Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address in Houston Before the Faculty and Students of Rice University

October 24, 1960

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Croneis, Mr. Brown, Mrs. Hobby, members of the faculty, student body, and friends of Rice University:

As we are all aware, there is a political campaign in progress. This meeting with you ladies and gentlemen is not intended by me to be any part of that contest. What I have to say to you this evening is representative of my own convictions and is not intended to be a disparagement to anyone. After all, there are, possibly, a few Democrats in this audience.

This evening I find myself once again in Texas, a State that has had a special and lifelong place in my memories and affections. This is the State where I was born seventy years ago; it is where I met the girl who became my wife; where I began a long career in military and civil service and where I was stationed on the day that Pearl Harbor hurled our nation once again into war.

When, in 1915, I came to join the Army at San Antonio, the alert Texas newspapers found nothing newsworthy in the arrival here of another 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry, but they properly gave much space to the completion and to the dedication of Rice Institute at Houston.

During the forty-five intervening years, the Institute, since become Rice University, has steadily added lustre to the name of her founder. It is a great personal privilege to come to this spacious campus, to see its structures of classic beauty and to pay tribute to Rice as one of America's great institutions of learning.

It is customary on occasions such as this for Age to speak to Youth, to hold up before the young, lessons from the past, to offer counsel for the future. Each generation, reflecting on its successes and mistakes, earnestly wants to bequeath to its successor a formula for a much better world than it, itself, has ever been able to produce. We have learned the futility of this, but we continue to attempt it. And so each generation is obliged to make its own way as best it can because, for one reason, it always inherits new and unforeseen problems along with whatever advantages it may have gained from its predecessors.

Now of course, a new generation is not compelled to accept its eventual responsibilities all at once. There is no clear dividing line, in point of time, between the duties and influence of any one generation and its successor. Invariably there is a gradual transition--a full changing of the guard takes years to complete. Now this is well, for the factor of experience inevitably plays an essential part in any important undertaking, but the transfer is, nevertheless, relentless and it is final. Sooner or later the day will come when the decisions which control the affairs of your community, your nation, your world, must be made by another generation--yours. The nation's future is what you make it.

Now what can you expect to find in these years of challenge and decision which lie ahead?

None of us needs to be reminded that, internationally, they will be years of unremitting struggle--for peace, for security, for freedom and for justice. With the best will in the world on the part of all sides, the peaceful resolution of basic world differences would be a most complex process.

Complicating the problem, it is inevitable that whenever one nation tries to dominate or enslave others, freedom-loving nations will always resist--and the result will be increased tension and strain. We know that the Soviet Union is using its vast power not for world betterment, but as weapons of political and economic warfare and for human enslavement.

For this basic problem of living on the same planet with the Communist bloc there is no ready-made solution.

Through our own strength we can assure that the Communists clearly appreciate the utter folly of any attempt to gain their ends by military aggression. Even they would not willingly choose suicide. In science, both of the earth and of space, we can continue our great aggregate advantages over them. Through patience we may relieve by negotiation some dangerous pressures, both local and national. Free nations, when they unite effectively, can defeat specific efforts at economic penetration and political subversion in newly developing areas.

But our experience of the past warns us not to expect miracles of the future; the road to genuine peace will be long and hard and costly.

An enormous stake lies in the less developed areas of the world. Many of these nations are old, by present standards. Others are very new. Seventeen new nations were admitted last month to the United Nations.

Yet whether they are new or old, whether from Asia, Africa or Latin America, these nations have a common problem and a common objective. All are fiercely determined to preserve their national independence and most need to break the age-old bonds of grinding poverty. These people must have hope; they must be enabled to realize their legitimate aspirations, or internal pressures may burst all bounds. Alone the progress of these people is far too slow. But with help from us and other free nations they can reach their goals, and contribute thereby to a stable and peaceful world.

We have done much in the past to help other nations, and I count our Mutual Security Program as being one of the most important, necessary and successful ventures for sustaining world peace and stability that our nation has ever undertaken. But what we and others have so far done is only a fair beginning in helping the under-developed peoples toward progress in freedom. If we abandon them, desperation could drive them to Moscow. Consequently the free world dare not fail. It must succeed--and it can do so only in true cooperation. This is an international imperative.

And this road, too, will be long and hard and costly.

Now at home there will be urgent problems that must be faced. By 1970 there will be some 35 million more Americans. They will be needing millions of new homes, 300,000 more school classrooms and as many additional hospital beds, and a veritable catalog of other essential services. Indeed, the future of America is as great as our vision.

The many necessary new jobs thus created will produce new national wealth, new security, new business. The cost will be vast.

Just to produce the plants, tools and equipment for the anticipated 13 million new jobs in 1970 will require a minimum of $140 billions of investment. Yet the gigantic yield to labor, capital and our nation will be far beyond anything that can be comprehended by those who are fearful of the future.

