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Dwight D. Eisenhower: Address at the Dinner of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, New York City.
Dwight
Dwight D. Eisenhower
87 - Address at the Dinner of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, New York City.
April 22, 1954
Public Papers of the Presidents
Dwight D. Eisenhower<br>1954
Dwight D. Eisenhower
1954
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President Chambers, President Hoover, Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of this great audience:

For the cordiality of your welcome, I am profoundly grateful. Thank you very much. I am most distinctly honored by your invitation to speak to you.

The responsibilities and the constructive influence of the American press make this a significant occasion to me; one that I welcome. From personal experience, in war and in peace, I have come to recognize your dedication to truth and to the welfare of your country. You deserve the applause of free men, everywhere.

You are, of course, cosmopolitan in thought and in character, at least I am quite well aware, after sitting between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, that you are not members of a one-party press.

Eight years ago--almost to the day--I addressed the Bureau of Advertising. At that moment, the horror of war was a bitter memory of the recent past. A revulsion against war or any reminder of war possessed our people. The atmosphere was charged with emotionalism that could have destroyed our military strength. Fortunately, our newspapers did not then permit us, nor are they now permitting us, to forget the ever-present reality of aggressive threat.

Aggression is still a terrible reality, though on all the continents and the islands of the earth, mankind hungers for peace. This universal hunger must be satisfied.

Either the nations will build a cooperative peace or, one by one, they will be forced to accept an imposed peace, now sought by the Communist powers, as it was by Hitler.

But free men still possess the greater portion of the globe's resources and of the potential power to be produced from those resources. They possess scientific skill, intellectual capacity, and sheer numbers in excess of those available to the Communist world. Consequently, free men can have a cooperative peace, if with hearts and minds cleansed of fear and doubt, together they dedicate themselves to it in unity and in understanding and in strength.

It is urgent that we try to clarify our thing about the prospect. Let us start with our own present position. This Nation is a marvel of production, rich in total wealth and individual earnings; powerful in a unique combination of scientific, military, economic, and moral strength. For generations our country has been free from the devastation of war in her homeland and is blessed with staunch and friendly neighbors. We covet no nation's possessions. We seek only the friendship of others. We are eager to repay this priceless gift in the same coin.

Surely, the United States--by all the standards of history--should possess a genuine peace and tranquility.

But our Nation today is not truly tranquil. We, her people, face a grave danger which, in essence at least, all of us understand. This danger, this peril calls for two far-reaching policies or purposes behind which all in our country should be solidly united. They are:

First: All our efforts must be bent to the strengthening of America in dedication to liberty; in knowledge and in comprehension; in a dependable prosperity widely shared; and in an adequate military posture.

Second: This strength--all of it--must be devoted to the building of a cooperative peace among men.

Now these are the fixed purposes of the vast majority of our people. But in a world of ideological division, competitive rivalry, turbulent crisis in one place and political upheaval in another, their achievement demands far more than good intentions or glowing words.

If we are to build and maintain the strength required to cope with the problems of this age, we must cooperate one with the other, every section with all others, each group with its neighbors. This means domestic unity, about which I talk incessantly. Unity does not imply rigid conformity to every doctrine or position of a particular political figure. But it does require a common devotion to the cardinal principles of our free system; shared knowledge and understanding of our own capacities and opportunities; and a common determination to cooperate unreservedly in striving toward our truly important goals. This type of unity is the true source of our great energy--our spiritual, intellectual, material, and creative energy.

Furthermore, our people, strong and united, must cooperate with other nations in helping build a cooperative peace. Such cooperation requires the American people to increase their understanding of their fellowmen around the globe. Likewise, the nations beyond our shores must come to understand better the American people--particularly our hopes and our purposes. And, because of the relatively greater stake we have in world stability, because history has decreed that responsibility of leadership shall be placed upon this Nation, we must take the initiative in the development of that genuine international understanding on which a cooperative peace must be built.

