Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address and Remarks at the Baylor University Commencement Ceremonies, Waco, Texas.

May 25, 1956

President White, the trustees, faculty, student body, members of the graduating class, and may I proudly say my fellow Texans:

Through the years, like most of you, I think I have done my share of bragging about Texas, about the ability of its men to work and to play, the beauty of its women, the fighting qualities of its soldiers. This morning I was forcefully reminded that Texans can also sing. My felicitations to this marvelous choir. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

To be Baylor's honored guest today is indeed a high privilege. This is a school of great achievements, of great goals. Baylor's ten schools and colleges are the fruition of seeds planted in 1845 at Old Independence. Baylor's graduates in positions of leadership testify to the wisdom and foresight of Baylor's founders. Your magnificent Armstrong Browning library exemplifies the growth of Baylor as a principal cultural center of the Southwest.

This University is dedicated to true education; it strives to develop wisdom. This implies, over and beyond mere knowledge, an understanding of men's relationship to their fellow men in a world created for their stewardship by a God in whose image they are all made.

You have been taught here to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly before your Maker even as you use every opportunity to better yourselves through the profession in which you have been here grounded.

Now you enter a new phase of your life experience--in a world where the principles by which you live are frequently flouted and ignored. What is your place in this world? What can you do to improve it? Pointedly, what can each one of you as an individual do to promote a world society that respects the values in which you, and this school, believe so deeply. The thoughts I bring to you this morning deal primarily--and that most sketchily--with the international phases of a suggested answer.

I speak of international affairs for a very simple reason. In the fundamental struggle in which the world is now engaged, world issues create, or at least color, almost every domestic question, problem and issue.

Clear comprehension of the basic factors involved is vitally important to leaders and officials, indeed to every citizen of this country and of the world. Such understanding, I submit, is especially important to you young people who perforce must look at these critical current problems against a horizon of ten, twenty, forty years hence.

Today a militant, aggressive Communistic doctrine is dominant over much of the world's surface and over hundreds of millions of the world's people. In the post-war period, we have seen it indulge in a particularly cynical type of colonialism, expressed in the Communist subjugation of once free and proud nations in Europe and in Asia. Simultaneously, in the free areas of the world, six hundred million people in more than a score of new countries have achieved independence.

Communism denies the spiritual premises on which your education has been based. According to that doctrine, there is no God; there is no soul in man; there is no reward beyond the satisfaction of daily needs. Consequently, toward the human being, Communism is cruel, intolerant, materialistic. This doctrine, committed to conquest by lure, by intimidation and by force, seeks to destroy the political concepts and institutions that we hold to be dearer than life itself. Thus Communism poses a threat from which even this mighty nation is not wholly immune.

Yet, my friends, Communism is, in deepest sense, a gigantic failure.

Even in the countries it dominates, hundreds of millions who dwell there still cling to their religious faith; still are moved by aspirations for justice and freedom that cannot be answered merely by more steel or by bigger bombers; still seek a reward that is beyond money or place or power; still dream of the day that they may walk fearlessly in the fullness of human freedom.

The destiny of man is freedom and justice under his Creator. Any ideology that denies this universal faith will ultimately perish or be recast. This is the first great truth that must underlie all our thinking, all our striving in this struggling world.

A second truth is that the fundamental principles of human liberty and free government are powerful sources of human energy, loyalty and dedication. They are guides to enduring success. They are mightier than armaments and armies.

Americans have recognized those two truths in the historical documents of the Republic. They are repeated in the preamble to the fundamental policy statement in our current series of national security directives. In part that preamble reads:

"The spiritual, moral and material posture of the United States of America rests upon established principles which have been asserted and defended throughout the history of the Republic. The genius, strength and promise of America are founded in the dedication of its people and government to the dignity, equality and freedom of the human being under God.

"These concepts and our institutions which nourish and maintain them with justice are the bulwark of our free society and are the basis of the respect and leadership which have been accorded our nation by the peoples of the world."

That is the end of the quotation.

Now, much as we are dedicated to this expression of lofty sentiment, it will count for little unless every American--to the extent of his influence and capacity--daily breathes into it the life of his own practice. The test is the readiness of individuals to cleave to principle even at the cost of narrower, more immediate gains.

