My fellow Americans:
You are gathered in this meeting as active, devoted members of a political party. As such, you give of your time, your thought, and your effort to the most important business I know--the public affairs of your country.
You concern yourselves with the conduct and management of government--from the smallest political unit to the topmost levels of the Federal Administration. You are, therefore, in politics--even though you may hold no appointive or elective office. And you should, it seems to me, wear your political badge with some considerable pride. For politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
Politics must be the concern of every citizen who wants to see our national well-being increased and our international leadership strengthened. In that combined sense, politics is the noblest of professions. In the ranks of that kind of politics, every American should be enrolled.
You are so enrolled. You chose to enlist in this political endeavor under the banner of the Republican Party.
It so happens that I made the same choice.
I hope that we reached our separate and individual decisions in this important matter for similar reasons and as a result of sincere conviction. For a political party is an instrument to translate into effective action the aims and aspirations of the people. It is therefore essential that the members of a political party--if the party is to be effective--join together to reach a common goal. Unless there is unified support of broad political policy, there is no true political party.
Only in unity can the strength of each of us be multiplied by the total number of all of us. Only in such multiplication of strength can the impact of our efforts be felt with equal force in the Nation's smallest precinct and in the Nation's Capital, alike.
We must generate such an impact if our party--the Republican Party--is successfully to meet the responsibilities of national leadership with which it has been charged by our people.
We will meet that challenge with success if, as we celebrate this one hundredth anniversary of our party, we seize the opportunity to review its origins and to consider and apply the political philosophy of its first great leader.
A century ago, our party was born as a result of many meetings of little-known men in many sections of the country. Another little-known man in Springfield, Illinois, becoming the leader of that party, later became a "Man of the Ages."
This month, we celebrate his birth and the birth of the party he led. But in every season and in every year and in every month, the man and the party are inseparably linked, one with the other.
In Abraham Lincoln as in no other man, in the wisdom of his statesmanship and in the vast sympathy of his human concern was concentrated the rich promise of our Republican Party.
Beyond all others of his day or since, he most effectively inspired our party to serve the Nation's good--both of the moment and for the centuries. With the country facing the terrible threat of disunity, he made his and the party's first purpose the preservation of the Nation.
From the very moment he repeated the oath as president until the tragic end, Abraham Lincoln's every act and every word were clearly aimed, shaped, sharpened, and designed to serve that single purpose-the preservation of our country.
In the Emancipation Proclamation, at Gettysburg, in his two great inaugural addresses, in countless other utterances and statements--in private letters to friends and critics, within his Cabinet and to the public--over and over and over again, always he seemed to be saying--
We are the trustees of the American heritage.
In this time, in this tragic war, we have but one responsibility--
the protection of that heritage. Every thought we hold, every action
that we take, every sacrifice we make all these must be dedicated,
single-mindedly, to this task. We must leave to the future an
America that is whole, intact, strong, united--and still the land of freedom.
We are the trustees of the American heritage.
Tirelessly and stubbornly he repeated it. Every tortuous moment of those last 4 years, he lived it.
Through his success, you and I are today the trustees of that same heritage. We, in our time, must pass on to our children's children this America--strong and still the land of freedom.
"The legitimate object of government," declared Lincoln, "is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, in their separate and individual capacities."
So, preoccupied though he was with the crisis of impending secession and the onrushing tragedy of civil war, he clearly realized that other and continuing responsibilities of government had to be met if this Nation was to remain whole, intact, strong, united, and still the land of freedom.
The same simple but basic philosophy of government he then expressed is still the best guide for the men and women whose official responsibility it is today to direct the legislative and executive affairs of our Nation. Their measure of success will be determined in the degree that they are able to absorb and apply the teachings of that great leader.
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln also said, "This country belongs to the people who inhabit it." And, at the same time, he made it clear that when the people grow weary of their existing Government, they have the constitutional privilege of changing its course.
Fifteen months ago, the American people--seemingly weary of the course their Government was taking at the time--exercised their constitutional rights and changed that course. You and other hard-working party members like you, aided by millions of Americans of other or no party allegiance, played a vital part in that process--in your neighborhoods and communities, in your counties and your States.
And with victory came added responsibility. On you today--as politicians in the finest meaning of the term--and on your leaders--rests the responsibility of justifying now and for history the mandate of November, 1952. That mandate requires that always we address ourselves to the preservation of this Nation against threat of any kind from any quarter whatsoever. We must preserve its basic system and the freedoms it guarantees to its citizens. It requires also that we share Lincoln's concern for the proper role of government in helping and protecting all our citizens.
It was in such concern that there was recently placed before the Congress this administration's program for consideration and translation into law. Through our unified action, that program will secure our country against the threats of our time and will be doing for our people those things they cannot well do for themselves.
We will justify the people's decision of 1952 only as we attract--with our program--new and willing workers to our ranks; only, with those workers, as we learn the habit and spirit of teamwork; only, with Lincoln, as we remember and apply the wise counsel he gave us in his Second Annual Message when he said:
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."
For we know that each day the world is new, that the problems each day brings are new. But we know also that, though these tasks are new, the approach to them is still the Lincoln approach.
To be dedicated to a single purpose--the freedom, strength, prosperity, and peace of America--and to strive with all that's in us to advance the welfare of her citizens--that is the forward way we must seek for America. That is the legitimate purpose of Lincoln's party--a century ago, today, and always.