These commitments to the future--both at home and abroad--represent a tremendous challenge to our vision, ingenuity and our productive capacity. We can employ our resources--both material and spiritual-in ways which can bring forth a better world for all people--including ourselves. Or we can waste and dissipate them, and so lose the last clear chance in our time for freedom for all those who want it and are ready to work for it.

Our clear mission is to produce a better life in freedom for ourselves and help to do so for the world and, so doing, make the attainment of a just peace more probable. This will demand a massive, sustained, coordinated effort by all our people and by all peoples devoted to freedom.

The genius of a free people lies in the fact that they can produce such an effort by their own volition, without the coercive power of a dictatorial government. But they can do so only to the extent of their capacity for self-discipline and the subordination of selfish interests to national good. Within even the freest nation there must exist certain imperatives in policy, without which no great purpose can go forward.

Now there is little I can give you in the way of specific advice. But I suggest to you the value of three domestic imperatives which, among others, might be stated as axioms:

First--public programs--local or national--must be guided by longterm and easily recognizable goals. Short-term expediency, resulting in rapid change in effort, is a most wasteful process. It makes practically impossible the sustaining of responsible government.

Second--national solvency is mandatory to the continuance of national security, steadily rising productivity, and individual well-being.

Third--only by the maintenance of a carefully balanced system of local-Federal authority that discourages the dumping on the Federal Government of problems that can be solved close to home, can we assure continuance of the widespread liberties our citizenry has enjoyed for a century and three quarters.

Consider, then, the first of these axioms--steadiness, both of purpose and of method. Nothing is more destructive of orderly progress than wild fluctuation between the extremes of panic and complacency. It is our aim to build steadily and soundly the economic and military strength we shall need--possibly over decades--to meet, every minute, every day, our responsibilities in the momentous decade ahead. And this is not done by hasty or ill-considered actions, crash programs, efforts that stop and go like traffic at a busy intersection. This is not only costly; it is flagrantly inefficient. It betrays a myopic vision, a weakness of will and a lack of inner conviction that our long-term goals are worthy and our methods correct.

If we, today, look at ourselves in true perspective, we see a great nation--the most powerful the world has seen, with a confident, virile people, a vigorous, expanding economy. We are pursuing defense policies and programs which provide us with real security now and, if our nation remains alert and flexible in meeting changes in the world situation, will do so on into the future. Our economic health and outlook are good, and our rate of private investment is equal to the demands for needed expansion of production and facilities. Just as we need no giant new arms programs, we need no governmentally administered massive economic shots in the arm to stimulate the growth of business.

What, indeed, our economy needs for growth is less government interference in its affairs, not more. Private saving and investment--not public spending--is the real basis of economic growth.

If we resolutely and steadfastly go about our business, refusing to respond to false fears and empty promises, we will have built a firm material foundation that will sustain security, prosperity, self-respect and confidence.

One of my strongest allies in opposing centralization of power in Washington is Secretary of the Treasury Anderson, from your State.

The second imperative is solvency, measured in terms of a sound currency. The cause of freedom in the world depends critically upon the material and moral strength of the United States of America. Our continued ability to defend against Communist aggression, to help build a stable, peaceable world community, to provide abundantly for the millions of new Americans who will presently join us, all these depend upon our economy.

Now with this, all of us agree. Yet on an issue as basic as national solvency many people are misled by false arguments which would be readily transparent if applied to their own personal circumstances.

No one argues that the average person can spend what he has not earned, or that he can long continue to write checks against a bank account not covered by deposits. Yet some who readily see how these principles apply to individuals can be persuaded that they may somehow be ignored by a nation.

The Republic of Texas had its own bitter experience with deficit financing a hundred and twenty years ago. General Sam Houston is justly honored as the Hero of the Revolution, but few realize that he fought as hard for the solvency of Texas as for the independence of Texas. In his second administration he inherited a vast public debt, a currency ruined by a flood of worthless "Redbacks" and a completely demoralized economy--all caused by just one thing: unjustified deficit spending. One of the great achievements of his second administration was to redeem the nation's credit and restore order to its economy.

But today we are often told that our nation is so large and so rich that it really doesn't have to balance accounts, that a little inflation doesn't hurt; that we can spend lavishly to "stimulate growth" and make up the deficits out of some increases in the future. There is the carefree assumption that we have gone along happily during most of these recent decades without paying the full fare, and that this fine arrangement can be continued indefinitely. But the truth is that we have paid, and will continue to pay, to the tune of hundreds of billions in lost purchasing power of dollars that have shrunk to less than half the value they represented in 1939. This is inflation.

And who, in particular, has paid? I have, you have, and so have your mothers and fathers, your professors, people who own bonds and insurance policies, people drawing pensions and Social Security payments, people who have savings accounts, people who work on salaries, and this University. We have all paid. More than this, our grandchildren will pay.

