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Dwight D. Eisenhower: Address at the American Jewish Tercentenary Dinner, New York City.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
297 - Address at the American Jewish Tercentenary Dinner, New York City.
October 20, 1954
Public Papers of the Presidents
Dwight D. Eisenhower<br>1954
Dwight D. Eisenhower

United States
New York
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My friends:

We have come together in memory of an inspiring moment in history-that moment, 300 years ago, when a small band of Jewish people arrived on the ship "Saint Charles" in what was then the Dutch colony or state of New Amsterdam. It was an event meaningful not only to the Jews of America, but to all Americans--of all faiths, of all national origins.

On that day there came to these shores 23 people whose distant ancestors had, through the Old Testament, given new dimensions of meaning to the concepts of freedom and justice, of mercy and righteousness, kindness and understanding--ideas and ideals which were to flower on this continent. They were of a people who had done much to give to Western civilization the principle of human dignity; they came to a land which would flourish beyond all seventeenth century dreams, because it fostered that dignity among its citizens.

Of all religious concepts, this belief in the infinite worth of the individual is beyond doubt among the most important. On this faith our forefathers constructed the framework of our Republic.

In this faith in human dignity is the major difference between our own concept of life and that of enemies of freedom. The chief among these enemies a decade and more ago were Nazi and Fascist forces which destroyed so many of our fellow men. Today the Communist conspiracy is the principal influence that derides the truth of human worth and, with atheistic ruthlessness, seeks to destroy the free institutions established on the foundation of that truth.

Asher Levy and his party came to this land on that long ago day because even then they had to find a country where they could safely put into practice their belief in the dignity of man.

In this respect--as in so many others--they were no different from scores of other groups that landed on our shores. Only 34 years earlier, another party had landed at Plymouth Rock. That group, too, came here in the hope of escaping persecution, of gaining religious freedom, of settling quietly in the wilderness to build their homes and rear their families.

And there was another noble concept of our common Judeo-Christian civilization shared by these two groups: the ideal of peace.

I recall that wonderful prophecy of Isaiah: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever."

The pursuit of peace is at once our religious obligation and our national policy. Peace in freedom, where all men dwell in security, is the ideal toward which our foreign policy is directed.

My friends, I have been thrilled this evening by the historical accounts we have heard of the adventures of those 23 people. That was 300 years ago. That is approximately 10 generations. Now I want to look forward this evening, instead of back. And I want to give you some little conception of what I believe our responsibility to those of 300 years hence is.

If you--each of you--would assume no inter-marriage whatsoever among your progenitors for those ten generations, do you realize that each of you was produced by 1024 people of ten generations ago.?

If you invert that pyramid and throw your mind forward ten centuries, you can see the enormous number of people that are going to be directly related to you, perhaps--if you were so fortunate--and your responsibility to them and to all their friends and neighbors.

So I think it is only fitting that while we have heard this saga--the adventures of these 23 people; their origins--if you will allow me to talk a little bit about the hopes and aims of your government in beginning now the movement toward what we hope will be a far better world 300 years from now, that would be the thing I would like to do this evening.

I know that I am speaking to people who deeply love peace. I know that, with all other Americans, you share a profound thanksgiving that for the first time in 20 years there has been for some months no active battlefield anywhere in the world.

Moreover, while fighting has been brought to a halt during the past 21 months, still other developments favorable to the maintenance of peace have been brought about. This has been done through understanding and through persistent and patient work, in which your Government has been a helpful participant. Some of these developments have commanded our headlines--Korea, Egypt, Trieste, Iran, Guatemala.

Our people and their Government are dedicated to making this a just and a lasting peace.

In the years immediately ahead, the advancement of peace will demand much of us--our strength, our patience, our wisdom, our will. It will demand, above all, a realistic comprehension of the world and of its challenging problems. Some of the factors in these problems are new, and some old.

The principal and continuing factor is the persistently aggressive design of Moscow and Peiping, which shows no evidence of genuine change despite their professed desire to relax tensions and to preserve peace. Continuing, also, is the breadth and scope of the Communist attack; no weapon is absent from their arsenal, whether intended for destruction of cities and people or for the destruction of truth, of integrity, or loyalty.

The major new factor in the world today, beside the absence of fighting, is the rapid development in military weapons--weapons that in total war would threaten catastrophe. These products of science alone should be sufficient to stimulate the genuine efforts of all, including the Kremlin, to give to the world a true and permanent peace.

For our part we shall explore every avenue toward that goal. With any and all who demonstrate honesty of purpose, we are happy to confer. But well we realize that, in the circumstances of the moment, America must remain strong--and the community of free nations must likewise remain strong--to discourage the use of force in the world. In this effort we must help to harmonize the divergent views of the many free, self-governing nations, and without encroaching upon rights which all people cherish. For in the diversities of freedom are a tremendous might--a might which the imposed system of communism can never match.

Our Nation, because of its productivity and power, both existing and potential, holds a prime responsibility for maintaining peace. How, then, shall we meet this responsibility? With what policies can we best pursue our goal of peace?