In these truths I find my justification for this appearance before you. The increase of understanding and knowledge is a task that cannot be accomplished solely by our schools or our churches or from political platforms. The malignant germs of misunderstanding and misinformation are at work in the minds of men 24 hours of every day. To combat them challenges the study and the effort of every individual who occupies any position of influence on public opinion.

Every newspaper, every magazine, every radio and television station has the mission of bringing home to all our people and to as many other people of the world as we can reach, the facts of existence today. But this is not enough.

Every agency of human communication also must help people everywhere achieve perspective with respect to facts. Suppose the American press should faithfully report the details of every crime committed in our country, but should be invariably silent on the apprehension and punishment of criminals. Would there not soon be created a universal impression of national lawlessness, disorder, and anarchy? Facts must be related one to the other in truthful perspective. Only within such framework shall we reach clear decisions in the waging of the continuous struggle for a stronger America, and a peaceful world.

Domestic unity and strength as well as international understanding depend, therefore, in great part, on the free flow of information, and its balanced presentation.

Now I am not suggesting that the cause of domestic unity would be served by any attempt of yours to slant the news, or to turn your news columns into editorials. The consequent loss of public respect and confidence would soon destroy the influence of the press. But I do believe most earnestly that the press should give emphasis to the things that unite the American people equal to that it gives to the things that divide them.

News of events which divide may be more spectacular than news of developments which unify. But a free press can discharge its responsibility to free people only by giving all the facts in balance. Facts in perspective are vital to valid citizen judgments. Sound judgment is crucial to the preservation of freedom. Hence a free press can sustain itself only by responsibly reporting all the facts and ideas--the spectacular and the unspectacular, the unifying facts and the divisive.

Could not reader-understanding be as powerful a criterion in newspaper offices as reader-interest?

Need these two qualities be incompatible? I think not. Certainly, the great journalists of our day, In critically examining and reporting on a legislative proposal must inevitably deal with such constructive questions as:

Does it or does it not tend to sustain our economy; to provide needed military strength; to increase our understanding of others or others' understanding of us? Does it give us a more secure position internationally? Does it promise to preserve and nurture love of liberty and self-dependence among our people? Does it improve our health and our living standards? Does it insure to our children the kind of nation and government we have known?

If proposed laws and policies are described as mere battle grounds on which individuals or parties seeking political power suffer defeat or achieve victory, then indeed is the American system distorted for us and for the world. If the fortunes of the individual supporting or opposing a measure become, in our public accounts, as important as the principle or purpose of the project and its effect upon the Nation--then indeed are we failing to develop the strength that understanding brings. If the day comes when personal conflicts are more significant than honest debate on great policy, then the flame of freedom will flicker low indeed.

I trust you do not view my remarks as an attempt to tell you how to run your own business. I am, however, willing to take the risk of your misinterpretation. James Madison once wrote: "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both." So we are talking of a problem that the responsible governmental official cannot ignore, just as none of you can close your eyes to it.

We are not moving toward farce or tragedy. But knowledge of the facts and of their interrelationships is more than ever essential to the solution of human problems.

I know that to present the facts in perspective is a difficult task. The haste of living creates reader impatience. It discourages complete explanation and places a premium upon cliches and slogans. We incline to persuade with an attractive label; or to damn with a contemptuous tag.

But catchwords are not information. And, most certainly, sound popular judgments cannot be based upon them.

On the steady, day-by-day dissemination of complete information depends our people's intelligent participation in their own government. For them that is no light thing. The decisions they must make are crucial in character and worldwide in scope. On them depends all the necessities and comforts of life--from the amount of money in their pocketbooks, the pavement on their highways, the housing in their towns, to the sort of country they will leave behind as a heritage to their children. They need full and accurate information. Your newspapers can give it to them. On every question where they have it, their decisions will be sound.

