Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address in Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 01, 1956

Mr. Chairman, Senator Duff, My Fellow Americans:

Our time of national political debate is almost ended. The clamor of these days will soon subside. And your day of thoughtful decision swiftly nears.

We meet tonight, of course, in the name of a political party-and I am this party's leader.

Now as such--as this party's political leader--and as a fellow Pennsylvanian--I have the privilege of speaking a word about your Senator Duff. Six years ago, my friends, he was in the forefront of those who kept insisting to me that I had a political duty; and he further insisted if I would accept this call to duty, as he labeled it, that I would be elected.

This evening, in your name, I would like to say the same to him. And I hope that you send him back to Washington with a full complement of his partners in the Congress of the United States.

Now, though I am a party member, before all else, I am your President--responsible not to Republicans or to Democrats, but to all Americans. And I believe it is fitting--in this, my final formal address of this political campaign--to speak to you in this role and in this spirit. I speak to you of the faith and convictions that have guided me--and this Administration--in these past four years. And I make this my simple pledge: This same faith and these convictions of which I speak to you tonight will rule my future conduct--if it be your will that I serve you for the next four years.

We have spoken, these last weeks, of many of the serious labors of your government.

We have spoken of our abundance and our productive power-providing more rewarding work--for more people--than any people have ever known, anywhere in the world, any time in history.

We have spoken of the ways we strengthen the physical resources of our land: highways to join our cities, dams to harness our rivers, ports and waterways to carry our commerce. And we have spoken of all things deeply affecting the welfare of our people: social security and slum clearance--public housing and public health--civil rights and education.

We have spoken, too, of the characteristics and methods of your government these last four years. By this I mean: the integrity of public service--commanding the respect of all citizens-and the integrity of economic policies--guarding the real value of the earnings of all our citizens. And I mean also: the steady strengthening--not of central power--but of State and local government-upon which depends the very life of our Constitutional system.

And yet--even all these things are not enough. For they are not enough truly to define for what we live--and by what we live. All the historic precedents, the soaring graphs, the staggering statistics--these measure size more than substance. And the largeness and greatness of our nation would be almost a mockery--without a matching greatness of heart and largeness of vision as we look out upon the world.

Of these greater things, I speak to you tonight.

It seems to me right to do so here, in Philadelphia, where our forefathers defined the principles by which our nation was born and has ever lived.

There is further reason for such thoughts this night. Over all the din of our domestic debate, these last weeks, we have heard other sounds--louder still, and urgent with meaning--sounds from across the world. We have heard--with admiration and with hope--the challenging cry for freedom of the peoples of Hungary and of Poland. We have been reminded once again: this love of man for his freedom is the thing that no bullet can kill, no gallows strangle.

And now, in these last days, we have heard other sounds of less happy portent. We have heard--with deep dismay--the crack of rifle-fire and the whine of jet-bombers over the deserts of Egypt.

In such a world--at such a time--"a decent respect for the opinion of mankind"--in the words of our Declaration of Independence-requires that we state plainly the purposes we seek, the principles we hold.

In June of 1776, Richard Henry Lee, rising before the Second Continental Congress to move his resolution for American independence, declared: "The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us; she demands of us a living example of freedom."

One hundred eighty years later, we know that the eyes of the world are fixed upon us. And we must ask ourselves: what kind of an example of freedom do we give to our age? What are the true marks of our America--and what do they mean to the world?

We are a people born of many peoples. Our culture, our skills, our very aspirations have been shaped by immigrants--and their sons and daughters--from all the earth. Sam Gompers from England, Andrew Carnegie from Scotland, Albert Einstein from Germany--and Booker T. Washington and Al Smith--Marconi and Caruso--men of all nations and races and estates--they have made us what we are.

Men like these--men by the millions--have deepened and defined our very understanding of what is true and just in the wide world from which they came.

We know--as our forefathers knew--the firm ground on which our beliefs must stand. Freedom is rooted in the certainty that the brotherhood of all men springs from the Fatherhood of God. And thus, even as each man is his brother's keeper, no man is another's master.

So it is that the laws most binding us as a people are laws of the spirit--proclaimed in church and synagogue and mosque. These are the laws that truly declare the eternal equality of all men, of all races, before the man-made laws of our land. And we are profoundly aware that--in the world--we can claim the trust of hundreds of millions of people, across Africa and Asia-only as we ourselves hold high the banner of justice for all.

We are--proudly--a people with no sense of class or caste. We judge no man by his name or inheritance, but by what he does--and for what he stands.

And so likewise do we judge other nations. The right of no nation depends upon the date of its birth or the size of its power. As there can be no second-class citizens before the law of America, so--we believe--there can be no second-class nations before the law of the world community.

We--finally--look upon change, the ever-unfolding future, with confidence rather than doubt, hope rather than fear. We, as a people, were born of revolution. And we have lived by change--always a frontier people, exploring--if not new wilderness-then new science and new knowledge.

And from this springs our understanding of the world, our power to apply to the present the lessons of the past. In but a few years we have changed--we have advanced--from an isolationism spurning collective security--to our steadfast support of the United Nations--from a sense of self-sufficiency and remoteness from other nations--to the vivid awareness that our greatest purpose--a just and lasting peace--can be attained only as all other nations share this peace with us.


Now, as we have witnessed in these very weeks momentous events throughout the world, we have applied these principles by which America must ever live--and strive to lead.