Certain fundamentals are clear. Our Nation does not covet the territory of any people. We have no wish to dominate others. The peace we seek is a secure and a just peace, not bought at the expense of others, not bought at the expense of principle, and not bought by abject surrender of our vital interests. Peace so bought would at best be an illusion, and at worst a permanent loss of all that we hold most dear.

The following avenues must be trod as we make our way toward our peaceful goal.

First, we must tirelessly seek--through the United Nations, through every other available avenue open to us--every means to establish the conditions for an honorable peace.

Second, we must promote the unity and collective strength of other free peoples.

Third, we must maintain enough military strength to deter aggression and so promote peace.

Now, in these thoughts, we Americans overwhelmingly agree.

To examine briefly the first principal avenue, we stand ready to join all others in removing fear among nations. We shall resolutely adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter. We shall constantly urge the Communist rulers to do the same. We shall keep open the existing channels of negotiations, and shall use them whenever there is any prospect of positive results.

At the Berlin and Geneva conferences our Nation sought serious negotiation on German unity, on a treaty for Austria, and on a political settlement for Korea. Our efforts found no similar response from the Communist side. We will not be misled by proposals intended to divide the free nations and to delay their efforts to build their own defenses. Nevertheless, no matter how discouraging the prospect, no matter how intractable the Communist regimes we shall press on our search for agreement.

We will welcome a workable system for limiting armaments and controlling atomic energy. Moreover, if the armaments burden can be lifted, this Government stands ready to ask the Congress to redeem the pledge I made a year ago last April, to help support, from the funds thus saved, a worldwide development program.

Now, the second road leading toward our peaceful goal concerns our efforts to strengthen and unify other free peoples.

To meet the challenge destiny has laid upon our country, we must strive to help these free peoples achieve their own security and well-being; we must encourage regional groupings of these peoples; we must ourselves foster and practice policies that encourage profitable trade and productivity in the free world.

In these areas there has been heartening progress. We have broadened our alliances. We have helped to remove sources of conflict. We have helped to build firmer foundations for social and economic progress in our quest for peace.

For some years free world nations have sought to associate the Federal Republic of Germany in the Atlantic Community. Rejection of the European Defense Treaty by the French Assembly 7 weeks ago was a setback to that hope. Yet, no nation in Western Europe was willing to accept this setback as final. In the recent meetings at London, the free Western nations reasserted their basic unity and established a new pattern for achieving their common purposes. Then Secretary of State Dulles has just joined our European allies in Paris in further important negotiations to strengthen European cooperation.

In southeast Asia we have sought united action to preserve for the free countries of that area the independence accorded them since the end of World War II. Unfortunately, in recent years no foundation had been laid for effective united action to prevent Communist gains. Because of their consequent isolation, the governments that bore the burden of the Indochina war understandably sought its conclusion in the face of the limitless manpower of China.

But recently at Manila we succeeded in negotiating a treaty with Asian and European countries. This pact symbolizes the desire of these nations to act together against aggression and to consult together on measures against subversion. The Manila Pact, bringing together states of the East and the West, and the related Pacific Charter are a long step toward the peaceful progress to which all Asian peoples aspire, whether or not members of that pact.

Perhaps you would allow me to pause to say here, I have traveled this world in peace and war, and there is one fact to which I can testify with the greatest confidence: all peoples want peace--all peoples. The misunderstandings that keep us apart seem to be of our own making, the making of government, and of selfishness in leaders. Basically the heart of people seems to have a similarity, wherever you find the people.

In this Hemisphere we have strengthened our solid understandings with our American neighbors. At the Caracas conference earlier this year, the American Republics agreed that if international communism were to gain control of the political institutions of any one American state, that this control would endanger them all, and therefore would demand collective action. Recently such a threat arose in Guatemala. The American states were preparing to act together to meet it when the Guatemalans themselves removed the danger. The Caracas agreement will stand as a bulwark of freedom in the Western Hemisphere.

In a number of areas throughout the free world, dangers to peace have been eliminated. The problem of Trieste, a threat to peace for a decade, has now been satisfactorily solved by Italy and Yugoslavia, with friendly assistance from the United States and Great Britain. Egypt and Britain have reached an amicable adjustment of questions centering on Suez. Iran has been helped in settling its difficult internal problems and is moving toward firm and friendly relations with the West.

In the Near East we are all regretfully aware that the major differences between Israel and the Arab States remain unresolved. Our goal there, as elsewhere, is a just peace. By firm friendship toward Israel, and all other nations in that area, we shall continue to contribute to the peace of the world. But I assure you that, in helping to strengthen the security of the entire Near East, we shall make sure that any arms we provide are devoted to that purpose, not to creating local imbalances which could be used for intimidation of or aggression against any neighboring nation. In every arrangement--every arrangement--we make with any nation, there is ample assurance that this distortion of our purposes cannot occur.

