9. Editorial Note
The theme that ran through the world view President Nixon offered in his inaugural address on January 20, 1969, was the search for peace:
“As we learn to go forward together at home, let us also seek to go forward together with all mankind.
“Let us take as our goal: Where peace is unknown, make it welcome; where peace is fragile, make it strong; where peace is temporary, make it permanent.
“After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.[Page 54]
“Let all nations know that during this administration our lines of communication will be open.
“We seek an open world—open to ideas, open to the exchange of goods and people—a world in which no people, great or small, will live in angry isolation.
“We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no one our enemy.
“Those who would be our adversaries, we invite to a peaceful competition—not in conquering territory or extending dominion, but in enriching the life of man.
“As we explore the reaches of space, let us go to the new worlds together—not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to be shared.
“With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the poor and the hungry.
“But to all those who would be tempted by weakness, let us leave no doubt that we will be as strong as we need to be for as long as we need to be.
“Over the past 20 years, since I first came to this Capital as a freshman Congressman, I have visited most of the nations of the world. I have come to know the leaders of the world and the great forces, the hatreds, the fears that divide the world.
“I know that peace does not come through wishing for it—that there is no substitute for days and even years of patient and prolonged diplomacy.
“I also know the people of the world.
“I have seen the hunger of a homeless child, the pain of a man wounded in battle, the grief of a mother who has lost her son. I know these have no ideology, no race.
“I know America. I know the heart of America is good.
“I speak from my own heart, and the heart of my country, the deep concern we have for those who suffer and those who sorrow.
“I have taken an oath today in the presence of God and my countrymen to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. To that oath I now add this sacred commitment: I shall consecrate my Office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace among nations.
“Let this message be heard by strong and weak alike:
“The peace we seek—the peace we seek to win—is not victory over any other people, but the peace that comes ‘with healing in its wings’; [Page 55] with compassion for those who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us; with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their own destiny.
“Only a few short weeks ago we shared the glory of man’s first sight of the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the darkness.
“As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon’s gray surface on Christmas Eve, they spoke to us of the beauty of earth—and in that voice so clear across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God’s blessing on its goodness.
“In that moment, their view from the moon moved poet Archibald MacLeish to write: ‘To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now they are truly brothers.’
“In that moment of surpassing technological triumph, men turned their thoughts toward home and humanity—seeing in that far perspective that man’s destiny on earth is not divisible; telling us that however far we reach into the cosmos, our destiny lies not in the stars but on earth itself, in our own hands, in our own hearts.
“We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the remaining dark. Let us gather the light.
“Our destiny offers not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it not in fear, but in gladness—and ‘riders on the earth together,’ let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers, but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, pages 3-4)
President Nixon spoke at 12:16 p.m. from the east front of the Capitol. The address was broadcast on radio and television.