Duke’s Presidential Correspondence

From the archive…

When John Wayne showed up to accept the gold medal award, given to “an outstanding American who has contributed significantly to the sport of college football and our country” by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame on December 4, 1974, he was ostensibly there to discuss his gridiron adventures. As important as football was to his life experience, Duke was most interested in the “and our country” aspect of the award that night. At the awards dinner in 1974, Duke was largely in a reflective and conciliatory mood. He pleaded for mutual respect between opposing sides that were engaged in a vicious national debate.

“This is a good country. With good people in it. Good people don’t always agree with one another. Maybe the best thing we do in this country is agree to disagree once in a while. But with a certain amount of civility. And that’s what seems to be missing these days… A certain amount of civility. We’re shouting when we should be talking. We’re arguing when we should be conversing. We’re angry when we should be reasoning. I think the best single thing all of us can do is calm down. And maybe think a little bit more and talk a little bit less.” -John Wayne, National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Speech, December 4, 1974

Duke’s plea for civility at the awards dinner was a hallmark of his belief system. Certainly, his National Football Foundation speech resonates today. It shows the dichotomy of his personality- consistently conservative philosophically but maintaining deep personal relationships across the political spectrum.

“Respect for the other fellow is what democracy is all about. And I think respect for country goes hand-in-hand” -John Wayne, National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Speech, December 4, 1974

In honor of President’s Day, take a look inside Duke’s desk with a selection of presidential correspondence from the John Wayne Archive.