Since 1870, the United States has officially celebrated Christmas as a nation and as a result has declared as a nation the belief in the coming of the Savior to earth. Just as the official Thanksgiving proclamations of the Presidents declare that our nation depends upon the grace and mercy of the LORD God to exist, the celebration of Christmas declares the nation’s faith in the manifestation of that grace and mercy in the birth of the Messiah.
Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
December 16, 1969
Mr. Secretary, Mr. Congressman, Mr. Mayor, members of the Diplomatic Corps, and my fellow Americans:
I wish to express appreciation for the very generous statements that have been made and the citation read just a few moments ago and also for the flowers that have been presented to Mrs. Nixon, and also to the choir from Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has entertained us in such, it seems to me, a moving way in this Christmas season.
As we look at this great tree, we are reminded of the fact that all over America during these next 2 weeks there will be trees in American homes. Forty-five million American homes will have Christmas trees that they will be lighting each in their own way.
This tree has a special meaning. It belongs to all the Nation. And that is why, as we look at this tree we think of America; we think of its role in the world; we think of the past, and we think of the future and, particularly, I think we understand that this is a very significant year in the history of our country, because it is the last Christmas of the sixties.
Next year, we enter the year of the seventies; and in the period of the seventies, the United States has a great challenge, a great challenge for the role of leadership which is ours, one that we accept, one that we did not ask for, but one in which we will meet that challenge and meet it effectively.
As we enter the years of the seventies, I think it might be well for us to get a historical perspective–to think a moment of this tree, a tree, incidentally, that grew up in the home county of my father in Ohio. That tree, incidentally, is 70 years of age, and I was thinking and you probably now may think with me of what America was just 70 years ago.
There were only 75 million people in America then. There were no automobiles. There was no television. There were no radios. There were no airplanes.
America was not the major power of the world. It was a strong nation, but not as strong as many others in the world. And now in just 70 years, we look at America today as we enter the decade of the seventies. We have 200 million people, and by the end of the century, just 35 years more, 30 years more, we will be 300 million people.
And if we want to get the statistics on the other points that I mentioned, there are 85 million television sets, there are 80 million automobiles, there are 300 million radios in America, and 150,000 airplanes.
And we can point to the fact, too, that in this country of ours today, as distinguished from just 70 years ago when that tree was just a sapling out in Ohio–today America is the richest nation in the world; we are the strongest nation in the world. All of these things of course we look to; we point to them with a certain sense of pride. We also recognize that there is another difference, a difference which we should recognize and a difference that we want to correct. Seventy years ago, America was at peace. Today, America is not at peace.
And what we want for this Nation is not only peace now but peace in the years to come, peace for all people in the years to come.
What we must realize, too, that while America did not seek this role of world leadership, that except for the United States of America and the power that we have, that no other nation in the free world today could be free and could expect to have peace unless it were for the strength of the United States.
They could not have peace, except the kind of peace that suffocates freedom. This, as I said, is a role America did not seek. We are the first power to be the major power in the world that did not ask for it; but America, nevertheless, recognizes its role, and we are trying in our own way, sometimes imperfectly, but always, I trust, with high idealism, to meet that responsibility.
So, today I say to you that as we enter the decade of the seventies, America will continue to be rich; America will continue to have more of this world’s goods; there will be more television sets and more radios and more automobiles; and, Mr. Secretary, we hope during the decade of the seventies that we will be able to have clean air, clean water, and make progress in all the great problems, including an end to hunger in this country, something we are capable of doing today that we couldn’t have done 70 years ago.
But above everything else in this Christmas season, as we open this Pageant of Peace and as we light this Nation’s Christmas tree, our wish, our prayer, is for peace, the kind of peace that we can live with, the kind of peace that we can be proud of, the kind of peace that exists not just for now but that gives a chance for our children also to live in peace.
That is what we believe in. That is what Americans stand for and that, believe me, is what we shall have.