For you graduates, and for all citizens, opportunities to strengthen our assault on injustice and bigotry will be as numerous as the tasks you undertake and the people that you meet each day. Nothing I might add could either quicken your recognition of such opportunities or strengthen your response to them. But certain it is that in this recognition and this response will be found the measure of America's future safety, progress and greatness.

The third great truth that must underlie our thinking on international questions is this: People are what count. A sympathetic understanding of the aspirations, the hopes and fears, the traditions and prides of other peoples and nations, is essential to the promotion of mutual prosperity and peace. Such understanding is a compulsory requirement on each of us if, as a people, we are to discharge our inescapable national responsibility to lead the world in the growth of freedom and of human dignity.

Communism seeks to dominate or to destroy; freedom seeks to cooperate and to help others to build. But, my friends, these basic differences are not self-evident. Therefore, the people of the world are not necessarily thinking in terms of opposing concepts of communistic dictatorship and of human rights and freedom.

Rather, today, the most unyielding expression of peoples' aspirations seems to be an intense nationalism. There is nothing to be feared in this--of itself. The right of a people, capable of self-government, to their own political institutions is deeply imbedded in American thinking. Among peoples as among our own citizens we believe the rights of the weak to be identical with those of the strong. And, in the past we have helped many small nations to independence. We will continue to hail with satisfaction the birth of each new nation whose people, achieving independence and freedom, become peaceful members of the world community.

In this day, however, one acute economic problem grows more acute as each new nation steps forward to an independent place in the international family. New nations, springing up, create new political boundaries. Far too often those political boundaries become serious obstacles to the flow of trade.

Such barriers are daily of more importance as increasing industrialization and specialization critically increase the economic inter-dependence of peoples. Specialization in any area-which implies an unbalanced local economy--is not necessarily a weakness, provided always that there is free opportunity for exchanging a portion of the products of such specialization for the other things needed to satisfy the requirements of all the people.

This means that, where any nation does not possess, within its own boundaries, the major elements of a broadly balanced economy, it is normally handicapped in assuring maximum satisfaction of human wants and prosperity for its own people. So find that the emotional urge for a completely independent existence may seriously conflict with an equal desire for higher living standards.

This conflict, so obvious, is often ignored. But even the productivity and prosperity of this great country of ours would vanish if our States were 48 separate nations, with economic and political barriers at each boundary preventing or impeding the interflow of goods, people and ideas.

We must put to ourselves this question: How can we help answer both the great desire of peoples for a separate, independent existence, and the need for economic union or, at least, effective economic cooperation among them?

This question is of vital importance to every nation. Unhappiness, unrest and disaffection caused by depressed living standards can be as acute as when caused by political injustice. Disaffection, long continued, in any portion of the earth, can bring about political convulsions and grave global crises. In Communist areas the answer is achieved by compulsion.

But effective cooperation is not easily accomplished among free nations. Permit me in one illustration to point up the difficulty, among free peoples, of progress toward this type of union.

The statesmen of Western Europe have long been aware that only in broad and effective cooperation among the nations of that region can true security for all be found. They know that real unification of the separate countries there would make their combined 250 million highly civilized people a mighty pillar of free strength in the modern world. A free United States of Europe would be strong in the skills of its people, adequately endowed with material resources, and rich in their common cultural and artistic heritage. It would be a highly prosperous community.

Without such unification the history of the past half century in Europe could go on in dreary repetition, possibly to the ultimate destruction of all the values those people themselves hold most dear. With unification, a new sun of hope, security and confidence would shine for Europe, for us, and for the free world.

Another stumbling block to European unity is the failure of populations as a whole to grasp the long-term political, economic and security advantage of union. These are matters that do not make for a soul-stirring address on a national holiday. They can be approached only in thought, in wisdom--almost, I think we may say, in prayer.

Nevertheless--and happily--much progress has been made.

Years ago, our European partners began both to study and to act. Our country's help was given wherever possible because our own future security and prosperity are inescapably linked to those of our European friends. There was established the Brussels Compact, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, the European Payments Union, the European Coal and Steel Community, and the Council for Europe. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization--NATO--although an organization comprehending much more than Western Europe, nevertheless provides the cooperative mechanism for greater security in the area. All these were set up to attack immediate problems in cooperation.