Now if increased knowledge and understanding are necessary to promote the unity of our people, they are equally necessary to the development of international cooperation. At this juncture in world affairs, ignorance of each other's capacities, hopes, prejudices, beliefs, and intentions can destroy cooperation and breed war.

Nowhere on this planet today is there an impregnable fortress, a continent or island so distant that it can ignore all the outer world. If this is not to be the age of atomic hysteria and horror, we must make it the age of international understanding and cooperative peace. Even the most rabid Marxist, the most ruthless worshipper of force, will in moments of sanity admit that. International understanding, however, like domestic unity, depends--in large part--on the free, full flow of information and its balanced presentation.

But recent reports state that 75 percent of all the people who inhabit the earth live under censorship. Illiteracy affects vast numbers in many areas of the globe. And, of course, there are language and cultural barriers. Understanding cannot, under these circumstances, be easily or quickly achieved. Into the vacuum caused by censorship and illiteracy, pours the positive and poisonous propaganda of the Soviets. For 24 hours each day, it pours in.

The Communist propaganda machine, for instance, tirelessly tells all the world that our free enterprise system inevitably must collapse in mass unemployment, industrial strife, financial bankruptcy. Time and again, communistic propaganda has shifted and reversed its tactics. But this one charge is firmly fixed in the party line from Marx to Malenkov.

Our United States Information Service, cooperating with similar efforts by friendly nations, seeks to combat propaganda with truth. Every dollar we put into it, when wisely used, will repay us dividends in the triumph of truth and the building of understanding. But our official Information Service is properly limited in purpose, as it is in size. The mass of information of us and to us must flow through the established publicity media of the several nations. Of all these we think ours the best and the most efficient.

Yet, a study in which, I am told, many of you cooperated, shows that the average daily newspaper in the United States prints about four columns a day of news stories from abroad. I do not know whether that is too little, too much, or about right. But I do know that in this amount of daily space it is hard to inform the American people about relevant happenings in all other countries.

Two-thirds of this foreign news was found to be about important official ceremonies and events in other countries--about their internal political crises, their foreign relations involvements, their official statements and pronouncements. Very little of the news had to do with the man in the streets, or with his social, educational, cultural, civic, and religious life and history. Yet an understanding of these is indispensable to an understanding of a nation.

The same specialists who studied this question also examined many European newspapers. There, too, news about the average American was scant. Those among you who have spent years abroad have undoubtedly been amazed by the frequency with which misleading or distorted opinions of our individual and national life are expressed by citizens of other countries.

It is always disconcerting to hear foreign friends speaking disparagingly of the American civilization as a collection of shiny gadgets. It is alarming to know that we are considered so immature in world politics as to be ready to provoke a war needlessly and recklessly. It is even worse to learn that we are often judged as power-hungry as the men in the Kremlin.

Because of a tragic failure to understand us and our purposes, the citizen of Western Europe frequently looks upon America and the U.S.S.R. as two great power complexes, each seeking only the most propitious moment in which to crush the other by force. He believes also that, in the meantime, each seeks alliances with nations throughout Europe with the sole purpose of using them as pawns when the moment of crisis arrives. We know that we seek only peace, by cooperation among equals. Success in this great purpose requires that others likewise know this, also.

As individuals we are frequently pictured abroad as rich, indifferent to all values other than money, careless of the rights of others, and ignorant of the contributions others have made to the progress of Western civilization. Undoubtedly these misconceptions are partially the result of Communist propaganda. But they flourish in the lack of comprehensive, truthful two-way information.

Here at home we need fuller and better information of others, if we are wisely to direct our policies toward real security. Many of us incorrectly assume that all other countries would like to live under a system identical or similar to ours. Some believe that all foreigners are lazy or decadent--that few pay taxes, that they hate us for the sole reason that we are prosperous. We hear often that the people of a particular nation are cowardly, or have no love of country, or pride in their citizenship. Too often we think of them as physically weak, intellectually shallow, and spiritually defeated.

