7.15.71 – The Nixon Shock

    The term “Nixon Shock” is generally made in reference to the August 15, 1971 speech in which President Nixon announced he would take the nation off the gold standard. But only one month prior there was an earlier Nixon shock, one which sparked lasting change around the world, and caused The Washington Post to write, “If Mr. Nixon had revealed he was going to the moon, he could not have flabbergasted his world audience more.”

    On this day in 1971, President Nixon announced on live television from California that he would be visiting the People’s Republic of China the following the year. The Communist state had been effectively closed off from the West for 25 years.

    The President’s handwritten notes from that day, before delivering his announcement:

    China announcement RN handwriting

    “It was such a shock,” longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather said, “that President Nixon, the quintessential Cold Warrior, was changing colors, as it were.”

    The shock of the announcement unleashed a barrage of opinions, both in favor of the trip and against it, with most somewhere in between. The presidential visit the following February, however, would produce one of the most lasting shifts in the international order in generations — one that reverberates ever stronger to this day.

    A video of the statement made 43 years ago today from television studios in Burbank:

      President Nixon Announces Trip to China

        China Announcement

        President Nixon and Henry Kissinger arrive in Burbank, California for the day’s major announcement.

        China Announcement2

        President Nixon prepares to deliver his groundbreaking announcement in an NBC studio in Burbank.

        When Henry Kissinger touched down in San Clemente  on July 13 of 1971 following his world tour, he and President Nixon met immediately to discuss the National Security Adviser’s secret meeting with Premier Chou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China.

        “Henry Kissinger returned there, immediately went in to see the President–frankly hardly anybody part of the White House staff knew anything except that Henry was getting back from Vietnam,” recalled Larry Higby, a former staff assistant to the President. “There was some negotiation and some consultation, and then the President, without saying why, said that he requested time on NBC to address the nation on a very important matter.”

        On the night of July 15 1971, news networks across the nation prepared for the address, for which they were told held very important significance.

        “Good evening. President Nixon tonight has flown from his home at San Clemente to a television studio here in Los Angeles to deliver what the White House terms is a major statement,” opened Tom Jarriel of ABC at 7:30pm.

        Since 1967, Richard Nixon made clear his belief that China, and the rest of the world’s attention to China, must change if the threat of future confrontation is to be avoided. He foresaw the dangers posed by a country with one-fifth the world’s population remaining in isolation, breeding its hate for the outside world. RN never reneged on this point, having through his presidency held steady to the conviction that China needed to open its doors.

        “Taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors,” wrote Nixon in China After Vietnam, a 1967 Foreign Affairs article.

        Four years later, in an address to Midwestern media executives in Kansas City on July 6 1971, President Nixon stated: “That is the reason why I felt that it was essential that this Administration take the first steps toward ending the isolation of Mainland China from the world community…Mainland China, outside the world community, completely isolated, with its leaders not in communication with world leaders, would be a danger to the whole world that would be unacceptable.”

        On July 15 of the same month, in a Burbank NBC studio, President Nixon stunned the world with the announcement that he had sent his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, on a secret diplomatic mission to China to commence talks with Premier Chou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China. Furthermore, the results of these initial talks was an agreement for a presidential trip to China. In a statement simultaneously being announced in Beijing, the President read:

        Knowing of President Nixon’s expressed desire to visit the People’s Republic of China, Premier Chou Enlai, on behalf of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, has extended an invitation to President Nixon to visit China at an appropriate date before May 1972. President Nixon has accepted the invitation with pleasure.

        Watch President Nixon’s short but profound announcement below:

        Max Lerner, syndicated American journalist and ordinarily a vocal Nixon opponent, summed up aptly the general domestic reaction to President Nixon’s impromptu announcement: “The politics of surprise leads through the Gates of Astonishment into the Kingdom of Hope.” That hope being the framework for a future generation of peace. Of course, speculation about the President’s trip to China undoubtedly fueled itself. RN addressed these concerns by reiterating his administration’s policy with China:

        Our action in seeking a new relationship with the People’s Republic of China will not be at the expense of our old friends. It is not directed against any other nation. We seek friendly relations with all nations. Any nation can be our friend without being any other nation’s enemy.

