Dan Evans' Keynote Address at the 1968 Republican National Convention (transcript)

  • Posted 11/20/2019
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20910

On August 5, 1968, Washington Governor Dan Evans delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. Evans, then 42 and a relative newcomer to national politics, was a rising star in the party known for his forward thinking and fresh ideas. In a speech lasting nearly 30 minutes, Evans touched on the war in Vietnam, urban decay at home, the growing reach of the federal government, and "the disintegration of the old order." The transcript is below.

'The Republican Hour'

DAN EVANS: Chairman. Delegates and alternates to the 1968 Republican National Convention. And my fellow citizens. Dwight D. Eisenhower once defined America's goal in these eloquent words: It is, he said, "lifting from the back and from the hearts of men, their burden of arms and fears, so that they may find before them a golden age of freedom and peace."

We have come to Miami to make that vision come true. And we shall leave here to elect the next President of the United States.

In a very real sense, this is the Republican hour.

Today, as never before, the nation demands new leadership: the fresh breeze of new energy, a full and honest reassessment of national goals, a new direction for its government and a new hope for its citizens.

Just as surely as we are assembled here this evening, there still remains a savage war in Vietnam and a savage war in the hearts of men seeking justice. And we cannot survive the both of them together for very much longer.

It is not simply a question of guns and butter. It is a matter of death abroad and poverty at home. I think it is time that we recognized each of them for what they really are.

It is a time when we must have new solutions to new problems; when a leadership encumbered by the past must surrender its place to the party whose hope lies with the future.

Let those who offer old promises step aside -- and let those who promise new opportunity step forward.

The United States is an uneasy nation on the eve of its most crucial political decision in this century.

We are frustrated by the fourth most costly war in our history -- a war in which we spend a million dollars every twenty minutes. A war which has cost has nearly 150,000 casualties and more than 20,000 lives; a war which -- under the present administration -- we have not won in Saigon, cannot negotiate in Paris and will not explain to the American people.

But if we are frustrated by a war on the mainland of Asia, we are even more burdened by the crisis in the main streets of America.

A crisis of violence and stolen hope, a crisis of lawlessness and injustice, an impulsive, reckless dissatisfaction with what we were -- and a desperate outcry for what we could be once again.

Above all, we are now witness to the disintegration of the old order:

Our system of welfare, so long promoted as a cure for social ills, has eliminated nothing -- with the possible exception of pride and incentive and human dignity.

The increasing dominance of the federal government has accomplished little -- except the immobilization of our states and destruction of local initiative.

The steady erosion of our cities has left us a legacy of physical decay and human misery. Where once they stood as the symbol of progress, they now founder as the graveyard of hope.

In this process, we have robbed the nation of its great resource of individual initiative and public responsibility; we have become creatures of the system instead of the engineers of progress.

A nation deaf to the pleadings of the young and dumbfounded by the violence of the poor. Instead of the makers of history, we have become the victims of history -- urged but not led, promised but not given, heard but not heeded.

Our economy stands in the constant jeopardy of inflation; our dollar loses prestige abroad while it loses value at home; we lose our youth in the agony of conscience as well as the agony of combat; we promote a singleness of purpose to our allies only to realize a division of purpose among ourselves.

We are a nation musclebound by its power, frustrated by the indecision of its leadership and fragmented by its great differences.

It is from this point that the Republican Party must now proceed. For it is leadership -- not the fundamental strength of this country -- which is at issue.

The nation's great resources -- its enormous capacity for good will, its culture, the traditions and institutions of two centuries, the skills and arts of its people -- these are not in doubt

Only their utilization, and only those who govern their use.

We began in revolt against the tyranny of an old and rigid order, and our institutions have remained strong, not by clinging to the past, but by adapting to the future -- by giving substance and direction to the heritage of liberty and independence.

