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Dwight D. Eisenhower: Remarks at the Ceremonies Honoring Robert E. Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
93 - Remarks at the Ceremonies Honoring Robert E. Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia.
May 4, 1958
Public Papers of the Presidents
Dwight D. Eisenhower<br>1958
Dwight D. Eisenhower

United States
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Madam President, Secretary Weeks, My friends:

There was a man in Louisiana condemned to be hanged, and under the state law he was allowed five minutes to give whatever last words he might choose to speak on that occasion. Well, he thought a moment and he said, "Well, I haven't got anything to say--get on with it." A man in the audience rose and said, "If he doesn't want those five minutes, Mr. Sheriff, let me have them because I am running for Congress."

Now when your President asked me to step up in front of this microphone, she really didn't know the risks, I think, that she was running.

No one could visit this wonderful place without his mind ruminating some about its history, about the accomplishments of this great family, and thinking about where we are now with respect to where this country was in 1725.

I was thinking, just a moment ago, of the golden age of Athens and the time of Pericles. The time between 435 B.C. and the second Punic War was a little bit over 200 years. Now, in the long perspective of history, two hundred years is nothing, because we think, almost, of Hannibal and Pericles as contemporaries.

But as we stand here and look back to Thomas Lee, it is a very different thing. It is particularly different because as we walked around this place today, we saw the room in this house where the clothing was made for the people on the plantation. Within the hour I walked through the mill where was ground not only the flour and the meal for the people of this plantation, but for others that needed it. Incidentally, I hear you can buy it--that's the commercial part of it.

With those accomplishments as examples, this was practically a self-contained economic unit. While it is true they sent tobacco to England and took back some treasures of art and other items of luxury, as far as the running of the economy of the region, it was really done by self-contained economic units.
Now, what is the difference between that time and today?

There is not a person in this audience, there is not a person in the United States that is not affected every single day by what happens in Africa, in far Asia, in Europe and all of South America. We are no longer independent economic units.

We depend on others for billions of dollars' worth of our raw materials; of our manufactured goods we send abroad ten and a half billion dollars and we buy from others two and a half billion dollars of the same. Our total commerce is twenty billion dollars, and four and a half million workers in our country are engaged in building the things that we sell abroad.

This is the difference. This is the difference between the ox cart and the jet plane. This is the difference between signal flags of 250 years ago and the radar and the television of today.

So we have to think not only of Stratford; we think not only of Virginia under the United States, we think of the world in which we live. And as I walked around this place today, I just wondered what Thomas Lee and his great sons and his later descendant, General Lee, would think if they could have been here today.

I will tell you one thing: because of their accomplishments we know they were thinkers, they were men of vision, they were men of courage, and consequently they would not have shrunk from the duties that are laid upon each one of us, if we are going to make America what they envisioned for America.

I believe there is no single individual in the United States that can escape his duty to think for himself and to think of the relationship between him or her, and with the last individual in China, in Madagascar or at the North Pole or at the South Pole. Those relationships become more meaningful to all of us, and each of us must do his duty with respect to them.

Now, my friends, the Secretary of Commerce just closed his remarks with a quotation, and I will tell you one, from Lee. I think it is one of the noblest expressions I ever heard or ever read uttered by any other man of the English-speaking race. He was talking about the dedication and the obligation of each of us to his country.

He said, "We cannot do more than our duty. We would not wish to do less."
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:20 p.m. His opening words "Madam President" referred to Mrs. Pratt Thomas, President of the Robert E. Lee Memorial foundation. The ceremonies were held at the beginning of the spring meeting of the foundation.
Citation: Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Remarks at the Ceremonies Honoring Robert E. Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia.," May 4, 1958. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=11371.
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