Of course, there are individuals everywhere who fit these descriptions-but it is dangerous to us and to peace when we carelessly speak in generalities of this kind, characterizing an entire nation.

We live in a small world, and only by a cooperative effort of the free peoples occupying important areas can we build security and peace. It is not a question of turning the press, radio, television and newsreels into media of sugar-coated propaganda, "selling" America to the Frenchman, France to the German, and Britain to the American.

It is quite different from that. I repeat: for understanding we need the facts and the perspective within which they fit. I am sure that the free press in all free countries has made real progress in this direction. But I think a lot more can, and by all means should, be done. The future of all of us depends upon it.

No group can be more effective in such accomplishment than you of the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Here, indeed, is an endeavor worthy of your talents and skills.

Within the framework of friendly alliances, we are joined with hundreds of millions among the free nations in working agreements, primarily concerned with military security, but inescapably dealing with every hope and every concern of daily life. Together we live in a mighty arena, bounded by the polar regions, practically encircling the globe, peopled by men and women of independent nations. These peoples, with scanty information and understanding of one another, are now allies of convenience under Communist threat; but tomorrow they could be full partners permanently joined in mutual understanding, impelled by common aspirations. Among the nations of that vast arena, at least, war can become unthinkable--quickly. A cooperative peace among them is no mirage of the dreamer.

Within the United Nations, we possess a global forum where we can plead the cause of peace so that even the men of the Kremlin must listen. Their ears may be stopped to the spirit of our words. Their minds, however, cannot forever be shut to the facts of the age within which we-and they--must live, physically separated one from the other by a few hours of flight.

We cannot hope with a few speeches, a few conferences, a few agreements to achieve the most difficult of all human goals--a cooperative peace for all mankind. Here may I say, my friends, that your representatives in the diplomatic world have no other thought or no other purpose than that which I have just stated: the achievement of a cooperative peace among the free nations and eventually to enlarge that by appealing to the commonsense, representing the facts of the world as they are today to all others, so that even the iron wall must crumble and all men can join together.

To lead that kind of effort, we are blessed--and I say we are blessed, and I believe it from the bottom of my heart--with a man whose whole life has been devoted to this one purpose, who from babyhood has studied and thought and contemplated how to achieve this one great goal of human kind, well knowing that within his lifetime perfection cannot be attained, but to do his part in reaching it. I cannot tell you how sincerely I believe that every one of us--every one of 160 million people-owes a great debt of gratitude to Foster Dulles.

Free men do not lose their patience, their courage, their faith, because the obstacles are mountainous, the path uncharted. Given understanding, they invariably rise to the challenge.

Never, then, has there been a more compelling and rewarding time to work for international understanding, to labor for cooperative peace.

I most firmly believe that the American people's decision to strengthen our country--in moral leadership, in intellectual stature, in military posture, in a dependable prosperity widely shared--will be realized. Underlying that decision is a tremendous spiritual energy which I believe to be adequate to every test. I believe that it grows from day to day as our people become more and more aware of the deadly nature of the world's struggle.

I most firmly believe, too, that world leadership in the cause of cooperative peace lies within the capacity of America. This capacity will be realized when everyone here present uses his mind and his will and all his resources, in union with others of like influence, to bring about the understanding, the comprehension, the determination we need. Freedom of expression is not merely a right--in the circumstances of today, its constructive use is a stern duty. Have we, have you as publishers, the courage fully to exercise the right and perform the duty?

Along with patriotism--understanding, comprehension, determination are the qualities we now need. Without them, we cannot win. With them, we cannot fail.

Thank you very much.


Note: The President spoke at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 9:00 p.m. His opening words referred to Stuart M. Chambers, President of the Association, President Herbert Hoover, and the Honorable Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Citation: Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Address at the Dinner of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, New York City.," April 22, 1954. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=10217.
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