The Child in Nixon

The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.1

His professional career began with a private law firm four years before the Second World War, when he joined the U.S. Navy.  After leaving the military, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and later, to the Senate.  Afterward, the American people chose him as vice president to President Dwight Eisenhower, with whom he served two terms before losing a presidential race in one of the closest elections in history.  He returned to the national stage eight years later to accept his party’s nomination for president.2

“Tonight,” he said at the presidential convention, “I see the face of a child.”  The child was chosen to highlight what he described as an “intentionally dramatic” conclusion to his speech.  “He lives in a great city.  He is black, or he is white.  He is Mexican, Italian, Polish.  None of that matters. What matters, he’s an American child.”  The nomination speech was exactly four years before he announced a revolutionary Family Assistance Program so that children would no longer be valued differently by the federal government according to their respective states of residence.  With calm words during the nominating convention’s most exciting moments, he drew attention to the child on his mind.  “For him the American system is one that feeds his stomach and starves his soul.  It breaks his heart.” 3

“I want you to tell this to your children,” he said thirty six years ago today, “and I hope the Nation’s children will hear it, too – something in government service that is far more important than money.  It is a cause bigger than yourself.  It is the cause of making this the greatest nation in the world, the leader of the world.” 4

With problems like the Social Security system paying survivor benefits to children of deceased parents in some states, as opposed to children who find themselves in the same situation living in other states, leadership like Richard Nixon‘s could be used now to to influence legislative action for the silent majority of children in his thoughts.5


1.  John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 35:227.

2.  Daniel C. Diller, “Biographies of the Presidents,” in Guide to the Presidency, Third Edition, 2 vols., ed. Michael Nelson (Washington: CQ Press, 2002), 1559-1561.

3.  Richard Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978), 315.  Richard Nixon, Speeches, Writings, Documents, ed. Rick Perlstein (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 163-169.

4.  J.F. Watts and Fred L. Israel, Presidential Documents: The Speeches, Proclamations, and Policies That Have Shaped the Nation from Washington to Clinton (New York: Routledge, 2000), 346-350.

5.  Ashby Jones, “Fertility’s New Legal Front: In Many States, a Baby Conceived After a Father Dies Can’t Get Survivor Benefits.” The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2010, U.S. News.