In the 1960's, when hundreds of young men and women joined the battle for civil rights in Mississippi, Notre Dame graduates were in the forefront of that struggle for justice.
Now, in the 70's, the battle for social justice goes on -- not only in the Third World of Latin America, Africa and Asia, not only for civil rights in the South, but in northern neighborhoods where millions of our fellow Americans walk the streets looking for jobs, including, I might add, 310,000 veterans of Vietnam.... Northern neighborhoods where crime has terrified the inhabitants, where substandard houses degenerate and collapse, while the United States government itself has become the No. 1 slum landlord in the nation.
Sometimes I ask myself, "Where have all the brave ones gone -- the brave ones who faced the electric cattle prods and rubber truncheons in Mississippi?" Today, when the pressures of the draft have abated and Americans have ceased dying in large numbers in Vietnam, where have all the dissenters gone? Yesterday's newspapers told us an almost unbelievable story of political espionage, subversion, electronic surveillance, forgery and bribery unprecedented in American political history. Yet, some public opinion polls tell us that Americans are no longer disturbed by corruption in high places in Washington -- that million dollar secret campaign funds are taken for granted -- that as a nation we are just shrugging our shoulders, saying, so to speak, "Well, what's new?"
The experts say even that the young are indifferent -- that even the young have become hustlers. Like Captain America at the end of Easy Rider they say, "We blew it."
Well, I don't believe all of that. I do not believe that you were indifferent in 1968, when a book came out called, The Selling of the President. I do not believe you're indifferent in 1972, when the new book will be called "The Buying of the President." I don't think you are indifferent to the words of the former Secretary of Commerce, Maurice Stans, when he said, "Forty million dollars for a presidential campaign fund is a small price to pay to keep the White House in the right hands." Stans is right. Forty million dollars is a small price -- forty million, when Lockheed gets $250 million and Penn Central receives $300 million, and the grain dealers get $300 million, and dozens of massive corporations pay no taxes or lower taxes than the people who work for the corporation.
I don't think you're indifferent to that. I don't think you're indifferent to $600 thousand in cash, stuffed into a black suitcase, and put onto an oil company airplane in Houston, Texas, and flown to Washington the night before the deadline arrived on the reporting of campaign contributions. I don't think you're indifferent when a burglar shows up in the middle of the night, robbing papers out of Larry O'Brien's desk, and in his pocket he is carrying $100 bills, serially numbered, which have been traced to a bank account in the name of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. I don't think you're indifferent to spies and wiretaps and secret FBI investigations. How many persons are spying on you at Notre Dame -- or Standard Oil, or the AFL-CIO, or NBC? Do you remember a few years ago an FBI agent called "Tommy the Traveler"? He went from campus to campus in upper New York State, stirring up riots on the campus, so that FBI agents could come in following him and catch the people that he had seduced into making a riot.
Let me put it as bluntly as I can. Maurice Stans and John Mitchell and even the President are asking us to believe that those who ran the rake-in have nothing to do with the break-in. Well, I don't believe it.
I don't think you're indifferent to the sudden resignation of John Mitchell. Remember, he was the new Attorney General, promised by Nixon to bring law and order to the nation. But the great John had to leave the government, because Martha told him she was tired of all the thugs and dirty business in which he had become involved. Belatedly,
I fear, we're now finding out that Martha was right, and the phone should never have been torn off the way by the agent sent there to protect her. He was, instead of protecting her, misleading us.
I don't think you're indifferent to the sudden resignations of Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt, who worked in the White House, and who are the second and third men in the history of the United States who ever were on a White House payroll and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury.
I don't think you're indifferent to the acceptance by agents of the White House of huge sums of money from industry after industry -- from the timber industry, the communications industry, the carpet industry, the dairy farmers -- just before federal rulings on their behalf are given, so that governmental decisions have become, as seldom before in American history, an investment, as Maurice Stans said, paying substantial returns. The 1968 promise to stop crime in the streets has gone up 33% and the tragedy is that part of it has been taken off the streets and moved up into the executive suites of the Republican Administration.
