Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address at the Civic Auditorium in Portland, Oregon.

October 18, 1956

Mr. Chairman, Governor Smith, Doug McKay, and my Fellow Citizens:

I hope that, this being a political meeting, I first may express something of my personal political expression for Oregon this fall. I would hope very much that you would continue in office Governor Elmo Smith, and give him a solid State ticket. And I surely hope that you will send back to Congress Sam Coon, Harris Ellsworth, and Walter Norblad, and with another Republican, Philip Roth. I would indeed be grateful for that.

Then, of course, I am very hopeful that you will send to the United States Senate my friend, Douglas McKay. I make it clear I don't try to tell anybody how to vote. I simply express what is in my heart and my desires, and he was not only an excellent member of my Cabinet, I found him always an honest, faithful and very independent-minded American. And that is why I like him. It is fun to work with him. It is valuable to work with him.

Now tonight, I want to talk about one thing--and that is the strength of America. I mean: the strength of our free society, the strength of our natural resources, the strength of our power to defend ourselves--and the strength of moral purpose that tells us what we are defending and why.

Obviously, all Americans wish for this strength. But this is my profound conviction: there is one kind of political leadership that knows how to achieve this strength--and one that does not.

I can tell you--quickly--some of the things upon which I believe rests our strength as a people.

I can tell you about this strength by referring to some of the pledges I made to you in 1952--pledges that have been kept.

Above all else, I promised you a government whose strength would be its integrity--for we all know that a government that fails to stir the pride of its own people cannot prove worthy of leadership of the free world. We have kept that pledge.

I promised you a foreign policy that would extend the hand of friendship to all who would grasp it honestly. I promised you a foreign policy that would make sure that no potential enemy, by his doubt of our determination to resist, would make the grave blunder of aggression. And we have kept that pledge.

I promised you a military defense that would be, beyond all peacetime precedent, the best our nation ever had. And today the strongest deterrent power we have ever possessed proves-that we have kept that pledge.

I promised you to encourage a free economy of growth and abundance, shared by all. And today 66 million jobs--the highest wages in our history--a rising farm income--and the unprecedented strength of organized labor--all prove that we have kept that pledge.

To put the matter in plain political terms--let me indicate some ways this leadership has not pretended to seek strength.

I have not promised you--nor do I ever intend to--that the way to defend peace or freedom is to abandon simultaneously our military draft and our testing of our most advanced military weapons under the circumstances of today's world. For I know--as I believe all Americans know--that, without strength in this world of today, the road to surrender is paved with good intentions.

I have not pretended--nor will I ever--that the way to serve the strength of America--the unity of America--is to appeal to faction and division. For I have always believed that, in the American design, each group may have particular problems, but none has particular privileges; each has special needs, but none has special rights.

I have not promised--nor will I ever--that the way to make the American economy strong is--simultaneously--to lower Federal taxes sharply, to increase Federal spending lavishly, and so to create an economic atmosphere in which inflation again can run riot.

Such a formula, my friends, sounds like the ambitious politician's miracle model budget--bigger on the inside, smaller on the outside.

Now these few instances, my fellow citizens, remind us of one thing true: The strength of America's political life depends--not upon the size of political promises--but the integrity of political purposes.


Let us now see how some of our purposes have--in these last four years--been expressed in deeds.

How have we sought to strengthen the fabric of American society?

Here are a few of the ways:

(1) It took just 81 days after I took the oath of Office to create the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare-the first new department created in 40 years. As a result, for the first time in our history, critical problems of our people's welfare, their education and their health, are met on the same Cabinet level--with the same care--as the greatest issues of world affairs.

(2) We have extended the coverage of Social Security--and increased its benefits--to give tens of millions of citizens the greatest protection they have ever known.

(3) Housing: There have been more new homes built since January 1953 than in any comparable previous period in our history. Today three of every five families in our towns and cities own their own homes--a record without precedent. This year I called for--and Congress enacted--special assistance for housing for older persons.

Just today I authorized the use of 20 million dollars by the Housing agents of the government for purchase of mortgages under this special program for the benefit of our older people.

Now, I know, of course, that the recent decline in homebuilding has hurt the vital lumbering and forest products industries so important to this area. The Administration has already taken steps to increase the flow of credit to homebuyers and homebuilders. And we will take such further steps within our power as are necessary.

(4) In Public Health: We have given Federal assistance for the building of research laboratories, for special medical centers, for developing ways to give more effective care to patients in our mental institutions--all these things for the first time in our history. I am proud of this accomplishment.

(5) In Education: We have shown our awareness that here-the very strength of America's future is at stake. To meet our school problems, I called a national assembly of educators and laymen--the first time that such an action has been taken. And it was this expert counsel of this great body of educators and laymen that guided our five-year school-building program submitted to the last Congress.

What matters now is not the argument, in terms of partisan politics, as to why Congress failed to enact this needed legislation. What does matter to every American citizen is this fact: I shall call upon the next Congress to enact a school program to make up for the lost year--by doing the job of school-building, not in five years but in four.

In all these fields, then--education, public health, housing, social security--I can say to you today: to meet the challenges that remain, there is such strength in American society as there has never been before.


Our strength assumes one form of special meaning to you people in our great Northwest. For--even as the bounty of our soils and forests, rivers and mines, is one of America's greatest blessings from a generous Providence--this part of America has been singularly favored.

This current political season could have been a time when problems concerning our natural resources might have been accurately stated and seriously debated. We have--instead--been subjected by the political opposition to the senseless, drumbeat charge of--"giveaway." I need say only this: such a frivolous charge is only a feeble echo of the political cry heard four years ago--the cry that we would "give away" or "take away" the whole prosperity of the whole American people.

Why do you suppose we don't hear that cry any more? Because in four years America is happier--wealthier--with its prosperity more widely shared than ever before.

