37. Editorial Note

President Nixon addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 1969, and expressed the determination of the United States to remain fully engaged as a world power:

“I am well aware that many nations have questions about the world role of the United States in the years ahead—about the nature and extent of our future contribution to the structure of peace.

“Let me address those doubts and address them quite candidly before this organization.

“In recent years, there has been mounting criticism here in the United States of the scope and the results of our international commitments.

“This trend, however, has not been confined to the United States alone. In many countries we find a tendency to withdraw from responsibilities, to leave the world’s often frustrating problems to the other fellow and just to hope for the best.

“As for the United States, I can state here today without qualification: We have not turned away from the world.

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“We know that with power goes responsibility.

“We are neither boastful of our power, nor apologetic about it. We recognize that it exists, and that, as well as conferring certain advantages, it also imposes upon us certain obligations.

“As the world changes, the pattern of those obligations and responsibilities changes.

“At the end of World War II, the United States for the first time in history assumed the major responsibility for world peace.

“We were left in 1945 as the one nation with sufficient strength to contain the new threats of aggression, and with sufficient wealth to help the injured nations back to their feet.

“For much of the world, those first difficult postwar years were a time of dependency.

“The next step was toward independence, as new nations were born and old nations revived.

“Now we are maturing together into a new pattern of interdependence.

“It is against this background that we have been urging other nations to assume a greater share of responsibility for their own security, both individually and together with their neighbors. The great challenge now is to enlist the cooperation of many nations in preserving peace and in enriching life. This cannot be done by American edict, or by the edict of any other nation. It must reflect the concepts and the wishes of the people of those nations themselves.

“The history of the postwar period teaches that nationalism can be dangerously disruptive—or powerfully creative.

“Our aim is to encourage the creative forms of nationalism; to join as partners where our partnership is appropriate, and where it is wanted, but not to let a U.S. presence substitute for independent national effort or infringe on national dignity and national pride.

“It is not my belief that the way to peace is by giving up our friends or letting down our allies. On the contrary our aim is to place America’s international commitments on a sustainable, long term basis, to encourage local and regional initiatives, to foster national independence and self-sufficiency, and by so doing to strengthen the total fabric of peace.

“It would be dishonest, particularly before this sophisticated audience, to pretend that the United States has no national interests of its own, or no special concern for its own interests.

“However, our most fundamental national interest is in maintaining that structure of international stability on which peace depends, and which makes orderly progress possible.”

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The full text of the speech is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, pages 724-725.