August 8, 1974
Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you
from this office in which so many decisions have been made
that shape the history of this nation. Each time I have
done so to discuss with you some matters that I believe
affected the national interest. And all the decisions I
have made in my public life I have always tried to do what
was best for the nation.
Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate,
I have felt it was my duty to persevere; to make every
possible effort to complete the term of office to which
you elected me.
In the past few days, however, it has become evident to
me that I no longer have a strong enough political base
in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long
as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary
to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion;
that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit
of that deliberately difficult process, and a dangerously
destabilizing precedent for the future.
But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe
that the constitutional purpose has been served. And there
is no longer a need for the process to be pro- longed.
I would have preferred to carry through to the finish
whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and
my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interests
of the nation must always come before any personal considerations.
From the discussions I have had with Congressional and
other leaders I have concluded that because of the Watergate
matter I might not have the support of the Congress that
I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions
and carry out the duties of this office in the way the
interests of the nation will require.
I have never been a quitter.
To leave office before my term is completed is opposed
to every instinct in my body. But as President I must put
the interests of America first.
America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress,
particularly at this time with problems we face at home
To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal
vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention
of both the President and the Congress in a period when
our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace
abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at
Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that
hour in this office. As I recall the high hopes for America
with which we began this second term, I feel a great sadness
that I will not be here in this office working on your
behalf to achieve those hopes in the next two and a half
But in turning over direction of the Government to Vice
President Ford I know, as I told the nation when I nominated
him for that office 10 months ago, that the leadership
of America will be in good hands.
In passing this office to the Vice President I also do
so with the profound sense of the weight of responsibility
that will fall on his shoulders tomorrow, and therefore
of the understanding, the patience, the cooperation he
will need from all Americans.
As he assumes that responsibility he will deserve the
help and the support of all of us. As we look to the future,
the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this
nation. To put the bitterness and divisions of the recent
past behind us and to rediscover those shared ideals that
lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and
as a free people.
By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened
the start of that process of healing which is so desperately
needed in America.
I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in
the course of the events that led to this decision. I would
say only that if some of my judgments were wrong - and
some were wrong - they were made in what I believed at
the time to be the best interests of the nation.
To those who have stood with me during these past difficult
months, to my family, my friends, the many others whose
joined in supporting my cause because they believed it
was right, I will be eternally grateful for your support.
And to those who have not felt able to give me your support,
let me say I leave with no bitterness toward those who
have opposed me, because all of us in the final analysis
have been concerned with the good of the country however
our judgments might differ.
So let us all now join together in firming that common
commitment and in helping our new President succeed for
the benefit of all Americans.
I shall leave this office with regret at not completing
my term but with gratitude for the privilege of serving
as your President for the past five and a half years. These
years have been a momentous time in the history of our
nation and the world. They have been a time of achievement
in which we can all be proud achievements that represent
the shared efforts of the administration, the Congress
and the people. But the challenges ahead are equally great.
And they, too, will require the support and the efforts
of a Congress and the people, working in cooperation with
the new Administration.
We have ended America's longest war. But in the work of
securing a lasting peace in the world, the goals ahead
are even more far-reaching and more difficult. We must
complete a structure of peace, so that it will be said
of this generation - our generation of Americans - by the
people of all nations, not only that we ended one war but
that we prevented future wars.
We have unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century
stood between the United States and the People's Republic
of China. We must now insure that the one-quarter of the
world's people who live in the People's Republic of China
will be and remain, not our enemies, but our friends.
In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries,
many of whom have considered us their enemies for nearly
20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue
to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at
last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of civilization
will not become its grave. Together with the Soviet Union
we have made the crucial breakthroughs that have begun
the process of limiting nuclear arms. But, we must set
as our goal, not just limiting, but reducing and finally
destroying these terrible weapons so that they cannot destroy
And so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang
over the world and the people, we have opened a new relation
with the Soviet Union. We must continue to develop and
expand that new relationship so that the two strongest
nations of the world will live together in cooperation
rather than confrontation. Around the world - in Asia,
in Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East - there
are millions of people who live in terrible poverty, even
starvation. We must keep as our goal turning away from
production for war and expanding production for peace so
that people everywhere on this earth can at last look forward,
in their children's time if not in our time, to having
the necessities for a decent life. Here in America we are
fortunate that most of our people have not only the blessings
of liberty but also the means to live full and good, and
by the world's standards even abundant lives.
We must press on, however, toward a goal not only of more
and better jobs but of full opportunity for every man,
and of what we are striving so hard right now to achieve
- prosperity without inflation.
For more than a quarter of a century in public life, I
have shared in the turbulent history of this evening.
I have fought for what I believe in. I have tried, to
the best of my ability, to discharge those duties and meet
those responsibilities that were entrusted to me. Sometimes
I have succeeded. And sometimes I have failed. But always
I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt said about
the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat
and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short
again and again because there is not effort without error
and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the
deed, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself
in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the
triumphs of high achievements and with the worst if he
fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
I pledge to you tonight that as long as I have a breath
of life in my body I shall continue in that spirit. I shall
continue to work for the great causes to which I have been
dedicated throughout my years as a Congressman, a Senator,
Vice President and President, the cause of peace - not
just for America but among all nations - prosperity, justice
and opportunity for all of our people.
There is one cause above all to which I have been devoted
and to which I shall always be devoted for as long as I
When I first took the oath of office as President five
and a half years ago, I made this sacred commitment; to
consecrate my office, my energies and all the wisdom I
can summon to the cause of peace among nations.
As a result of these efforts, I am confident that the
world is a safer place today, not only for the people of
America but for the people of all nations, and that all
of our children have a better chance than before of living
in peace rather than dying in war.
This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when
I sought the Presidency. This, more than anything, is what
I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave
To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal
sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving
it, I do so with this prayer: May God's grace be with you
in all the days ahead.