So now I offer you a few, very significant facts.

First--in Conservation and Reclamation. We have sponsored the Pilot Watershed Act, the Soil Bank, the Great Plains Program--while carrying forward one of the largest programs ever undertaken by the Bureau of Reclamation. In flood control, navigation, and river and harbor projects, we have in these last two years been advancing work on more than 300 undertakings--85 of them entirely new.

If that is "giveaway," why not let them wail?

Second--in National Parks and Wild Life. Having inherited a declining system of national parks, we have added more than 400,000 acres to our park systems: and we are this year beginning a bold new 10-year program--Mission 66, it is called, as Doug McKay has no doubt told you before often--to expand and improve this system still further. In guarding our wild life-whereas the previous Administration had taken some 400,000 acres out of the wild life areas--we have added 80,000 to them.

Might I say, if that is "giveaway," let them wail some more!

And third--our Water Resources. Just three days ago from Washington, D.C., I touched off blasts starting work on the great Upper Colorado Project. Covering five States, this is the second largest project of its kind in our history--and a monumental testimony to your government's awareness of Federal responsibility.

When I touched off the blast for those dams at Glen Canyon and Flaming Gorge the other day, I recalled about four years ago, an opposition spokesman told his listeners, at the Hungry Horse Dam in Montana, to take a good look because they would never see another one built if the Republicans came in.

My friends, he was not the first politician to pole-vault into a ditch.

Now, my friends, with like awareness, we have extended the scope of the Water Facilities Act from 17 to all 48 States, and-in sponsoring the so-called "Small Projects Act"--we have taken one of the greatest forward steps in the history of reclamation in our country.

All these actions to strengthen our natural resources reflect our partnership policy--joining Federal, State, local and private effort in our great common endeavor. Here we have--very deliberately--reversed those practices of the 1930's and the 1940's that meant tight centralization of control in Washington--a virtual Federal monopoly of construction of water and power projects.

What wrongs are there in such a practical Federal monopoly:

It removes initiative and decision far from the people whose own knowledge and self-reliance are the soundest guides to action. It pits region against region in a struggle for favor in Washington. And it inevitably dooms many areas to delay and disappointment, as they are forced to wait while others receive Federal favor.

Our partnership policy is designed to meet great and growing needs. Power requirements for the next ten years will cost some 40 billion dollars. There is not--and there will not be--that much Federal money allotted to be distributed in such a period.

Only the partnership program can do the job that must be done-quickly and efficiently.

Now the proofs of this are already here before us. In this Pacific Northwest--there are today under actual construction projects whose power-generating capacity total more than 4 million kilowatts. More than 1 and ½ million kilowatts of this capacity is being built entirely by Federal agencies. And the total capacity is the equivalent of eight Bonneville dams.

Finally, my fellow citizens, we meet this momentous fact: the United States today leads the world in the harnessing of our new power--our atomic power--for peacetime use. We have built more atomic reactors--of all types and sizes--than all the rest of the world combined. The first full scale atomic plant for the production of power exclusively for civilian use--the first anywhere in the world--will be in operation next year. More than this, in the years immediately ahead--at least 17 more such plants will be completed.

Thus on every front--from conservation of our ancestral resources, to development of our most modern resources--the same fact is clear: we are building a stronger and stronger America-- to sustain the prosperity we enjoy--and, ultimately, to win the peace we seek.

Now I want to speak a final word about this peace.

I spoke my conviction in my first address of this campaign: This peace embraces all things in our work and in our lives. It does not mean merely stilling of the guns. It means all of those things for which men's hearts long. It means to work in confidence day by day, that you do not live under a threat--a cloud-of war. You can trust your neighbor--your neighboring nation--as you do your neighbor across the backyard fence.

The kind of peace we seek is one that must be reached through this great strength of America--the spiritual, intellectual, military and economic strength.

We use it, not to threaten, not to be truculent, not to be overriding or overbearing. But you say to our neighbor, whether it be now friend or potential enemy: Go along for the peace of mankind, and you will find us your partner.

Now, my friends, such a peace we can possess only as the world does. And the world's hope, in turn, depends upon the strength of our national life, the force of our leadership, the integrity of our government, the daily well-being of our people, and the vigor of our economy, the might of our resources.

All of this strength, I repeat, bundled in together is the force that stands behind the effort toward peace today.

So there remain two great questions.

How do we propose to use this strength to serve the peace we seek?

The answer is--in these clear ways: resolutely to defend ourselves--wisely to warn our enemies--constantly to give hope to the enslaved--prudently to help guard freedom everywhere, and courageously to be worthy of the high commission that history has conferred upon us.

And now I think it would profit us to pause and say: where do we find the ultimate source of this strength?

As we cherish and guard the resources of our people and of nature itself--even as we strengthen the security of our aged and the education of our children--even as we guard jealously and develop tirelessly the riches in our earth--yet we know that the ultimate source of our strength lies beyond, far beyond all these things.

A century ago a wise philosopher--a Frenchman--came to this land seeking the answer to this question--wherein lies the greatness and the genius of America ?

I read to you his answer on the eve of our national election-four years ago when I was in Boston. Tonight--here in Portland, as another moment of great national decision nears--I wish to read it to you again.

These are his words:

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers--and it was not there . . . I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests--and it was not there . . . I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution--and it is not there.

"Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness--did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

"America is great because America is good--and if America ever ceases to be good--America will cease to be great."

My fellow citizens, this observation I have always remembered.

This is the truth by which America must ever live--and if she does so, she will grow ever stronger.

Thank you very much, my friends.

Note: The President spoke at 7:30 p. m. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Robert Mautz, Republican National Committeeman.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address at the Civic Auditorium in Portland, Oregon. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233591

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