In Eastern Europe, we have seen the spirit of freedom--swift and strong--strike through the darkness. The peoples of Poland and Hungary, brave as ever through all their history, have offered their lives to live in liberty. And as the people have risen, so have new governments--and so has new hope.

In all of this the true intent of the Soviet Union seems not yet clear. We are only today--troubled by news of new Soviet efforts to suppress the people of Hungary by force. If this be true, this is a black day of sorrow. But the Soviet Union has declared its readiness to reshape oppressive policies of a decade-and to contemplate withdrawal of its armed forces from Poland and Hungary and Rumania. If this be true--and if this be done--there could be in the making a bright new day of justice and of trust among all nations.

It is timely to ask: How have we practiced our principles at this historic moment?

We have always made clear that we would never renounce our hope and concern for these lands and peoples.

We have denounced--before the world forum of the United Nations--the Soviet use of force in its attempt to suppress these peoples' risings. And we ourselves have abstained from use of force--knowing it to be contrary to both the interests of these peoples, and to the spirit and methods of the United Nations.

And we have welcomed these events seeking for no selfish advantage. We seek from these peoples neither material gain nor military alliance. We seek simply their freedom--for their sake, and for freedom's sake.

We have, in these same days, been submitted to a less hopeful--a much sterner--test of our principles. A test--I believe it is--by which the world will judge us, for long to come.

The United Nations--within 48 hours of its being called to consider the matter of foreign--Soviet--forces in Hungary-was called to judge the use of foreign forces in Egypt.

I, as your President, am proud--and I trust that you are proud--that the United States declared itself against the use of force in, not one, but both these cases.

I hope you may allow me, at this moment, to make a serious personal comment. I have been profoundly heartened by messages I have received in these past days from Congressional members of both political parties. These messages have pledged support--earnest support--of America's decision to choose a path of honor. This--I am thankful to say--is the same spirited bipartisan support I have received and welcomed at many like moments of decision in these past four years. Those moments of decision have involved Korea and Formosa, Guatemala, and the Summit at Geneva. And as a consequence of this bipartisan support, I assure you, my friends, I have been undisturbed by the strident voices of those few who seem to be seeking to turn world events to political profit. For I know--as we look out upon this world of ours: This America is not divided. And let me say, I shall continue to take all actions and decisions in these times-not as a candidate for office, but as President of all the people of the United States.

And now, a few words about the principles that we have followed in making particular decisions.

First, we cannot and we will not condone armed aggression-no matter who the attacker, and no matter who the victim.

We cannot--in the world, any more than in our own nation-subscribe to one law for the weak, another law for the strong; one law for those opposing us, another for those allied with us.

There can be only one law--or there will be no peace.

We do not speak--let me emphasize--in any angry spirit of self-righteousness.

We value--deeply and lastingly--the bonds with those great nations, those great friends, with whom we now so plainly disagree. And I, for one, am confident that those bonds will do more than survive. They can--my friends, they must--grow to new and greater strength.

But this we know above all: there are some firm principles that cannot bend--they can only break. And we shall not break ours.

We believe that integrity of purpose and act is the fact that must, most surely, identify and fortify the free world in its struggle against communism.

We cannot proclaim this integrity when the issue is easy--and stifle it when the issue is hard.

To do this would be to do something much worse than merely making our great struggle in the world more difficult. For if we were ever to lose that integrity--there would be no way to win a true victory in that struggle.

This would be a surrender that we shall not make.

My fellow citizens, we look beyond these days, and we say: We shall continue to practice the peace that we preach.

We believe that humanity must now cease preying upon itself. We believe that the power of modern weapons makes war not only perilous--but preposterous--and the only way to win World War III is to prevent it.

And so we continue to build our strength, not to wage war, but to be spared war. We can judge today the need of this strength by a simple question: would we feel safe or secure as a nation--if we--say five years ago in the past--had already ceased perfecting our military weapons and even abandoned our military draft? That is no formula for peace. It is a design for disaster.

But let me say, we hold--firmly--to a vital paradox and to a fixed purpose: we maintain strength only in order some day to yield it--in league with all other nations. We shall go on working ceaselessly for the sure and safe accord that alone will make this possible. For we seek, above all else, to lift--from the backs of men and all nations--their terrible burden of armaments.

Finally--ever constant in the principles by which we live--we sense a special concern for the fate and fortune of those 700 million people--in 18 nations--who have won full independence since World War II. We know and respect both their national pride and their economic need.

Here we speak from the heart of our heritage. We, too, were born at a time when the tide of tyranny, running high, threatened to sweep the earth. We prevailed. And they shall prevail. For the everlasting promise of our own Declaration of Independence was what Lincoln declared it to be: "Liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope for the world for all future time."

These, then, are America's greater purposes.

They spring from our final faith in freedom.

And they summon to our minds another moment of greatness. It was here in Philadelphia, and it was in 1787. The Constitutional Convention had come to its end. Its long deliberations were done, and the principles of our nation had been defined. At that moment, Benjamin Franklin pointed to the chair where Washington had been sitting. There--on the back--was painted, in brilliant gold, the half sun. And Franklin said quietly: "Now--at length--I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, not a setting sun."

We--today--scan the wider horizon--of the whole world.

Proud of our principles, persistent in peace--we prayerfully may dare to see the same rising of the sun.

Thank you, my friends, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 p.m. Councilman Wilbur H. Hamilton, Acting Chairman of the Republican City Committee, presided.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address in Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233788

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