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Published:January 23rd, 2006 14:52 EST
When the Past and the Present collide...

When the Past and the Present collide...

By Joey O'Donnell

SOUTHBURY, Conn.—When President Bush defends his national security policies today, there will be some listening for echoes of a president who spoke at the same place decades ago.  The place was Kansas State University.

In September of 1970, Richard Nixon was the president, and the war was Vietnam.  In America, it was the month that Jimi Hendrix died, and that the Mary Tyler Moore show made its debut on network TV.  In addition, on 16 September, Nixon traveled to Middle America in search for a friendly audience. 

In those days, presidential audiences were not so closely screened and some protesters were admitted, but the President and his cause overwhelmed them.  In the speech, Nixon warned of terrorism in the world.  He spoke specifically of Palestinian highjackers, lashed out at the anti-war movement that had grown larger, and of revelations of the US expansion of the war to Cambodia.

Nixon told his campus audience that the voices of destructive and violent protest at some Universities were drowning out the majority: 

“…The voices of the small minority have been allowed to drown out the responsible majority.  That may be true in some places, but not in Kansas State.”  Which was then followed by a thunderous applaud from the audience.

Nixon also said he knew that many Americans were upset about the war, but that he rejected calls for an immediate end to the conflict:

“…And I understand, why it does keep you troubled.  Many of our young people today are in a war in Vietnam.  We know the slogans ‘I heard them talking’, most of them simply say ‘End the war’.  There is no difference between Americans on that.  All of us want to end the war, and we are ending this war!”

Nixon’s speech was part of the Landon Lecture Series, named after—legendary Republican nominee for president—Alfred M. Landon.  In the two years after his Kansas State speech, Nixon was able to withdraw enough troops from Vietnam and get close enough to a peace deal that he carried 49 states in 1972.  The war in Vietnam did not end however until 1975, when South Vietnam surrendered to the communist rule of North Vietnam.

Today, President Bush speaks under the Landon Lecture Series banner, becoming the third sitting President to do so.  He too speaks, as public discontent with a foreign war persists. 

President Bush will likely cite progress in building democratic institutions in Iraq, including the recent elections.  He is also expected to push forth renewal of Patriot Act powers that stalled in Congress at the end of last year, and to defend his controversial order allowing domestic spying and eavesdropping on e-mail and phone conversations of American citizens.  The President insists that such actions are legal and necessary to do in order to foil terrorist plots.  The counter argument to that is that there is a special court set up specifically in order to get such search warrants even after the fact to make sure that such spying does not violate civil liberties.  Hearings on the President’s domestic spying programs will begin in Congress in two weeks.

Sources used: The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and http://ome.ksu.edu/lectures/landon/