Despite setbacks and difficulties, these have been operating with increasing efficiency. So, European Union, one of the greatest dreams of Western man, seems nearer today than at any time in centuries, providing bright promise for the future of our European friends and for the growth and strength of liberty.

On a broader geographical scale, members of the Atlantic Community are working together in many different ways and through many different agencies. But such cooperation can usefully be further developed. At the NATO meeting several weeks ago it was decided that the members of the Atlantic Community should "examine actively further measures which might be taken at this time to advance more effectively their common interests." They designated a Committee of three Foreign Ministers to advise on "ways and means to improve and extend cooperation in non-military fields and to develop greater unity within the Atlantic Community."

This effort recognizes the truth that all peoples of the free world must learn to work together more effectively in the solution of our common problems or the battle for human liberty cannot be won. Among equals, attempting to perform a difficult task, there is no substitute for cooperation.

It is gratifying, to all of us, I know, to realize that Senator Walter George has agreed to act as my Personal Representative and Special Ambassador in working for this new evolution of the Atlantic Community. Nothing could testify more forcefully to the critical importance of this project than the willingness of Senator George to undertake it.

Patiently but persistently we must work on. We must take into account man's hunger for freedom and for food; all men's dignity as well as some men's power; the eventual triumph of right and justice over expediency and force.

The responsibility for carrying forward America's part in helping improve international cooperation cannot be met through paper work in a governmental bureau. But it can be met through a combined effort by all of us, in and out of government, all trying to develop the necessary understanding that every international problem is in reality a human one. You--the fortunate graduates of this great institution--are in a particularly advantageous position to lead in the development of this kind of thinking and understanding.

You owe it to yourselves, you owe it to your country to continue your study and critical analysis of the great international questions of our day. You can join with like-minded men and women in the many voluntary associations that promote people-to-people contact around the world. By means of them, the thorny problems of the time are scrutinized from many viewpoints. Solutions are approached by many avenues. Creative thinking is sparked. Mutual understanding is furthered.

Thus, every thinking person will come to understand that his country's future will be brighter as the lot of mankind improves; that no nation can in the long run prosper except as the world enjoys a growing prosperity.

We must indeed be partners for peace and freedom and prosperity, if those words are to record achievement as well as to express a dream.

The foreign policy of this Republic--if it serves the enduring purposes and good of the United States--must always be rounded on these truths, thus expressing the enlightened interests of the whole American people.

Certainly the basic foreign relations measures taken by the United States in this century have been so developed. They do not belong to any political party--they are American. These measures range from our support of the Organization of American States to our membership in the United Nations and our present programs of partnership and assistance.

The United Nations by its very comprehensiveness is a unique association within which nations of every political complexion and philosophy have their place. The smaller groupings, in which we hold membership, are bound together by a common respect for common values. They conform, of course, to the United Nations Charter. But in each organization the likeness in background or interest or purpose that characterizes the membership and the restricted geographical limits within which it operates--assures more effective discharge of their functions than is possible in a group as large as the United Nations.

We shall continue in our loyalty to the United Nations. But we should, at the same time, further expand and strengthen our other international associations.

Some of them, although only a few years old, are already household words, recognized as immense contributions to the prosperity and security of particular areas in the free world-and to our own prosperity and security. Yet none provides a complete answer to any of our international problems. Again, consider NATO.

A united Western Europe may still be on the far-off horizon. NATO is nevertheless a great alliance, rich in human and natural resources. But this great array is neither self-sustaining nor self-sufficient. Its freedom and prosperity and security are intertwined with the freedom and prosperity and security of many other nations--old and new and still to be born--that people an even greater portion of the earth. Within this community of freedom, all are more sure of their independence and prosperity and security when all of us join so that, first:

Mutual trade is fostered.

Legitimate political and economic aspirations are advanced.

Cultural traditions are respected.

The difficulties and misfortunes of the weaker are met by help from the stronger. To be backward, or penny wise in our practice of this truth can lead only to greater risk and greater cost-far greater cost to ourselves.

