Richard Nixon: Speeches, Writings, Documents

By Richard Nixon; Rick Perlstein | Go to book overview

19.
“The great silent majority of my fellow
Americans” (November 3, 1969)

Nixon's most famous speech from his first term was,
on the one hand, a relatively complex and nuanced as-
sessment of the strategic situation in Vietnam, a history
lesson (if a misleading one), and the introduction of a
new doctrine, “Vietnamization”—the eventual with-
drawal of U.S. forces, alongside a demand for South
Vietnam to defend itself. On the other it was a scurri-
lous slandering of those Americans who had been beg-
ging for exactly that. He said that antiwar protesters—
two million had joined nationwide demonstrations two
weeks earlier—wanted America to “lose in Vietnam.”
They invited “defeat and humiliation.” Nixon, even as
he announced slow retreat in a war he already knew to
be a failure, asked for the support instead of that “great
silent majority” who understood that “North Vietnam
cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only
Americans can do that.”

The misdirection proved remarkably successful. Be-
fore the speech, 58 percent approved of his handling of
the war. Afterward, 77 percent did.

Good evening, my fellow Americans:

Tonight I want to talk to you on a subject of

-170-

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