My fellow Americans:
I have an announcement to make to you tonight of the greatest national importance. As you know, the Senate has voted this afternoon to remove me from the Office of the Presidency. That, of course, is their right under the Constitution of the United States of America, and as you know, I have not interfered in any way with their deliberations on this matter, as I did not interfere some weeks ago when the House of Representatives arrived at their decision after their own deliberations. They have a right to express their opinion, as does any American, without Presidential interference or pressure of any kind from the Executive branch. That is what is known as the separation of powers. You probably know by now that there were even members of my own political party among those in the Legislative branch who voted to remove me from the Presidency. I consider that to be a vigorous and reassuring sign of their independence of mind, and of their personal integrity. I applaud them for their actions, which can only strengthen the democratic processes here at home, and enhance the image of American democracy abroad.
However, according to the doctrine of the separation of powers, the Executive branch has an equal voice in the management of government, along with the Legislative and the Judicial branches. That, after all, is only fair. It is what is meant by “The American Way.” Moreover, the President, which I am, has the sole responsibility for safeguarding the security of the nation. That responsibility is spelled out in the oath of office, which, as you all know, every President takes on Inauguration Day. President Washington, whose picture you see here, took that oath. So did President Lincoln, pictured here. And so did our great President Dwight David Eisenhower, whose grandson has just completed serving his country in the United States Navy and is married to my daughter Julie, whom you see pictured here. My other daughter, Tricia, is pictured here, in her wedding dress. And of course standing beside Tricia is my wife Pat. My fellow Americans, I owe it not only to these great American Presidents who preceded me in this high office, but to my family, and to you and your families, to respect and honor that oath to which I swore on the Holy Bible on my Inauguration Day. To speak personally, I just couldn’t live with myself if I went ahead and shirked my duty to safeguard the security of the nation.
And that is why I have decided tonight to remain in this Office. My fellow Americans, though I respect the sincerity and the integrity of those Senators who voted earlier in the day for my removal, I find, after careful study and grave reflection, that to accept their decision would be to betray the trust placed in me by the American people, and to endanger the security and the well-being of this nation.
As you all know, there has never been an American President yet who has stepped down in the middle of his term of office because of Congressional pressure of any kind. That is something for which there is just no precedent in American history—and, let me tell you, straight from the shoulder, I don’t intend to break the record my predecessors have established of standing up under fire.
You know, no one, I don’t care which party he belongs to, expects this Office to be a bed of roses. If he does he shouldn’t run for the Presidency to begin with. As the late President Truman put it—and you remember, Harry Truman didn’t always see eye to eye on everything with us Republicans—“If you can’t take the heat, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen.” Well, I happen to pride myself on the amount of heat I’ve taken over the years—some of it, as you older folks may remember, in a kitchen in the Soviet Union with Premier Khrushchev. But in the name of the American people, I stood up to Premier Khrushchev in that kitchen; and in the name of the American people, I am standing up to the Congress tonight.
Richard Nixon is not going to be the first President in American history to be removed from office by the Legislative branch. I am sure that is not the kind of President that the American people elected me to be. Frankly, if I were to give in to this Congressional pressure to remove me from Office, if I were to come on television tonight to tell you, yes, President Nixon is quitting because he can’t take the heat, well, that to my mind would constitute a direct violation of my oath of office, and I would in fact voluntarily step down from the Presidency, out of a sense of having profoundly failed you, the American people, whose decision it was to place me in office in the first place.
My fellow Americans, during my years as President, I have as you know devoted myself to one goal above and beyond all others: the goal of world peace. As I talk to you here tonight, negotiations and discussions are being conducted around the globe by Dr. Kissinger, Secretary Rogers, and key members of the Department of State to bring peace with honor to America, and to all of mankind. These negotiations are taking place at the highest diplomatic level and necessarily in secret—but I am pleased to report to you tonight that we are pursuing them with every hope of success.
Now I am sure that no one in Congress would willingly or knowingly want to endanger the chances of world peace, for us, for our children, and for generations to come. And yet, by calling upon the President to pack up and quit just because the going is a little rough, that is precisely what they are doing. And that is precisely why I will not quit. I happen to care more about world peace now and for generations to come than about making myself popular with a few of my critics in the Congress. Oh, I am sure that the easier choice would be to retire to San Clemente and bask there in the honors and tributes that we Americans lavish upon our former Presidents. But I prefer to take the hard road, the high road, if that is the road that leads to the end of warfare and to world peace for our children and our children’s children. My fellow Americans, I was raised to be a Quaker, not a quitter.
Now I have to say some things to you that you may not care to hear, especially those of you who try to think the best of our country, as I do myself. But tonight I must speak the truth, unpleasant as it may be; you deserve no less. My fellow Americans, I understand there are going to be those in Congress who will not respect the decision I have announced here tonight, as I respected theirs, arrived at earlier in the day. We have reason to believe that there are those who are going to try to make political capital out of what I have said to you tonight from the bottom of my heart. There are even going to be some who will use my words to attempt to create a national crisis in order to reap political gain for themselves or their party. And, most dangerous of all, there are some elements in the country, given to violence and lawlessness as a way of life, who may attempt to use force to remove me from Office.
Let me quickly reassure you that this administration will not tolerate lawlessness of any kind. This administration will not permit the time-honored constitutional principle of the separation of powers to be subverted by a disgruntled, ambitious, or radical minority. This administration intends to maintain and defend that great American tradition that has come down to us unbroken from the days of the Founding Fathers—the great tradition of a President of the United States, duly elected by the people of the United States, serving out his term in office without violent interference by those who disagree with his policies. Disagreement and dissent are, of course, in the great tradition of a democracy like our own; but the violent overthrow of the elected government is something that is repugnant to me, as it is to every American, and so long as I am President, I promise you that I will deal promptly and efficiently with those who advocate or engage in violence as a means of bringing about political change.
In order to discourage those who would resort to violence of any kind, in order to maintain law and order in the nation and to safeguard the welfare and well-being of law-abiding American citizens, I have tonight, in my constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief, ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to place the Armed Forces on a stand-by alert around the nation. The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have also been advised to take all necessary steps to ensure domestic tranquility. The National Guard has already been notified and throughout the fifty states units are being mobilized for duty. Furthermore, state and local police have been encouraged to request whatever assistance they may require, in the way of personnel or equipment, in order to maintain law and order in your communities.
My fellow Americans, I swore upon taking this office to safeguard this nation and its citizens, and I intend to stand on my word. No one—and that includes Congressmen and Senators, just as it does the armed revolutionary—is going to tell the American people that they cannot have sitting in the White House the President they have chosen in a free and open election. And I don’t care whether that President happens to be myself, President Washington, President Lincoln, or President Eisenhower. I give you every assurance tonight that the President you, the American people, elected for a second four-year term will not permit the votes you cast so overwhelmingly in his favor to have been cast in vain.
God bless each and every one of you.
June 14, 1973