six ounces of instant coffee was $1.00--now it’s $1.12. Even a 10-ounce bag of pretzels has jumped from 38 cents to 41 cents. We pay for Richard Nixon even when we’re watching football. But he costs too much.

While your prices have been rising, Mr. Nixon’s price and wage board’s allow corporate profits to soar but clamp down on worker’s wages.

That’s the Nixon promise--and the Nixon record--on inflation.

The headlines of any newspaper in this country are a daily chronicle of still other failures and benign neglect by the Nixon Administration.

As everyone in this room knows, crime has been steadily on the rise under the “law and order” administration of Richard Nixon and John Mitchell. And now we find that crime extends from the streets of our cities into the executive suites of the White House. People who served the President are caught breaking and entering in the Democratic National Committee offices trying to bug the phones. The President refuses to tell us where he got a ten million dollar slush fund for his reelection campaign. Checks go from the Republican Campaign Fund to the burglars and wire-tappers.

The doors of the Justice Department and the White House are opened to the executives of ITT and to the milk lobbyists because they pay to have them opened. But when it comes time to open new schools and hospitals and health clinics, bills passed by a Democratic congress are vetoed because Richard Nixon says they are inflationary.

So this is indeed the choice of the century. . .and I have spoken about only a few of the issues involved.

The Democratic Party has made mistakes in the past: many of them serious. I would not stand here today and try to tell you that we have all the answers. We don’t. I would not try to tell you that we have always been correct. We haven’t. But we have always understood that policies, and institutions, and political leaders existed to help fulfill the desires of the citizens--and that this Nation was comprised of more than computers and statistics and polls. We have always understood that public policy and public men can have one standard only: Did they, in fact, enrich the life of every citizen?

Was opportunity enlarged? Justice done? Freedom strengthened? We have always understood that the task of government was not to direct the people, either by deception or by order; but to liberate the energies and talent of individuals in every community and neighborhood, so they might lead themselves and, in so doing, guide the country.

People have spoken about the new politics; of our reliance on a grassroots support. But that kind of politics is older than the country--as old as Sam Adams and the Boston Tea Party. In search of support for his principles, Senator McGovern went to the people, and asked only that those who shared his convictions take upon themselves the task of changing the direction of America; they responded. And together we have come a long way.

But we have got to go still farther if we are to reclaim the dreams of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Reuther. . .

Today, I ask you to stand with George McGovern and myself so we might be able to tell our grandchildren that this year. . .1972. . . we made the right choice for their century.

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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