Just as strength has kept us free, so has change kept us strong. And those who fear today's upheaval might do well to examine once again the progress of this nation through the past 200 years

What is now at stake is whether the Republican Party can rise to the challenge created by the winds of new direction or whether, in defiance of history, we choose to retreat when the nation so clearly calls.

This party under Abraham Lincoln resolved the question of political union and began the task of human rights;

This party under Dwight Eisenhower restored the balance of world power and advanced the cause of social justice;

I am convinced that this party can now best resolve the problems of war and peace which so severely test this country.

We can't remain on the sidelines while change and turmoil strike at the fabric of national purpose. For the deliverance of hope is contained in the demonstration of action, and this party, the Republican Party, for its own survival and for the sake of the nation, must be where the action is.

If we cannot find the courage to accept leadership, then we cannot expect to realize victory.

There is no quarrel that, above all, our party must remain dedicated to the principles of peace through strength and equal justice within the framework of law.

There is no excuse for weakness -- and no justification for lawlessness.

But we must recognize that strength is no substitute for sound policy and that the rule of law cannot prevail when its foundation is corrupted by injuries and inequality.

And we must recognize that unless and until we begin to deal with the matter of new priorities in this country, there will be no peace abroad and little security at home. We have stood for twenty years in defense of a free world. We have given as no other nation to the securing of world order and the pursuit of human progress. And for it we have paid a heavy price on the ledger of neglect -- not neglect in terms of ignorance but neglect in terms of priorities.

This does not mean that the United States would abandon its international commitments. A great power cannot view the world from behind the walls of political isolation nor economic protection.

Nor does it imply that we should withdraw from our obligations and responsibilities to ourselves and to the people of South Vietnam.

To have entered the war by the path of error does not mean we can leave through the door of default.

But it does mean that the first priority of the United States is the resolution of our internal conflict -- the recognition that if we can't unite our own nation, then we can't preserve the hope of others.

It is time now to reach inward -- to reach down and touch the troubled spirit of America.

It is time to confront the issues of poverty and disease and human dignity which lie beneath the violence that tears at every conscience just as it strikes fear in every heart.

We have a long and serious agenda before us and no easy road to its accomplishment. The problems of environment, of congestion, of urban decay and rural stagnation did not suddenly occur; they are the residue of years -- even of decades -- in which we devoted too much of ourselves to size and quantity and too little to shape and quality.

They are the residue of years in which we believed that welfare was a substitute for pride and that public charity could replace individual opportunity. But black America and poor America are teaching us a new langrage -- the language of participation. They say, "Let us share in your prosperity, let us have not another generation of servitude but a new generation of opportunity." And in this process, we are being reminded of something we very nearly forgot -- the nobility of the American dream.

That to own a share in business, to realize a profit of investment, to run a factory or a shop, to produce goods and see the money return to the community -- that these, not welfare, are the things which made America great, her people rich and her opportunity unlimited.

There is no place in that dream for a closed society, for a system which denies opportunity because of race, or the accident of birth, or geography or the misfortune of a family.

Only when everyone has a stake in the future of this country; only when the doors of private enterprise are opened to all -- only then will each person have something to preserve and something to build on for his children.

This nation must find a way for that to happen.

And I believe it can be found.

A nation which rebuilt the devastated economy of Europe after World War II can surely rebuild the devastated hopes of its own minorities.

And a nation which opened the frontier by offering its land to homesteaders can surely secure the future by sharing its promise of wealth.

We have heard another voice in this land -- the voice of youth. It has served notice that satisfaction can't be measured alone in dollars -- that there is a need for service and contribution beyond the attainment of material success.

For each of our youth who have dropped out, there are a hundred more who have stayed in; some radical, some demanding, some searching, some hoping, but all concerned.

Who in their concern to serve their country have set out across the land to participate in the exercise of political power;

Who give of their time to the poor, the uneducated, the mentally retarded, the blind and the helpless;

Who, in search of a brighter future for America, may have found themselves.