The ways in which progress along these four roads can be achieved are legion in number. The first, of which I've spoken at some length, is the need for the growth and spread of understanding among our own people. The next need is that the peoples of other nations must, through similar study and thought, recognize with us the need for this kind of cooperation. This is not easy. Many nations, though their cultures are ancient and rich in human values, do not possess the resources to spread the needed education throughout their populations. But they can wisely use help that respects their traditions and ways.

For example, the whole free world would be stronger if there existed adequate institutions of modern techniques and sciences in areas of the world where the hunger for knowledge and the ability to use knowledge are unsatisfied because educational facilities are often not equal to the need.

Do we not find here a worthy challenge to America's universities and to their graduates? I firmly believe that if some or all of our great universities, strongly supported by private foundations that exist in number throughout this land, sparked by the zeal and fire of educated Americans, would devote themselves to this task, the prospects for a peaceful and prosperous world would be mightily enhanced.

I honestly believe that the opportunity here for each educated American is invaluable beyond the comprehension, almost, of any one of us.

In no respect should the purpose of these institutions be to transplant into new areas the attitudes, the forms, the procedures of America. The staffing, the conduct, the curriculum of each school would be the responsibility of the people where the school might be built.

Each school would help each nation develop its human and natural resources, and also provide a great two-way avenue of communication.

Such a voluntary effort in people-to-people partnership would be a dynamic, a fruitful corollary to three elements already effectively at work in our governmental foreign policy. For example:

To our Atoms for Peace program.

To our efforts to establish a climate in which universal disarmament can go forward.

To our long-sustained campaign for the exchange of knowledge and factual information between peoples.

Purposes and projects such as these--formulated by Republicans and Democrats--are part of a comprehensive effort to meet present and future needs, to solve problems in the enlightened self-interest of the United States.

It is not a haphazard, makeshift arrangement to meet day-today crises--big or little or imaginary.

Instead, it is a platform for the development of a stable, prosperous, peaceful world. Immediately concerned with this year and next year, our foreign policy is a realistic approach to a better world for all in 1966, 1976, 1996.

The basic objectives I have described are in furtherance of the aspirations of those who rounded this Republic. These objectives are plainly advanced if we foster and secure conditions at home and abroad with which this system of freedom can live and under which it can find fertile ground for acceptance and growth. Thus our security and our aspirations are linked with the security and aspirations of liberty loving people in many other lands. It is idle to talk of community of interest with them in measures for defense, without recognizing community of interest with them in that which is to be defended.

So today it is vitally important that we and others detect and pursue the ways in which cultural and economic assistance will mean more to free world strength, stability and solidarity than will purely military measures.

You of this class, like all Americans, must act in terms of today. At the same time, you in particular should think in terms of those years that now seem so distant.

You have in your heritage the dynamic principles that arouse visions in mankind.

You have in your hearts and minds the means to lift the eyes of men and women above the drab and desolate horizon of hate and fear and hopelessness.

My friends of Baylor--as Texans, as Americans, you believe in the brotherhood of man, and in his right to freedom. You are joined with millions of dedicated men and women at home, and linked in partnership with hundreds of millions of like-minded people around the globe. So believing and so united, you constitute the mightiest temporal force for good on this globe of ours.

I thank you very much.

[Remarks after receiving the degree of Doctor of Laws]

I do trust sincerely that all members of the Baylor family and all of Baylor's friends can realize how deeply proud I am of this honor just conferred upon me by your President.

I further hope that the Graduates of 1956 from now on will permit me to claim the Class as my own, because I would be very proud to do so.

Thank you.

[Greetings to the Graduates of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps]

It is a special privilege to speak to any group in uniform, especially one that has completed its preparatory work and is ready now to take its place in its own component of the Armed Services.

I have only a word to say to you, aside from congratulations. Your mission so far as the military phases of it are concerned is now a simple one: to do your part to provide the strength in seeing that this country will never again be at war.

It is through the strength you will provide that that time will be gained and the atmosphere created in which political leaders can negotiate for the kind of peace that will be necessary.

Good luck to each of you. My congratulations. My heartiest best wishes for your entire future.

Note: The President's opening words "President White" referred to William R. White, President of Baylor University.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address and Remarks at the Baylor University Commencement Ceremonies, Waco, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232888

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