Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969

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Author: Richard M. Nixon  | Date: November 27, 1969

464
Remarks at a Thanksgiving Day Dinner for Senior Citizens at the White House.
November 27, 1969

Ladies and gentlemen:

We are just delighted to welcome you here on this Thanksgiving Day. We apologize for the delay but apparently some of the buses were a little bit late and we wanted to be sure everybody could be seated before the Thanksgiving dinner began.

This is really a very historic occasion for this house—this very great house which belongs to all the people of America. This is the biggest dinner that has been held in the White House since this administration came to Washington, and one of the biggest ever.

This room is full. We have never, in this administration, had dinner in this room, the famous East Room. And the dining room is full, too. We think there is a very good reason for it to be at this dinner, because of the people we are honoring.

We were trying to think on this Thanksgiving Day what group we could invite to be with us. In our family we always had Thanksgiving as a family day. We have in the past, and we do now.

Our parents cannot be here now, butwe wanted people who have been with this Nation for so many years, who have lived good lives, to be here as our guests today. We feel that you are part of our family and we invite you here and we hope you enjoy this house as part of our family—the White House family, the American family.

I also would like to say that in this room you are going to have, as your very special hostess today, a very great lady, who for 8 years presided over this house as the First Lady of America, Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower. She is accompanied by her uncle,1 who came all the way from Iowa here.

1Joel Carlson, 89, of Boone, Iowa.

Now I am not going to tell you his age, but I do understand that among our guests here, everyone is young in heart, but I understand there is at least one who might be 98. Is that one person in this room or is he in the other room?

Hold up your hand. Nobody is going to admit it anyway. [Laughter]

Oh, here we are. Let’s be sure that everybody sees him. How about a hand for the oldest person in the room—98 years old.2

2Michael Dunnigan, from the Little Sisters. of the Poor home.

Incidentally, right now I invite you back to the White House on your 100th birthday, right here. You are going to be here.

Now I just close with this final thought. You have seen the menu. It is the usual kind of menu that we have, of course, the turkey, with all of the things that go with it, and pumpkin pie for dessert. And when I noticed that we were having turkey, I was reminded of the fact that when this country began, that Benjamin Franklin, when there was a great debate as to what the national symbol of the country should be, argued that it should be the turkey rather than the eagle.

Now I think he was a very wise man, but I think the decision to have it the eagle was a little better. I think when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, it would have sounded rather funny to say, "Turkey has landed," and today I think you will all agree you would not want to eat eagle.

So we do have turkey today. We hope you will enjoy being here as much as we enjoy having you.

I want you to meet your other hosts in this room, my daughter, Tricia, and Susie Eisenhower,3 the granddaughter of Mrs. Eisenhower.

3Susan Eisenhower, daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Belgium John Eisenhower, the late President’s son.

Now if you will excuse us, we will go into the other room to welcome the guests there.

And Mrs. Eisenhower, you take over. You have lots of experience.

[The above remarks were addressed to a group of senior citizens dining in the East Room. The President then went to the State Dining Room to address other members of the group there.]

We want to welcome you here to the White House today and to tell you how honored we are to have you in this room. Our dinner has been a bit delayed because, as some of you who may have been on the last bus know, the last bus didn’t get here until about 10 minutes ago, and we wanted to be sure that everybody was in the room before we had a chance to come in to welcome you, verybriefly, before you have what we think will be a very good White House Thanksgiving dinner.

You, in this room, are in what is called the State Dining Room. This is the room normally which is set up to seat approximately 100 people. I thought you would be interested to know how usually it is fixed. Usually the table is set in a "U" shape or "E" shape, with the heads of state or government sitting at that end of the room and then coming down this way.

But for occasions like this, we find we can get a few more in if we use the round tables. So in order to get all the people in as guests today—and I think there are 120 in this room today—we have the round tables.

But it gives you a chance to talk a little more around the round tables rather than that big, long table. And we knew you would enjoy doing that, meeting perhaps some of your friends and also others who may be living in this neighborhood.

Also, I would like you to know that in this room over the years many great events have occurred, going back to all of our Presidents except for General Washington, who, of course, did not use the White House because it was not built until John Adams became President.