The sad, if not tragic, truth is that they are trying to buy the Presidency in 1972, and they are buying it cheap. But it isn't just the Presidency. They are buying you, because the Presidency is not theirs. It belongs to you -- to you and to all the people.
In 1952, when General Eisenhower was running for the Presidency -- and he at that time was the conscience of the Republican Party -- it was revealed that the vice presidential candidate at that time, Mr. Nixon, had $18,000 in a secret fund, which he was using to pay off private debts. The United States was outraged at this information, and so was General Eisenhower. So, he demanded at that time that the vice presidential candidate come, as he said, come before the American people, as "clean as a hound's tooth." That was 1952.
In 1972, when Richard Nixon is President, and he apparently is the conscience of the Republican Party, millions of dollars are at stake, but Richard Nixon holds the people in contempt and won't explain where his money came from.
Every person running for political office nationally this year has revealed where his contributions come from. For example, Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie, "Scoop" Jackson, Shirley Chisolm, Pete McCloskey, John Ashbrook, even John Schmitz -- they've all published where their money came from, and, of course, so has George McGovern. There is only one man who hasn't, and that man is President of the United States. Honor in Washington is as dead as "Checkers" -- cold in the ground.
For the public, the motto of the Nixon Administration is "four more years." But for the special interests, for the thugs and the thieves whom Martha Mitchell couldn't stomach, the motto is "get yours and get it now." I don't think that young America is indifferent to that situation, and that's one of the principal reasons why I'm sure we're going to have a new Administration in Washington next January 20th.
We're going to have a new Administration, because there is a connection between the moral vision of the President, whoever he may be, and the moral development of the young men and women of this nation. The cynicism of today can be traced to the cynicism in the White House today, just as the excitement and joy of the young in the 60's were related to the spirit of the White House. Politics were a noble profession then. The hollow religion of many of the young today can be traced to the babbitry of our nation at the top. And I suggest that the only hope for the moral regeneration of our land -- the only hope for finding a new moral purpose for our nation -- rests with those, young and old, still not compromised by commercialism -- those young and old who still see visions and dreams and nourish the courage of long-range commitment in their hearts, who are not disheartened by evil in the world.
This Administration speaks a great deal about God. There are religious services in the White House. But which God is it that is celebrated -- the God of the ancient prophets, Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah, or the god of quick profits, the god of the grain dealers and the wire-tappers?
Leon Bloy, the famous French writer, described a false and hypocritical use of piety when he said, "This place stinks of a false god." Thomas More, in A Man For All Seasons, says, "We see that avarice and anger and envy and pride and sloth and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and, thus, to be human at all, we have to choose; we must stand fast a little, even at the risk of being heroes." Thomas More was right in that season, and he's right in this season.
Avarice, envy, pride and lust for power do profit under this Administration, and we do have to choose.
In 1942, at this University, Jacques Maritain warned us against the Machiavellian who uses, as he said, "a national religion for state purposes, to unify the masses and cement their morale." Maritain pointed out that Machiavelli's Prince manipulates religion. Under such a politician, Maritain wrote, "It is not the good of the people, it is only the power of the Prince which matters." The Prince manipulates the people. But the Prince suffers a peculiar illusion -- the illusion of immediate success. And his "immediate success is only success for him -- it is not success for a state or a nation."
I am sure you understand this, for if the young men and women here do not understand this, to whom can we turn for a moral vision?
And, therefore, I appeal to you today and say do not be swept along by the cynicism that's so prevalent in this land. This nation needs you. This nation needs your spirit of honesty. This nation needs your willingness to hear the cries of the poor and of the lower-middle class. It needs your resistance to corporate power and wealth. This nation needs the dedication of your lives. For the tragic outcome of Machiavelli's Prince -- or President -- is that when everyone begins to act as the Prince does, civilization ends, justice disappears, and each man becomes an enemy to each.
To arrest this tide, America needs you. We must create a "politics of the people" to replace the "politics of power" -- a politics of every family in America, a politics of every neighborhood.