We dare not bank the fire of that hope, nor should we try to remake the young in the image of ourselves. For theirs is a new spirit -- a spirit of giving service, a spirit which treasures the values of brotherhood and human dignity and proclaims that they shall not be sacrificed by the pursuit of personal gain.

To break that spirit would be to bankrupt our future.

Instead, let us find the programs, the resources and the opportunity for these young people to serve society and the nation -- to participate in the political system, to be heard not for their wisdom or their years but for their dedication, their enterprise and their great aspirations for our country.

These are not the pleadings of a weak and useless generation; they are the strong voices of a generation which, given a chance, can lead America to a new unity, a new purpose and a new prosperity.

One group of Americans asks for economic opportunity; another group seeks an opportunity for service.

Both of them -- and indeed all Americans -- seek one thing above all: that their country reject the principle of a "help yourself" society and create the foundation of a "self-help" society.

Instead of welfare, they ask for a stake in our capital economy.

Instead of wealth, they ask for a role in creating a human society.

We must now begin the task of rebuilding a nation, and we must do so with the same vision and resourcefulness which gave this country birth and which created the richest, most powerful economy on earth.

For our direction and for our leadership we must turn, not alone to government, but to a new partnership; a partnership of government, private enterprise and the individual citizen. We must bring the resources of incentive, of private planning and management skill into a new and creative alliance -- the capitalism of social enterprise.

The problems of urban growth and rural stagnation -- the need for low-cost housing, for restoring our central cities, for creating new communities, for retraining the unemployed -- these needs are not apart from private enterprise. They are instead its newest and perhaps most significant challenge.

Government can establish a direction, but it can't construct the solutions of the next three decades.

Private enterprise and free labor can build, but they can't write and administer the laws which create profit opportunities and business incentives.

To this, now we must add the most important ingredient of all: the powerful contribution of the individual citizen, the citizen who sees in the commitment of service our best hope for the nation.

For it is in individual service that the hidden assets of America lie, the community of citizens who will give of their time, their talent and their education to the advancement of our country and its people. There are few so young and none so old that their abilities cannot find a need or their interests an outlet:

To individually tutor a disadvantaged child who has fallen behind in the process of learning;

To give hope to the mentally retarded through individual training;

To counsel a paroled convict in the responsibilities of renewed citizenship;

To advise and assist in the development of a remote Indian village;

To join together and bring pride to a community; to restore our belief in each other; to share our common burdens.

It is through this great partnership of committed service that we can ultimately fulfill our American Dream.

If these goals require an investment in patience, then let us invest; if they require money, then let us spend.

But let us realize that the challenge to the Republican Party lies within the problems of America, not outside of them.

It lies in the prevention of wars and not their prosecution;

In the advancement of men and not the destruction of mankind;

It lies in the ghettos just as surely as the suburbs;

In the factories just as clearly as on the farms;

In the hearts of all our people and in their great and growing aspirations.

The protests, the defiance of authority, the violence in the streets are more than isolated attacks upon the established order; they are the symptoms of the need for change and for a redefinition of what this country stands for and where it is going.

This opportunity now rests with the Republican Party, the party which in other critical times has risen above the luxury of debate and committed itself to the difficult, demanding resolution of this nation's problems.

The Republican Party is equal to the challenges of tomorrow:

The challenge of a new technology;

Of a new era of politics;

Of a new spirit of justice;

And of a new and abiding concern for the hopes of a restless society of equals.

We can mobilize the millions of people who share in the dream of a country reunited; the millions who share in the belief that we can secure equality without destroying liberty; that we can realize progress without surrendering principle.

Let us proceed, therefore, not in celebration but in the knowledge that what we do here may well determine the fate of a nation.

Let us debate not in fear of the present, but with faith in our future.

And let us unite to rally a great party in the cause of a great nation -- to seek progress with victory, to find "not a way out, but a way forward."

Thank you.

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