And my friends, I also say to you that as we look at this great tree, there is an old saying about Christmas trees. It goes something like this: May a Christmas tree be as sturdy as faith, as high as hope, as wide as love. And I could add, may a Christmas tree, our Christmas tree, be as beautiful as peace.
I think it is. I think it will be. And may this moment be one that history will record was one in which America looked forward to a decade of the seventies in which we could celebrate our Christmases at peace with all the world.
And now with this electronic device, which also did not exist 70 years ago, we light the tree.
Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
December 16, 1970
I KNOW we want to express our very grateful appreciation to the Mormon Choir and to the Friends University Symphonic Choir for their participation and particularly under the rather adverse weather conditions which I know are very hard for those of you here in the audience.
As I was preparing my Christmas message to the Nation, it occurred to me that when we light the national Christmas tree, we do so not only as a Nation but really as a family, a family of more than 200 million members.
This week and next week millions of, trees all over America will be lighted just as we light this tree today. And all over America families will be gathering together.
At Christmas I think we all think of things like Currier and Ives prints, of snow and Santa Claus, of love and laughter and homecoming. For this is part of the spirit of Christmas. It speaks to something deep and eternal in the human spirit, a yearning for hope, a celebration of life, a wish to put aside all the care and the discord that press in upon us so much of the rest of the year, a wish to let “the better angels of our nature” sing a little and to sing along with them.
The spirit of Christmas is joyous, because it is the spirit of peace–a spirit of loving, of giving, of caring, and letting the light of life shine through.
I received a Christmas card the other day–and thousands of Christmas cards come to the President of the United States and his family–but this one particularly I remember from a lady in California. She wrote something on it. Let me read what she wrote:
“During this Christmas season and throughout the new year, all Americans would like to have peace in the world, peace in our homes, and especially peace in our hearts”–peace in the world, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts.
In the Christmas season, we do find peace in our hearts. We find it because this is a time for celebrating the simple things and the personal things, the things that mean so much to us in human terms. We celebrate the love that unites a family and the little acts of kindness, the touch of a hand, the words of comfort, the extra care that a mother takes as she bakes a Christmas pie.
And we think of the poor and the needy and the lonely, and we think of them not as problems, but as people with problems, and we try to help.
And in the act of giving we discover once again how good it feels to give. We find peace in our hearts that way.
As families gather together and those who have been away come home, we discover once again the joys of sharing. We remember the past Christmases. We remember the little incidents of our childhood and how important the little things can be, the mending of a broken toy, the happiness of a grandfather at the sight of his grandchild’s smile, and, together again, we find peace in our families.
And then in this larger family, this national family that we call America, of which all of us are a part, we find ourselves drawn together. We find that in the spirit of Christmas, in the spirit of peace, we can put aside what divides us and rediscover what really unites us–the concern for one another, the love of liberty and justice, the knowledge that we are a great Nation because we are a great and diverse people.
We are a national family of many different outlooks and many different hopes and many different problems. But what holds us together is that we respect one another, that we care about one another so that we draw strength from our differences as we address our problems.
Just the other evening when I opened’ the White House Conference on Children, I recalled something that Edmund Burke once said. What patriotism really means is love of country. And Burke reminded us that for us to love our country, our country must be lovely.
I want young Americans to learn to love America, not because it is the richest country in the world, and it is, and not because it is the strongest country in the world or merely because you happen to have been born here, but I want young Americans and all Americans to love America because this is a good country, and because we can, in our making it better, and because it therefore is truly a lovely country.
This, I think, is the spirit of the American family, knowing that there is much to be done, striving together to do it, and knowing that at heart, in the human sense of heart, this is a lovely country.
In this spirit, we can find peace in our larger family.
And our greatest hope in this Christmas season and in all seasons is, of course, peace in the whole world. We can be grateful in this Christmas season that already we have been able to bring 200,000 men back from Vietnam, more coming home. We can look forward with assurance to an end of that war. And as we look around the world, we see that there are still many other danger spots. And there are also many other threats to the peace of the world.