In the 60's, as I said, we sent thousands of young people to Chile and Ethiopia, to Sabah and to India. We sent volunteers under VISTA to the Indian tribes in Arizona and the mountain towns in Tennessee. We sent poverty lawyers to the hot valleys of California and to the backwoods of Maine. All of these initiatives were good and necessary, and thousands of lives were changed, and there was much idealism and dedication.
Now we must extend the range of our interests. The politics of the 1970's is different from the politics of the 1960's. Those who desire change in America must find closer contact with the millions in our different regions and different neighborhoods here at home.
Every research study shows that people desire change. But in Italian neighborhoods, in Jewish neighborhoods, in Polish neighborhoods, in Black neighborhoods, in Irish neighborhoods -- in each of our neighborhoods --perceptions of what is good change differ. The man who would govern America -- the party that would unite America -- the millions of Americans who would mobilize America and make us move again -- must be in touch with all of these neighborhoods.
We cannot preach from above -- from the heights of education and privilege. We must listen to every segment of the people -- and the vast majority of them are not bigoted. They are not reactionary. They believe in the American dream of equality and justice and fairness for everyone. They await leaders they can trust. And I'm happy to be running with such a leader, George McGovern.
I'm immensely honored to be running as a candidate of a party which produced Franklin Roosevelt for this country, and Harry Truman, which produced John Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson and Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, because those men are in the tradition of the great, open, approachable leaders of this democracy. And I think it's no accident that the party, of which they were members, compares, even in the House of Representatives, very dramatically with the other party.
If you look at the membership of the House of Representatives, you will see that all of the Italians -- that is, the Americans of Italian background -- everyone in that House, except one -- is a Democrat. All of those with a Polish background in the House of Representatives, save two, are Democrats. All thirteen Black congressmen and congresswomen are Democrats. All of the Latinos, everyone with a Spanish surname in the House of Representatives, except one, is a Democrat. All of the Greek-Americans in the House of Representatives are Democrats. And all of the Irish congressmen, who are any good, are Democrats.
These representatives of the people know the neighborhoods of this country. And that's why, when legislation for social justice for the people comes up on the floor, these men uniformly vote unanimously for progress and for social justice.
It's good to learn about primitive tribes, but let's not forget the Italians in Newark, or the Poles in Buffalo, or the Irish in Erie, Pennsylvania, or the Slovaks in Parma, Ohio, or the Jews in Forest Hills. Don't let education remove you from your neighborhood. Don't get to the point where you think you're smarter than your parents. (Now, that I'm a parent, I say that.) Don't get to the point where you think that you're better than those who nourished you. Don't cut yourself off from your roots. Return to your people; return to learn and to serve and to increase the scope of justice and practical compassion in your neighborhood.
What happens to five million men and women who have no jobs today, right now, in the United States? What happens to their children? What are we doing about them? What happens to the elderly persons when their families move away from them in this mobile society? Are they lonely? Are they afraid? Do they feel useless? What could we do for them? What could you do for them?
There are three million children in America who are hungry today, right now. One in every ten children in America are mistreated by their parents. One in every three has difficulty reading. Perhaps children have to suffer, but it seems odd that there is wheat for Russia but no bread for children in America. It seems odd that American families permit $400 of their tax money to the federal government to go every year for military purposes, and only $12 for the education of their children.
Those things don't have to be that way, but millions of people in ten thousand different neighborhoods will have to be persuaded and come to trust you, if we're going to change those conditions. We don't need an hour's enthusiasm; we need a life's fidelity. We don't need an instant moral drama; we need the perseverance of a long life. We don't need television glamour; we need the daily grind of precinct work -- the daily proof to neighborhoods that we are worthy of their trust.
I don't want to offer you an easy way. I don't want to offer you sentimental hope or cheap grace, or instant victory. I don't imagine for a minute that you are any more moral -- or less moral -- than your parents were. I don't think you believe that, and I certainly don't.
But in this brief period of public attention given to my candidacy, and in the four years of the first McGovern Administration, I invite you to help us to forge once again a bond of trust between young people and the government -- a bond of vision, a bond of energy, a bond of solid efforts to widen justice.