Wealth, whether it be that of a nation or an individual, is the product of useful work. It can be created in no other way. It cannot be legislated, conjured or commanded into existence. And everything that is consumed must eventually be paid for by someone, in some way. Every governmental expenditure is a charge against the productive effort of the American people, and it must and will be paid, as surely as the sun rises. And to the extent that we cannot pay it out of current income, it must and will be paid out of the future. Moreover, if we fail to balance our budget and to hold our dollar at a stable value, the confidence of other nations in the United States will falter. Fiscal and monetary policies that are essentially inflationary have very grave international consequences, with serious impact on ourselves. This is a fact of life over which all the present-day advocates of heavy Federal spending, regardless of deficits, could properly reflect very seriously.

I cite a quotation from my friend, Dr. Gabriel Hauge. He says: "Living in an economy with an unstable currency is like living in a society in which no one tells the truth. The ability of modern governments to keep their money straight is an essential condition of their ability to govern."

And with that quotation I completely agree.

Now the third imperative of which I speak is the maintenance of State and local authority against the unhealthy growth of power in the Federal Government. Our booming population, the growth of huge metropolitan areas, the shrinkage of our countryside by rapid transport and communications--are reducing our nation to a neighborhood and creating complex new problems in cooperative living.

Some of these problems can indeed be solved only through participation by the Federal Government. This I readily concede, and I have supported many measures in which Federal cooperation was necessary to the success of State and local problems.

But I do believe deeply that every problem should be solved as close to home as it is possible to do so. Federal assistance should be requested only when the case for it is clear--and continued only for the minimum time necessary. The tendency to look needlessly to the Federal Government for help in purely local problems has been far too prevalent over recent decades, and the price has invariably been paid in terms of a steady and unwarranted Federal encroachment upon the authority of the States. For rights are inseparable from responsibility, and the State which abdicates its responsibilities in any field will surely find that it has bargained away its rights there as well.

The South has long been a staunch defender of the rights of the sovereign States--to its great and everlasting credit. And this matter has special meaning to the residents of this State which was for ten years a Republic. I counsel you to continue to guard jealously the rights reserved to your State under our Constitution--to keep your Government close to home, your local affairs out of the hands of a meddlesome, bumbling bureaucracy thousands of miles away. Weigh carefully the words of those who carelessly say "let the Federal Government do it or pay for it." For in the end it is the people--not the Government--who pay, and they not only pay in money, but in a currency far more precious--in their hard-won right to run their own affairs in their own way. This is fundamental.

So now I have discussed briefly:

Steadiness, solvency, balance. These may seem prosaic and uninteresting to talk about in times when people are being promised, without cost, the good life for all. Yet these unglamorous realities are the bedrock upon which all our strength is based, and the necessary precondition for the great labors we must perform both at home and abroad in the interest of world peace and progress.

Today is United Nations Day--set aside for Americans to honor the organization which has become an indispensable force for peace in a troubled world. We of the United States bear a heavy responsibility for assuring the continued success of this great experiment in international cooperation. I recently had the privilege of addressing the United Nations General Assembly, and of making certain proposals to that body on the peaceful uses of outer space, arms control, and assistance to the less developed nations, particularly the emerging States of Africa. These proposals are evidence of America's deep and continuing interest in the United Nations and its work. They are also evidence of the depth and scope of the vast unresolved problems with which the human community must deal, and to whose solution we must make our contribution.

This contribution will be measured by our capacity and our will, and its success will be assured not by a few great and valorous deeds, but rather by all of us doing a great many small tasks sensibly and well.

To you now learning and maturing in this great institution, and to your comrades of college age everywhere in the land, I can make no prophecies for which I would claim the slightest shred of validity, dealing with the future's great imponderables. But I can express to you an unshakable faith, derived and developed through years of living, in the character and capacity of young Americans, to meet life's problems as they exist or arise. On battlefields, in peaceful countrysides and in great cities, on busy campuses, I have seen America's youth developing and producing leaders that, in every quality and in every walk of life, measure up to the world's finest.

These we need in ever-growing numbers, so that through them and throughout our nation, and finally throughout the world, all people everywhere will come to understand that the oldest aspiration of mankind-peace with justice--must be provided by their governments, or their governments will be repudiated. People must meet and understand other people, and so doing make it ever more difficult for governments, responding to false prides or even worse, personal ambitions, to sustain dictatorships, foreign domination, or unjust and unworthy practices.

These things can be done--your part in bringing them to pass will be measured by the intensity of your dedication--your readiness to sacrifice.

These are the abilities and capacities I have in mind as I say--I have faith in America's young men and women, and in the future they will build.

I thank you very much indeed.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. in the University gymnasium. His opening words referred to Lewis Cutrer, Mayor of Houston, Dr. Carey Croneis, Provost of the University, George R. Brown, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby, editor and president of the Houston Post and former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address in Houston Before the Faculty and Students of Rice University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234241

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