Less than eight months into his presidency, with the nation still healing from the wounds of Watergate, President Ford made a St. Patrick’s Day visit to the University of Notre Dame. Ford received an honorary doctor of laws degree and made a major foreign policy speech during his daylong visit on March 17, 1975. An enthusiastic crowd of more than 10,000 people turned out in the Joyce Center to hear the president call for a rejection of “new isolationism” and continuation of foreign aid programs.
Later, he gave a news conference (excerpt below):
QUESTION: Mr. President, you have said the
question of personalities is really not vital to a
settlement in Cambodia. My question is, is the survival
of a non-Communist government in Cambodia vital to the U.S.
security in Southeast Asia?
THE PRESIDENT: Miss Thomas, I think it is.
I cannot help but notice that since the military situation
in Cambodia has become very serious, and since the North
Vietnamese have apparently launched a very substantial
additional military effort against South Vietnam, against
the Paris peace accords, there has been, as I understand
it, in Thailand — according to the news announcements
this morning — a potential request from Thailand that
we withdraw our forces from that country.
I noticed in the morning news summary before
left Washington that the President of the Philippines,
Mr. Marcos, is reviewing the Philippine relationship
with the United States.
I think these potential developments to some
extent tend to validate the so-called domino theory,
and if we have one country after another — allies of
the United States — losing faith in our word, losing
faith in our agreements with them, yes, I think the first
one to go could vitally affect the national security
of the United States.
QUESTION: May I ask another question I have
had on my mind for a long time Since you supported
the invasion of Cambodia five years ago, would you do
the same today?
THE PRESIDENT: That is a hypothetical question,
Miss Thomas, because under the law I have no such authority
to do so. I did support the activities then, the so-called
Cambodian incursion, because the North Vietnamese were
using that area in Cambodia for many military strikes
against U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam.
It was a successful military operation. It
saved many American lives because those sanctuaries
Since I do not have the authority to undertake any such military obligation~-we have no U.S.
military forces in South Vietnam–I think it is a hypothetical question, ‘which really I cannot answer.
Here is the full press conference as it was aired live by National Public Radio on March 17, 1975.