But because of the progress that we have made over the past e years, as I stand here before you, the American people, in this Christmas season, I believe that I can confidently say that we now have the best chance since the end of World War II to build what we have not had in this whole century, a full generation of peace.
As we look forward to that great hope of a generation of peace, we think especially of our children, and at Christmas we think especially of our children.
And as we light this great tree, and as millions of other trees are lighted in homes across the land, we do so in a spirit of peace and love and gathering together.
And as the lights go on, we know that these lights will reflect the light in the eyes of millions of children and the light of hope that stirs in millions of hearts, for the true light of Christmas is not the light on the tree. It is the light in the eyes of a child.
And now we come to the big moment we have all been waiting for. We are going to light the tree, and because this is a very big tree, I understand that I am going to have some help to light it.
And I am going to go down here in the audience and pick out one of the children to help me press the button to light the tree. I see we have lots of volunteers.
Now, we picked this boy out. He is the smallest boy here. But he can do this, I know, very well. And his name is Andre.
December 24, 1970
CHRISTMAS is a family time. Let us make it, at Christmas 1970, a time when we have a very special sense of Americans as a national family. Let us put aside what divides us and rediscover what unites us-concern for one another, love of liberty and justice, pride in our own diversity. Let us resolve to work together to right old wrongs and heal old wounds, to do what needs to be done to make this a better country and a better world for all of our children.
Our greatest hope at Christmas 1970-and at every Christmastime of course–is for peace in the world. This Christmas we can be thankful that we are making progress toward peace.
Peace is a fragile thing, and there are dangers that threaten it in many parts of the world. But I firmly believe that, in this Christmas season, we can look forward with greater confidence than at any time since World War II to the prospect that our children can have, at last, what we all devoutly hope for: a generation of peace.
December 23, 1971
CHRISTMAS is a season of joy and of love, and also a time for reflection.
We think, in this season, of those who are closest to our hearts, even though they may be far away in miles. We pause to give special thought to those in need, and to the universal bonds that link all mankind in brotherhood under God. In doing so, we touch something basic and good in the human spirit: that special grace that makes this a time of giving, and of forgiving–a time of goodwill, when we know the true peace that lodges in the heart.
As we work toward peace in the world, let us do so both inspired and strengthened by this peace in the heart.
As we give to one another, in the spirit of Christmas, let us give of ourselves. For one of the lessons of Christmas is this: among God’s greatest gifts to man is the gift of giving itself, and the more we give of ourselves the more of ourselves we have to give.
Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
December 14, 1973
Mr. Dixon, Mr. Secretary, all of the distinguished guests on the platform, all of the ladies and gentlemen, all of the children here in the audience, and our television and radio audience across this land:
I think one of the greatest privileges that a President of the United States has is to light the Christmas tree, the Nation’s Christmas tree, because it belongs to. all the Nation, here in the Nation’s Capital.
This year, as the Secretary has already indicated, the tree is different. This year, Christmas will be different in terms of lights, perhaps, all across America. Instead of having many lights on the tree, as you will see over there in a few moments, there will be only one on it, the star at the top, and the other lights you see will simply be the glitter from the ground lights which are around the tree.
And in a way, I suppose one could say with only one light on the tree, this will be a very dreary Christmas, but we know that isn’t true, because the spirit of Christmas is not measured by the number of lights on a tree. The spirit of Christmas is measured by the love that each of us has in his heart for his family, for his friends, for his fellow Americans, and for people all over the world. And this year, while we have a problem, a problem the Secretary has alluded to, the problem of energy, I think that what we can all be thankful for is that it is a problem of peace and not a problem of war. That is what Americans can be thankful for.
