Richard Nixon's "Checkers Speech" (1952)

In September, 1952, Richard Nixon, a young senator from California, was nominated to run for vice president. Days later, however, he was accused of accepting funds from campaign donors to use for personal expenses. Nixon chose to use the new medium of television to defend himself. In a televised speech, he admitted to receiving one gift — a cocker spaniel named Checkers. He explained that his two young daughters loved the dog and would not give it up. The speech was a tremendous success, and Nixon went on to serve two terms as vice president. Ironically, another television performance, a debate with John Kennedy in 1960, cost him the election that year. Nixon was elected President in 1968, but ultimately resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. candidate
    someone who is considered for something
  2. integrity
    moral soundness
    I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice-presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.
  3. attain
    reach a destination, either real or abstract
    To me, the office of the Vice-presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might attain them.
  4. incidentally
    by the way (used to introduce a new topic)
    I am saying it, incidentally, that it was wrong, just not illegal, because it isn't a question of whether it was legal or illegal, that isn't enough.
  5. fund
    a reserve of money set aside for some purpose
    It was not a secret fund.
  6. defray
    bear the expenses of
    And I said you will find that the purpose of the fund simply was to defray political expenses that I did not feel should be charged to the government.
  7. campaign
    a race between candidates for elective office
    And third, let me point out, and I want to make this particularly clear, that no contributor to this fund, no contributor to any of my campaigns, has ever received any consideration that he would not have received as an ordinary constituent.
  8. constituent
    a citizen who is represented in a government by officials
    And third, let me point out, and I want to make this particularly clear, that no contributor to this fund, no contributor to any of my campaigns, has ever received any consideration that he would not have received as an ordinary constituent.
  9. finance
    obtain or provide money for
    The taxpayers should not be required to finance items which are not official business but which are primarily political business.
  10. stenographer
    someone skilled in the transcription of speech
    She is a wonderful stenographer. She used to teach stenography and she used to teach shorthand in high school.
  11. shorthand
    a method of writing rapidly
    She is a wonderful stenographer. She used to teach stenography and she used to teach shorthand in high school.
  12. client
    a person who seeks the advice of a lawyer
    I am so far away from California and I have been so busy with my senatorial work that I have not engaged in any legal practice, and, also, as far as law practice is concerned, it seemed to me that the relationship between an attorney and the client was so personal that you couldn't possibly represent a man as an attorney and then have an unbiased view when he presented his case to you in the event that he had one before government.
  13. unbiased
    characterized by a lack of partiality
    I am so far away from California and I have been so busy with my senatorial work that I have not engaged in any legal practice, and, also, as far as law practice is concerned, it seemed to me that the relationship between an attorney and the client was so personal that you couldn't possibly represent a man as an attorney and then have an unbiased view when he presented his case to you in the event that he had one before government.
  14. expose
    show; make visible or apparent
    And so I felt that the best way to handle these necessary political expenses of getting my message to the American people and the speeches I made—the speeches I had printed for the most part concerned this one message of exposing this administration, the Communism in it, the corruption in it--the only way I could do that was to accept the aid which people in my home state of California, who contributed to my campaign and who continued to make these contributions after I was elected...
  15. communism
    a form of socialism that abolishes private ownership
    And so I felt that the best way to handle these necessary political expenses of getting my message to the American people and the speeches I made—the speeches I had printed for the most part concerned this one message of exposing this administration, the Communism in it, the corruption in it--the only way I could do that was to accept the aid which people in my home state of California, who contributed to my campaign and who continued to make these contributions after I was elected. . .
  16. corruption
    use of a position of trust for dishonest gain
    And so I felt that the best way to handle these necessary political expenses of getting my message to the American people and the speeches I made--the speeches I had printed for the most part concerned this one message of exposing this administration, the Communism in it, the corruption in it--the only way I could do that was to accept the aid which people in my home state of California, who contributed to my campaign and who continued to make these contributions after I was elected. . .
  17. subterfuge
    something intended to misrepresent the nature of an activity
    And I am proud of the fact that the taxpayers by subterfuge or otherwise have never paid one dime for expenses which I thought were political and should not be charged to the taxpayers.
  18. audit
    an inspection of accounting procedures and records
    And I would like to tell you this evening that just an hour ago we received an independent audit of this entire fund.
