Nixon Becomes President

Published: 1969
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Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as the 37th President of the United States of America on January 20, 1969 on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The officiator was U.S. Supreme Court Judge Earl Warren. Looking on is Mrs. Pat Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and William P. Rogers, Secretary of State designate. (UPI Photo/Files)

President Richard M. Nixon: “I, Richard Milhous Nixon, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States. So help me God.”

Announcer: A new administration takes over in 1969, United Press International looks at the first year of a new President, coming up next on 1969 In Review.

Announcer: On January 20th, 1969, Richard Milhous Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States. As those before him had done, the new President promised to listen to all the people.

President Richard M. Nixon: “When we listen to the better angels of our nature, we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things, such as goodness, decency, love, kindness. Greatness comes in simple trappings. The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount what divides us, and cement what unites us. To lower our voices would be a simple thing. In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

Announcer: The ceremonies that followed the inauguration were a mixture of marching bands, patriotic songs and a sprinkling of demonstrations.

Unknown Speaker: “Somebody just threw a firecracker out in to the ranks of the marching soldiers. As the soldiers pass the demonstrators yell Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, or the victory (ph) army was going to win.”

Announcer: And so began the year for Richard Nixon. 1969 In Review continues after this message.

The year 1969 was certainly not a dull one for the new President. Nixon faced his first real congressional test squarely. He was for and wanted Congress to approve an Anti-Ballistic missile defense system.

President Richard M. Nixon: “The new program that I have recommended this morning to the leaders and that I announce today is one that perhaps best can be described as a safeguard program. It is a safeguard against any attack by the Chinese Communists that we can foresee over the next ten years. It is a safeguard of our deterrent system, which is increasingly vulnerable, due to the advances that have been made by the Soviet Union since the year 1967, when the Sentinel program was first laid out. It is a safeguard also against any irrational or accidental attack that might occur of less than massive magnitude, which might be launched from the Soviet Union.”

Announcer: The debate grew steadily. Senator Alan Cranston.

Senator Alan Cranston: “I am deeply disappointed. I hoped, and almost believed that the President would make a wiser decision. I think that history may well record that after 53 days of almost errorless performance as President, President Nixon made a tragic mistake on the 53rd day of his administration. I think it's particularly sad and unfortunate that he has done this exactly one day after the adoption by the Senate of ratification of the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty has raised great hopes of curtailing the arms race. I think this move to some degree cancels that and moves us in a different direction.

I think it moves us toward a heightening of the arms race, towards increasing difficulties in negotiating with the Soviet Union. It will divide the United States in many ways. It will lead to a bitter battle in the Senate; the outcome of which cannot be foretold. I think it will heighten tensions in the world.”

Announcer: It was a tossup all the way. But Nixon did win. Senator Strom Thurmond approved of the vote.

Senator Strom Thurmond: “I am very proud that this Senate approves the ABM and turned down the amendments that wish to delay it or kill it. In my judgment the ABM is purely a defensive weapon. It’s necessary that we go forward. The Soviets are at least five years ahead of us. If we have the ABM, and the enemy doesn’t send any missiles over to destroy our country, then well and good. If it does send missiles over to destroy our country, we would be mighty glad we have it.”

Announcer: Traveling must have been in the stars for the President in 1969. He made three major trips out of the country. First, to Western Europe, in February, when he visited Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, and England. In June, he flew to Midway Island, where he made the troop withdrawal announcement. Then an around-the-world trip in July following the Apollo 11 splashdown took him to the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Vietnam, India, and Pakistan. But the highlight of the jaunt was his visit to the Communist country of Romania, the scene, Bucharest.

President Richard M. Nixon: “This is an historic occasion, but this is not my first visit to your country. It is the first visit of a President of the United States to Romania. The first state visit by an American President to a socialist country or to this region of the continent of Europe. Mr. President this significant moment in the history of relations between our two countries coincides with the great moment in the history of the human race. We have established the foothold in outer space, but there are goals that we have not reached here on earth. We are still building a just peace in the world.”