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Vietnam War Presentation :

The Great Silent Majority 

SUBJECT 10 - THE GREAT SILENT MAJORITY, 1969 “So tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge. The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed. For the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris. Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand -- North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.” 

Richard M. Nixon, Television and radio speech, November 3, 1969

[pic 1] 

Young man wearing helmet with peace sign, burns his draft card at an anti-draft demonstration at the Selective Service System headquarters, 1724 F St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 

Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.  









Introduction : 

Richard Nixon is the 37th U.S president (1913-1994). He was president from 1969 to 1974. Before being the US president, he was a former republican congressman and the US senator of the state of California. He served two terms as the vice president under Eisenhower. Then in 1960, Richard Nixon ran for the White House and lost against John F. Kennedy. He ran again in 1968 and won this time. 

Nixon is also remembered by the public as the only president ever to resign from office. He stepped down in 1974 in the middle of his second term to avoid being faced with impeachment, because of his efforts to cover up illegal activities by members of his administration in the Watergate scandal. What happened was that on June 17, 1972, police arrested burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Evidence linked the break-in to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. This tarnished his reputation and widened the distrust in the American government.

Even with this black spot on his resume, president Nixon’s achievements include: forging ties with China and the Soviet Union during the cold war, and withdrawing the U.S military force from the very unpopular Vietnam war, for which we will focus on in this presentation. 

The Vietnam war was a long and divisive conflict. It pitted North Vietnam with its communist government, against South Vietnam and its principal lie with the United states. This conflict got out of hand because of the ongoing Cold War. Furthermore, it was a microsom for this war, because everything that was happening throughout the world was concentrated in this small country, where the two ideologies butted heads. The war ended when communist forces seized south Vietnam in 1975 and the following year Vietnam became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. More than 3 million people were killed during the Vietnam war, including over 58 000 Americans, and sadly more than half of the dead were Vietnamese civilians. 

In 1969, only one year after being elected, the president Nixon went on television and radio, to call for national solidarity on the Vietnam War effort and to gather support for his policies with his speech “The Great Silent Majority”. This is the speech we will analyze.  It was an attempt to stop the renewed strength of the antiwar movement, which was growing quite strong because the war seemed not to end and the opposition to the war divided Americans. This division continued even after Nixon ordered the withdrawal of the US forces in 1973. In this speech, Nixon refers to the “silent majority”. This might be a reference to the conservative voters, amongst other things, since they did not participate in the public discourse. Or this could be about the dead, the American soldiers forced to fight in a war where they didn’t have to, or even the dead Vietnamese civilians. 

Finally, Nixon’s presidency resurfaced in recent years during Donald Trump’s campaign as well as Ronald Reagan’s. 

In this presentation we will focus on three different aspects. Firstly we will focus on Nixon’s speech and wonder if it is truly about peace?  Then, we will analyse the picture, does it convey the same feeling as Nixon's speech? And finally, we will talk about the repercussions of the war and today’s Vietnam. With this in mind we can ask ourselves: is Nixon’s speech really about peace, or is it a way for him to run away from an unwinnable fight? 

Problématique : 

Is Nixon’s speech really about peace, or is it a way for him to run away from an unwinnable fight ?


  • silent majority ( the one who do not participate in the public discourse) ( the dead) the citizens in the war etc... 

1:  Is the speech truly about peace.

As we said previously, Nixon went on national television to deliver a rebuttal speech on November 3, 1969, where he outlined "my plan to end the war" in Vietnam. Here Nixon stated the Vietnamization policy, this was a way to lower American losses in the war since the south Vietnamese army would be taking the burden of the fighting. The Vietnamization policy was aiming to equip and train the South Vietnamese forces so that, in the end, only Vietnamese people would fight, and so the Americans would be less involved in this controversial conflict. He also stated that he was willing to compromise with North Vietnam in the event that they recognized South Vietnam as a whole and he stated he would take "strong and effective measures" against the communist North Vietnam if the war continued. Nixon also implicitly conceded to the anti-war movement that South Vietnam was really not very important as he maintained that the real issue was the global credibility of the United States as he stated his belief that all of America's allies would lose faith in American promises if the United States were to abandon South Vietnam. This shows he doesn’t actually care about peace here but he needs credibility to keep the United States relevant.  

At the end of Nixon’s speech, he said that everything would take time and that he needed the public to support him and his policy of winning “peace with honor” he concluded his speech by saying "And so tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support. Let us be united for peace. Let us be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that" the reaction to the term silent majority was favorable since after the speech the white house was flooded by thousands of phone calls to congratulate the president for his speech. 

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