This year we will drive a little slower. This year the thermostats will be a little lower. This year every American perhaps will sacrifice a little, but no one will suffer. But we will do it for a great goal, the goal, first, of seeing to it that in a year when our energy supplies are not as high as we need, we can prepare for the future, and also a year in which America will make a great stride forward toward a new, great goal, and that is, by the year 1980 this Nation, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary of independence in 1976-by 1980 will celebrate Project Independence, when we are independent of any other country in the world where our energy supply is concerned. That we can do.
As we consider these problems of peace, I think also we must be thankful, as the Secretary has already indicated, for the fact that this is the first Christmas in 12 years that a President has stood here at a time when America was at peace with every nation in the world.
It is the first Christmas in 8 years when no American prisoner of war is away from home at Christmas. And to all of these young people, and particularly to our very distinguished young people who participated in this program, it is also a Christmas for the first time in 20 years when no young American is being drafted for the armed services. That is what peace means to America.
It would be well, of course, for us to stand simply on that achievement, but we know that there will always be threats to the peace of the world, and that is where we come in, and where each American comes in, looking to the future. Because as we look at the chances not just of getting peace, which we have now achieved, but of keeping peace, which we have not been able to do for a full generation, for a century, then what happens in America will decide it, whether America has the strength not just of its arms but more, of its spirit to provide’ the leadership that the world needs to keep the trouble spots in the world from blowing up into war and to build that permanent structure of peace that we all want.
It is that to which we dedicate ourselves as we light the Nation’s Christmas tree tonight. Let the year 1974 be one in which we make great progress toward the goal of a lasting peace, peace not only for America but for all nations, peace between peoples who have different forms of government, but who nevertheless can be friends.
A moment ago when the flowers were presented to Mrs. Nixon by Tyna, I remembered an occasion in 1959 when a little girl presented flowers to her in the Ural Mountains in Russia. We were driving through the mountains, and a group of schoolchildren stopped the cavalcade for a few moments and they presented flowers to Mrs. Nixon. And when they did so in this year 1959, when the cold war was still going on, they shouted out “Friendship, friendship” in English. When we got back into the car, our guide, Mr. Zhukov, said to me that the first word that a Russian child who learns English and studies English in a Russian school learns is the word “friendship.” That is the first English word the Russian child learns.
Now, I do not mean to suggest by that that because a Russian child is taught, when he first studies English, the word “friendship” that it is inevitable that the Russian people and the American people are not going to have differences as far as their governments are concerned, but I do know this: We have had the great privilege, Mrs. Nixon and I, of traveling to most of the nations of the world, to the nations of Africa, to the nations of Asia, to China, to Russia, and I can tell you that the people of the world want peace, the people of the world want friendship, and every American, I know, wants his country and his Government to take the lead in building a world of peace.
As this Christmas season begins, let us just remember we do have some problems which we will overcome, but they are the problems of peace. And we also have a great challenge, the challenge of helping to build a structure of peace that all the 3 billion people in this world can enjoy. What a wonderful achievement that can be.
There are times, of course, when we tire of the challenge. There are times when we would not like to accept that position of leadership, but let us remember that unless America, at this time in history, accepts the responsibility to lead for peace, we may not have it in the world.
I think we can meet the challenge. I am sure we will. And on this particular day, in this year 1973, as we look at the beginning of the year 1974, let us so conduct ourselves as a people, let us so conduct ourselves as a nation in our leadership toward peace that in the years to come, people, not only in America but all over the world, will look back at what we have done, will look back and say “God bless America.”
MR. JOHN W. DIXON (president, 1973 Christmas Pageant of Peace Committee). Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mrs. Nixon, for being here.
Mr. President, on behalf of the American people, I would like to ask you to do us the honor of lighting the National Community Christmas Tree.
THE PRESIDENT. Now I would like to suggest that this honor should be shared, and who better to share it with but young Americans, so if Tyna and Warren would join me here, we will press this button together and light the tree.
There! We got it.