  19. pertinent
    having precise or logical relevance to the matter at hand
    I am proud to report to you tonight that this audit and legal opinion is being forwarded to General Eisenhower and I would like to read to you the opinion that was prepared by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, based on all the pertinent laws, and statutes, together with the audit report prepared by the certified public accountants.
  20. statute
    an act passed by a legislative body
    I am proud to report to you tonight that this audit and legal opinion is being forwarded to General Eisenhower and I would like to read to you the opinion that was prepared by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, based on all the pertinent laws, and statutes, together with the audit report prepared by the certified public accountants.
  21. disbursement
    the act of spending money
    It is our conclusion that Senator Nixon did not obtain any financial gain from the collection and disbursement of the funds by Dana Smith. . .
  22. reimburse
    pay back for some expense incurred
    ...neither the portion of the fund paid by Dana Smith directly to third persons, nor the portion paid to Senator Nixon, to reimburse him for office expenses, constituted income in a sense which was either reportable or taxable as income under income tax laws.
  23. constitute
    form or compose
    ...neither the portion of the fund paid by Dana Smith directly to third persons, nor the portion paid to Senator Nixon, to reimburse him for office expenses, constituted income in a sense which was either reportable or taxable as income under income tax laws.
  24. unprecedented
    novel; having no earlier occurrence
    And so now, what I am going to do--and incidentally this is unprecedented in the history of American politics--I am going at this time to give to this television and radio audience, a complete financial history, everything I have earned, everything I have spent and everything I own, and I want you to know the facts.
  25. modest
    marked by simplicity; having a humble opinion of yourself
    Our family was one of modest circumstances, and most of my early life was spent in a store out in East Whittier.
  26. enterprise
    a purposeful or industrious undertaking
    It was a grocery store, one of those family enterprises.
  27. commendation
    a message expressing a favorable opinion
    I got a couple of letters of commendation.
  28. economist
    an expert in the circulation of goods and services
    When we came out of the war—Pat and I—Pat during the war had worked as a stenographer, and in a bank, and as an economist for a government agency--and when we came out, the total of our savings, from both my law practice, her teaching and all the time I was in the war, the total for that entire period was just less than $10,000—every cent of that, incidentally, was in government bonds—well, that's where we start, when I go into politics.
  29. bond
    a certificate of debt issued by a government or corporation
    When we came out of the war—Pat and I—Pat during the war had worked as a stenographer, and in a bank, and as an economist for a government agency--and when we came out, the total of our savings, from both my law practice, her teaching and all the time I was in the war, the total for that entire period was just less than $10,000—every cent of that, incidentally, was in government bonds—well, that's where we start, when I go into politics.
  30. estate
    everything you own; all of your assets and liabilities
    Second, I have received a total in this past six years of $1,600 from estates which were in my law firm at the time that I severed my connection with it.
  31. sever
    cut off from a whole
    Second, I have received a total in this past six years if $1,600 from estates which were in my law firm at the time that I severed my connection with it.
  32. engagement
    employment for performers that lasts for a limited time
    I have made an average of approximately $1,500 a year from nonpolitical speaking engagements and lectures.
  33. condemn
    express strong disapproval of
    I don't condemn Mr. Stevenson for what he did, but until the facts are in, there is a doubt that would be raised.
  34. commentator
    a writer who reports and analyzes events of the day
    I'm going to tell you this: I remember in the dark days of the Hiss trial some of the same columnists, some of the same radio commentators who are attacking me now and misrepresenting my position, were violently opposing me at the time I was after Alger Hiss.
  35. casualty
    someone injured or killed in a military engagement
    And a war in Korea in which we have lost 117,000 American casualties, and I say that those in the State Department that made the mistakes which caused that war and which resulted in those losses should be kicked out of the State Department just as fast as we can get them out of there.
  36. bureau
    an administrative unit of government
    I say that a man who, like Mr. Stevenson, has pooh-poohed and ridiculed the Communist threat in the United States—he has accused us, that they have attempted to expose the Communists, of looking for Communists in the Bureau of Fisheries and Wildlife.
  37. crusade
    a series of actions tending toward a particular end
    And Eisenhower is the man that can lead the crusade to bring us that kind of prosperity.
  38. abide
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    And whatever their decision, I will abide by it.

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