        President Nixon’s long held conviction that diplomatic relations be established with Communist China was becoming reality. As the world watched in astonished anticipation, RN successfully planted the seeds of an attainable peace.

          7.14.70-President Nixon’s Meeting with Governors of the Appalachian States

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            President Nixon attends the Appalachian Regional Governors Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on July 14 1970.

            “We are trying to bring the government to the people,” President Nixon said to a group of 11 Governors from the Appalachian Regional Commission of States.

            This was the goal of the Nixon administration, to affect real change in the Federal government’s ability to cater programs directly to the people, when for too long federal funds became lost in layers of bureaucracy. New Federalism was the term President Nixon used to promulgate this shift in federal awareness, and it was a topic that he and governors of the Appalachian states discussed in a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

            A meeting with the Appalachian Regional Commission was not unusual for a President of the United States. However, holding this particular governors meeting in one of the Appalachian states was a rarity. In fact, in opening the meeting, President Nixon told the Governors that he wanted to get out of the “isolation booth” of Washington to have discussions in a freer atmosphere, where the representatives would not be afraid to voice their concerns.

            Below, view the memorandum of conversation for this meeting:

            During the conference, the Governors reiterated their support of President Nixon’s revenue sharing program proposal, but generally remained cautious in supporting his proposed Family Assistance Program, fearing that it would increase States’ Medicaid/Medicare rolls. However, according to the expertise of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President Nixon’s chief urban affairs counsel, the Family Assistance Program would not force any state to increase its Medicare/Medicaid rolls.

            The Governors also commented on the effectiveness of the Appalachian Regional Commission, sharing all-around positive reviews. They felt that the ARC was consistent with President Nixon’s New Federalism program, and that aside from ARC receiving more federal funds, that the program effectively coordinated federal, state, and local efforts. Additionally, President Nixon reminded the governors that each state’s access to the ARC fund was more flexible and available owing to its exclusivity from state legislative appropriations processes. It was even more accessible than the President’s revenue sharing proposals, as funds from these still would require passage through the state legislature.

            President Nixon ended the conference by praising the Appalachian people, recognizing that although this part of American had been particularly hit hard in light of a weakening economy, the spirit of these people remained the most spirited. After all, more than any other group in America, the people of the Appalachian states resisted welfare in favor of work and volunteered in greater numbers for military service.

              7.10.74-President Nixon Receives French Gift for the American Bicentennial Celebration

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                President Nixon, with French Ambassador Jacques Kosciusko-Horizet, receives a letter written by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France, July 10 1974.

                On July 10 1974, President Nixon met with the French Ambassador to the United States Jacques Kosciusko-Horizet in the Oval Office. Among representatives of the American Bicentennial Commission, the President and Ambassador exchanged remarks about France’s gift for the United State’s 200th anniversary celebration.

                Ambassador Kosciusko-Horizet acknowledged that though this was a special American commemoration, it was “also an anniversary for France, the anniversary of our relations between our two countries, the anniversary of our participation in the Independence War, and the celebration of a friendship, devoted, which has never failed for all of history and has been filled with comments and advice and mutual achievements.”

                And, with letter in hand, he presented President Nixon with the French President’s letter.

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                In the photo from left to right: Ambassador Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet, Mrs. Thomas T. Cooke of the Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Counselor to the President Anne Armstrong , and John W. Warner of the American Revolution  Bicentennial Administration, 

                My dear President,

                The forthcoming celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States stirs in France a popular and loud echo.

                We treasure the memory of the historical events which associated closely our nation to the birth and the independence of the United States of America. The friendship which links our two peoples and which has been sustained and strengthened by so many ordeals we have been through side by side originated on the land and sea battlefields of the War of Independence.

                As a token of this friendship, I am pleased to let you know that we have decided to offer to the American people a “sound and light” spectacle which would take place from the year 1976 onwards, in Mount Vernon, on the site of the historical mansion of George Washington, which numerous French people, including myself, have visited.