But in this room many great people have been honored. There have been kings, emperors, prime ministers, presidents, and other distinguished people. I have been here for dinners honoring Winston Churchill, Prime Minister Nehru, and, just recently, the Shah of Iran and Prince Philip of England—all of these people whom you have heard about and who have been here.

But I want you to know that for Mrs. Nixon and for me and for our family, we don’t think that on this Thanksgiving Day anyone deserves being honored more in the White House than our guests today, those who are here. Because for us, Thanksgiving is always a special family day and we like to have our family with us.

We think you are family. You feel that way to us and you are part of the great American family. Today, in honoring you, we honor all of you across the country who have lived good lives, long lives in America, and who are here today with us.

I would just conclude with this thought. On Thanksgiving we do tend to try to think of those things we should be thankful for, and we also try not to put emphasis on some of the things that perhaps bother us so much. This is good, because if we were always thinking of our troubles, it would be a pretty sad world in which to live.

I think in terms of you who are here, of the lives you have led and what has happened, if you were to look at the dark side of it, it has been a rather bad time to be alive. You can point to the fact that we have had four wars. You can point to the fact that we have had a depression during your lifetime, most of you who have lived here. And this, of course, is the bad side.

Then, on the other side, of course, you can think of what has happened to America in this period—some of the good things—and what has happened to the world. I was thinking that 66 years ago—it is only that long ago—the Wright brothers first flew. Just think what has happened since then. The astronautstwice have landed on the moon, and who would have thought that would happen. And we are lucky enough to have seen it all happen in our lifetime.

We have seen other things happen. We have seen the United States grow to be the strongest nation, the richest nation in the world. And we also know that as we look around the world, despite our difficulties—difficulties that we constantly attempt to resolve—that when you go to other countries of the world, as I have traveled to most of them, along with Mrs. Nixon, as we have traveled, we see many great things, we see many fine people; but when we return I can say we realize that we are very fortunate to be in the United States of America, to live in this country.

This is a great country and a good country and if you have any doubt about it, just go other places and then come back again.

I think you should know that in the other room, the East Room, that Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower stayed there as the special hostess for that room. As you know, she presided over this house with such great distinction and also with such great charm for 8 years.

In this room we have Mrs. Nixon, my wife, and then you get an Eisenhower, too—you get two of them—David and Julie Eisenhower. They will be in this room.

I would like to tell you, incidentally, that Mrs. Nixon baked the turkey. She did not. But I want you to know this: that up until about 4 or 5 years ago, she always did. She can bake a real good turkey, and I hope it is as good today as she can bake, I can assure you.

Now I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. We are honored to have you with us.

Incidentally, I understand that there might be one other person in this room who is 98 years of age. There is one in the other room.

Ninety-three over here? Is there anybody else over 90 in this room?

Ninety-three? Well, let’s give a hand to the oldest guest.5 We are very happy to have you here.

5The 93-year-old Missourian was John W. Graves of Neosho, a resident of the National Lutheran Home for the Aged in Washington, D.C.

From Missouri? We are glad to have somebody from what we call the very heart of the country here. I know President Truman will be glad we had a Missourian right here today. Independence?

Just let me say this: After hearing you talk at 93 years of age, those people in Missouri must be real strong. We wish you many happy returns, and many good birthdays in the future. Thank you very much, and we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

Did you hear that? He has never had a sick day. I am going to have the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare come over to talk to you and get your formula so we can pass it around the country. I want to get your formula, too.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:36 p.m. in the East Room and at 1:42 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House to some 220 senior citizens from the Washington area.

Following the President’s remarks, his daughter, Julie Eisenhower, offered a short grace before the meal. Her prayer is printed in the Weekly Compilation of presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1667).

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Chicago: Richard M. Nixon, "464 Remarks at a Thanksgiving Day Dinner for Senior Citizens at the White House.," Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049 972–974. Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YGFRXFSFCC434M.

MLA: Nixon, Richard M. "464 Remarks at a Thanksgiving Day Dinner for Senior Citizens at the White House." Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp. 972–974. Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YGFRXFSFCC434M.

Harvard: Nixon, RM, '464 Remarks at a Thanksgiving Day Dinner for Senior Citizens at the White House.' in Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp.972–974. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YGFRXFSFCC434M.