The fact that so many stubborn problems have been resolved through patience and forbearance surely justifies our hope that, by similar efforts, the nations of the free world will be able to eliminate other problems. Such efforts themselves tend to bring the free nations closer together. In speaking recently of the London conference, Sir Winston Churchill said of his country and the United States, "True and friendly comprehension between our kindred nations has rarely reached a higher standard."

Since I personally have been in many conferences with my friend Sir Winston during the past 12 years on these subjects affecting the friendship between Britain and America, I can testify with him, and in spite of the differences that seem magnified at times in our public prints, that statement is true--our relations with our British friends are solid and sound.

When we think of these many encouraging developments over the world, and the patient, helpful work that brought them about--when we contemplate the fact that the seemingly endless war in Korea, with its tragic casualty lists, is a thing of the past--and when we see improvement in area after area, from Suez to Iran, from Trieste to Guatemala, from London to Manila--then we indeed take heart.

In addition, we must devise means by which more highly developed countries can assist peoples who face the difficulties of an earlier stage of economic development.

As we continue to assist in these efforts, we shall also contribute much to free world unity by the wise use of our great economic power. We have, in the past, provided indispensable assistance to our partners. We continue to stand ready to help: to repair the ravages of war; to ease economic difficulties caused by their efforts to build needed military strength for the good of all of us; to relieve disasters, and flood or famine.

Economic relations, however, are a two-way street. If the common goal is to be reached, free nations must subordinate the selfish to the general interest. All must bear their fair share of the common burden. All must do more to liberalize the exchange of goods among free peoples. Let us be mindful, of course, of our own responsibility in this field. Bold action could release powerful forces of economic enterprise from which the whole free world would benefit.

And if there were no other reason for national policy concerning itself every day and every minute with the Nation's economy and full employment, it would be justified by the need for this kind of economic strength in meeting our world problems.

We must continue to explore ways in which nuclear discoveries can be turned to the service of man's peaceful needs. Since our Nation's proposal for an international effort toward this end was laid before the United Nations last December, we have taken the initiative in this direction. We would welcome the participation of the Soviet Union. But this great effort for human welfare cannot wait upon their decision. Our third major road leads us to maintain enough military strength to deter aggression and to help keep peace in the world. This strength is a trust on which rests the current safety of free men.

Neither in size nor in character can our military establishment remain static. With constantly changing dangers, with rapidly changing developments in the science of warfare, our military forces, too, must change. From atomic submarine to atomic cannon, from new weapon systems to new military organizations, this giant, complex structure must respond to the current needs of our time. Above all, its purpose is to prevent aggression and war. Our forces will never be used to initiate war against any nation; they will be used only for the defense of the free world.

Together with the armed strength of other free nations, our military power--the greatest in our peacetime history--is today a deterrent to war. This awesome power we must and shall maintain, for we are determined that at all times, in today's uncertain world, we shall be able to deal effectively and flexibly with whatever situations may arise.

My friends, in these many ways our Nation will continue tirelessly in its quest for peace based on justice. In recent months we have come far--and yet we know that the road ahead is long and difficult. But we shall continue to press on.

As we do so we shall keep faith with those of earliest America who came to these shores three centuries and more ago. They have launched a venture in freedom unparalleled in man's struggle over the ages. They sought peace and freedom and justice, for themselves and for those who were to follow.

Yes, my friends, we know, with the prophet Isaiah, that the work of righteousness shall be peace.

Now let me remind you, when those people came, they didn't come for a negative purpose, just to be free of persecution. They sought the positive right to stand up as free men, as dignified humans; and the struggle that they carried forward to achieve those rights has been described to you eloquently and vividly this evening.

In the same way, in preserving peace in the world, international peace is not a static--is not a negative thing. It is a positive thing, of preparing the world--the conditions in the world, where people may live honorably and upright, and at peace.

And we know this: that as we labor for peace, we labor for all humanity, for all values, for all of enduring meaning to mankind. Never was there a nobler cause. Ringingly, insistently, it calls out to us, all of us, for ardent devotion and advocacy. To work with all our hearts for peace in the world is a task not alone for the soldier, the diplomat, the scholar, the statesman--peace is a job for every one of us, the concern of the working man, businessman, and clerk, the farmer and doctor and engineer--rabbi, clergyman, and priest--the teacher, the parent, and the child.

Let us then, each of us, resolve anew that we shall have peace. Let us then--let each of us--have faith that we shall succeed. Let us strive for peace with all our hearts and minds. From county seat to the conference table among nations--let us talk for peace from the classroom to the congressional hall.

And my fellow citizens, let each of us pray for peace--pray that He who rules over nation and man may guide every human being toward that wisdom and understanding that forever will bar from mankind the scourge of war.

To each of you, my thanks for the warmth and courtesy of your welcome. Thank you for the honor of being with you.

Note: The President spoke in the main ballroom of the Sheraton-Astor Hotel in New York City at 10:00 p.m.
Citation: Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Address at the American Jewish Tercentenary Dinner, New York City.," October 20, 1954. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=10093.
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