                Please accept, my dear President, the assurances of my very high consideration.


                Here is President Nixon’s reply:

                Dear Mr. President:

                I was greatly pleased to receive your letter of June 20 informing me that the people of France will present the people of the United States with a Sound and Light Spectacle for Mount Vernon in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the United States. It is especially fitting that this particular art form, which has been perfected in France for the purpose of dramatizing your country’s great historical treasures, be utilized to dramatize one of America’s most cherished symbols of its struggle for independence.

                In acknowledging this generous gift on behalf of the American people, I join you, Mr. President, in a tribute to the bonds of friendship which have joined our two nations since the 18th Century, and which will continue to link them as we act together to. forge a structure of peace in the years to come.


                RICHARD NIXON

                  President Nixon On Establishing the EPA and NOAA


                    President Nixon and others boating on Jackson Lake at the Grand Tetons National Park near Moran, Wyoming.

                    On this day in 1970, President Nixon relayed a comprehensive message to the Congress of the United States regarding the proposed reorganization plans to establish an Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

                    Click here to read President Nixon’s entire message to Congress.

                    As part of President Nixon’s overarching efforts to reorganize the Executive Office of the Presidency, Reorganization Plan #3 sought to consolidate the federal government’s environmental resources so as to create an organization capable of concisely combating the nation’s environmental issues. Additionally, Reorganization Plan #4 sought to consolidate the federal government’s research efforts in the field of oceanic resource management–to create a singular agency with the task of developing the most intelligent use of marine resources.

                    As noted by RN, “Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food. Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action.”

                    With the public’s awareness for the environment at a never before seen pinnacle and air and water pollution at deplorable levels, change needed to be instituted to make possible a coordinated attack.

                    In the message, President Nixon laid out the components of the proposed EPA and NOAA and reasoned the advantages of both organizations. The actions instituted by the proposed EPA were as follows:

                    Under the terms of Reorganization Plan No. 3, the following would be moved to the new Environmental Protection Agency:
                    –The functions carried out by the Federal Water Quality Administration (from the Department of the Interior).
                    –Functions with respect to pesticides studies now vested in the Department of the Interior.
                    –The functions carried out by the National Air Pollution Control Administration (from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare).

                    –The functions carried out by the Bureau of Solid Waste Management and the Bureau of Water Hygiene, and portions of the reactions carried out by the Bureau of Radiological Health of the Environmental Control Administration (from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare).
                    –Certain functions with respect to pesticides carried out by the Food and Drug Administration (from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare).
                    –Authority to perform studies relating to ecological systems now vested in the Council on Environmental Quality.

                    –Certain functions respecting radiation criteria and standards now vested in the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Radiation Council.
                    –Functions respecting pesticides registration and related activities now carried out by the Agricultural Research Service (from the Department of Agriculture).

                    The components of the NOAA were proposed as follows:

                    Under terms of Reorganization Plan No. 4, the programs of the following organizations would be moved into NOAA:
                    –The Environmental Science Services Administration (from within the Department of Commerce).

                    –Elements of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (from the Department of the Interior).
                    –The marine sport fish program of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (from the Department of the Interior).
                    –The Marine Minerals Technology Center of the Bureau of Mines (from the Department of the Interior).
                    –The Office of Sea Grant Programs (from the National Science Foundation).
                    –Elements of the United States Lake Survey (from the Department of the Army).

                    In addition, by executive action, the programs of the following organizations would be transferred to NOAA:
                    –The National Oceanographic Data Center (from the Department of the Navy).
                    –The National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center (from the Department of the Navy).
                    –The National Data Buoy Project (from the Department of Transportation).

                    In brief, these are the principal functions of the programs and agencies to be combined:

                    The Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) comprises the following components:
                    –The Weather Bureau (weather, marine, river and flood forecasting and warning).
                    –The Coast and Geodetic Survey (earth and marine description, mapping and charting).
                    –The Environmental Data Service (storage and retrieval of environmental data).
                    –The National Environmental Satellite Center (observation of the global environment from earth-orbiting satellites).
                    –The ESSA Research Laboratories (research on physical environmental problems).


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