Being A Speech By Gerald R. Ford On April 23, 1975, At The Peak Of The Vietnam Upheaval. President Ford Gave The Speech Amid The International Turmoil Surrounding The End Of The Vietnam War In April 1975. On The Very Day The President Gave This Speech, 100,000 North Vietnamese Soldiers Were Advancing Toward Saigon, South Vietnam’s Capital.
It is really a great privilege and a very high honor to have an opportunity of participating again in a student activity at Tulane University. And for this opportunity, I thank you very, very much.
Each time that I have been privileged to visit Tulane, I have come away newly impressed with the intense application of the student body to the great issues of our time, and I am pleased tonight to observe that your interest hasn’t changed one bit.
As we came into the building tonight, I passed a student who looked up from his book and said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins but with a single step.” To indicate my interest in him, I asked, “Are you trying to figure out how to get your goal in life?” He said, “No, I am trying to figure out how to get to the Super Dome in September.” [Laughter] Well, I don’t think there is any doubt in my mind that all of you will get to the Super Dome. Of course, I hope it is to see the Green Wave [Tulane University] have their very best season on the gridiron. I have sort of a feeling that you wouldn’t mind making this another year in which you put the Tigers [Louisiana State University] in your tank.
When I had the privilege of speaking here in 1968 at your “Directions ’68″ forum, I had no idea that my own career and our entire Nation would move so soon in another direction. And I say again, I am extremely proud to be invited back.
I am impressed, as I undoubtedly said before — but I would reiterate it tonight — by Tulane’s unique distinction as the only American university to be converted from State sponsorship to private status. And I am also impressed by the Tulane graduates who serve in the United States Congress: Bennett Johnston, Lindy Boggs, Dave Treen.
Eddie Hebert, when I asked him the question whether he was or not, and he said he got a special degree: Dropout ’28. [Laughter]
But I think the fact that you have these three outstanding graduates testifies to the academic excellence and the inspiration of this historic university, rooted in the past with its eyes on the future.
Just as Tulane has made a great transition from the past to the future, so has New Orleans, the legendary city that has made such a unique contribution to our great America. New Orleans is more, as I see it, than weathered bricks and cast-iron balconies. It is a state of mind, a melting pot that represents the very, very best of America’s evolution, an example of retention of a very special culture in a progressive environment of modern change.
On January 8, 1815, a monumental American victory was achieved here — the Battle of New Orleans. Louisiana had been a State for less than three years, but outnumbered Americans innovated, outnumbered Americans used the tactics of the frontier to defeat a veteran British force trained in the strategy of the Napoleonic wars.
We as a nation had suffered humiliation and a measure of defeat in the War of 1812. Our National Capital in Washington had been captured and burned. So, the illustrious victory in the Battle of New Orleans was a powerful restorative to our national pride.
Yet, the victory at New Orleans actually took place two weeks after the signing of the armistice in Europe. Thousands died although a peace had been negotiated. The combatants had not gotten the word. Yet, the epic struggle nevertheless restored America’s pride.
Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned. As I see it, the time has come to look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the Nation’s wounds, and to restore its health and its optimistic self-confidence.
In New Orleans, a great battle was fought after a war was over. In New Orleans tonight, we can begin a great national reconciliation. The first engagement must be with the problems of today, but just as importantly, the problems of the future. That is why I think it is so appropriate that I find myself tonight at a university which addresses itself to preparing young people for the challenge of tomorrow.
I ask that we stop refighting the battles and the recriminations of the past. I ask that we look now at what is right with America, at our possibilities and our potentialities for change and growth and achievement and sharing. I ask that we accept the responsibilities of leadership as a good neighbor to all peoples and the enemy of none. I ask that we strive to become, in the finest American tradition, something more tomorrow than we are today.
Instead of my addressing the image of America, I prefer to consider the reality of America. It is true that we have launched our Bicentennial celebration without having achieved human perfection, but we have attained a very remarkable self-governed society that possesses the flexibility and the dynamism to grow and undertake an entirely new agenda, an agenda for America’s third century.
So, I ask you to join me in helping to write that agenda. I am as determined as a President can be to seek national rediscovery of the belief in ourselves that characterized the most creative periods in our Nation’s history. The greatest challenge of creativity, as I see it, lies ahead.
We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina. But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America’s leadership in the world.
Let me put it this way, if I might. Some tend to feel that if we do not succeed in everything everywhere, then we have succeeded in nothing anywhere. I reject categorically such polarized thinking. We can and we should help others to help themselves. But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours.
America’s future depends upon Americans — especially your generation, which is now equipping itself to assume the challenges of the future, to help write the agenda for America.
Earlier today, in this great community, I spoke about the need to maintain our defenses. Tonight, I would like to talk about another kind of strength, the true source of American power that transcends all of the deterrent powers for peace of our Armed Forces. I am speaking here of our belief in ourselves and our belief in our Nation.
Abraham Lincoln asked, in his own words, and I quote, “What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence?” And he answered, “It is not our frowning battlements or bristling seacoasts, our Army or our Navy. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere.”
It is in this spirit that we must now move beyond the discords of the past decade. It is in this spirit that I ask you to join me in writing an agenda for the future.
I welcome your invitation particularly tonight, because I know it is at Tulane and other centers of thought throughout our great country that much consideration is being given to the kind of future Americans want and, just as importantly, will work for. Each of you are preparing yourselves for the future, and I am deeply interested in your preparations and your opinions and your goals. However, tonight, with your indulgence, let me share with you my own views.
I envision a creative program that goes as far as our courage and our capacities can take us, both at home and abroad. My goal is for a cooperative world
To be contd