Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address to the Republican National Conference.

June 07, 1957

Mr. Chairman, Senator Schoeppel, Congressman Simpson--my fellow Republicans:

You have heard that time and tide wait for no man. I assure you, also, they won't hurry up for any man. And so, in offering my apologies for being late, I must blame it on the tide that wouldn't let us into harbor earlier.

Just a few hours ago I stepped ashore from an American warship--one of the mightiest that this world knows: the aircraft carrier Saratoga.

During my two days aboard that vessel, living with her men and officers, I was impressed anew by the skill, patriotism and selfless devotion of Americans serving in our armed forces. Their dedication to duty reminded me again of that wonderful statement by General Robert E. Lee, when he said: "We cannot do more than our duty; we would not wish to do less."

As I talked with these young men, I could not help feeling as though I were talking with all Americans--about their homes, their ambitions, their hopes, and their problems. And, let me say, every American family can feel proud and secure in the knowledge that these young men--our nation's best--are being equipped with and supported by the finest weapons in the world. I know that the American people will continue to see to it that the defense budget is adequate to provide every fighting man the best our scientists, our workers and our industry can produce.

Now, you who are here in this room today, as key officers of the Republican Party, also have a duty that vitally affects your country's well-being. That duty, which you are daily performing, is to help make representative government work in this country.

Representative government can succeed only where there are healthy, responsible political parties. These parties must have at the center and core of their being the same dedication to the service of our nation as inspires the men of our armed services.

This sense of patriotism is felt by both of America's great parties--in this matter let no one anywhere in the world think Americans are divided.

But one thing more is necessary: A political party must stand for something--policies that it believes will advance the best interests of the entire nation. It must stand for principles and programs that the sovereign voters of the country can dearly see, identify and judge.

So what do we as Republicans stand for?

Why have we joined together in a national organization? And why do hundreds and thousands of Republicans work side by side--often without recognition or distinction or reward--in tasks assigned by this organization to which we all belong?

We do this because we have been drawn together by a set of common beliefs and principles respecting government and its relationship to other governments, to our own economy and to each individual citizen.

These beliefs are plainly stated in our Declarations of Faith and our Declarations of Determination which are the Republican National Platform of 1956. As we read and re-read that platform a practice which I commend to all of you--it becomes very clear that the modern Republican Party stands one hundred percent for the basic principles of Republicanism that have been its guide since the days of its founding.

Some of the features of those beliefs:

We believe in integrity in government--not government by crony.

We believe that whatever can be done by private effort should be done by private effort rather than by the government--and not the other way round.

We believe that, if a job must be done by government, it should whenever possible be done by State and local government rather than by the Federal government--and not the other way round. We oppose unnecessary centralization of power.

We believe in a sound dollar--not a rubber dollar.

And therefore, we believe that a government should operate on a balanced budget and not go into debt except in emergencies-we reject deficit spending as a fiscal policy for America.

We believe that we should work to reduce taxes--not raise them; as we also seek to reduce our huge national debt.

And as we think, ladies and gentlemen, over the record of the past four years, let us not forget that the greatest tax cut in history was granted by the Republicans in power in Congress and the Administration. And we have paid something on our national debt.

We believe in vigorous and impartial enforcement of the laws.

We believe that private business is a healthy force which is the foundation of our prosperity, and should be respected and encouraged--not bullied and abused. And the fact that the four-year period since the re-introduction of this attitude into government has also been the period of the greatest sustained growth in jobs, production and incomes of all modern peace times is not, may I say, a mere congenial coincidence.

We believe that government can and should discharge its constitutional duty to promote the general well-being of its citizens-and can do so without excessive centralization.

We believe that to preserve our own freedom we must concern ourselves with the security of other free nations constantly exposed to the threat of domination by international communism. Nothing today can present more danger to us than a retreat to the folly of isolationism.

We believe in the pre-eminence of the individual citizen and his rights--with the government his servant, not his master or his keeper.

It is principles like these, then, that not only draw us together, but also set us apart from the easy-spending, paternalistic, business-baiting inflationists who were so influential for years before 1953.

But, while our principles have remained unchanged for a hundred years, the problems to which these principles must be applied have changed radically and rapidly.

Fortunately, one of the most all-pervading principles of our Party--and one most important to us today--is the willingness to adapt our basic convictions imaginatively to current problems.

We recall those ringing words spoken by Lincoln at a time of great tension and change. He said:

"The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."

My friends, it comes down to this simple statement: It is the problems that change; the principles do not.

Let us look at several examples in government.

Agriculture. Because of the unique exposure of the farmer to economic forces over which he has no control, and the dependency of the nation upon our agricultural economy, the Federal government must concern itself in practical ways to assist in assuring a sound farm economy and income. That's the principle.

Now, one application of this principle a hundred years ago: A Federal Homestead Act, passed under Lincoln, providing free quarter sections of land to settlers. That's what they did a hundred years ago.

The application today: a new set of Federal actions, such as sensible price supports, the Soil Bank, stepped-up Federal research, and development of markets.

It is the problem that has changed; the principle has not.

Education. The principle: Education is vital to free government and it is a local matter; the Federal government should do only what has to be done toward provision of adequate education that State and local governments cannot do, things which will never allow the Federal government to become a controlling factor.

One application a hundred years ago: the Land Grant Act sponsored by Congressman Justin Smith Morrill, one of the organizers of the Republican Party from Vermont. That Federal Act made possible the growth of higher education in many places where it otherwise could not have been begun or would have had great difficulty in starting.

The application today: emergency Federal help to assist the States to knock out a schoolroom deficit resulting from the national-not local--disasters of depression and war.

It is the problem that has changed; not the principle. Mutual aid.

The principle: Concern for the fate of other nations, and the conviction that our prosperity at home is aided by two-way trade with flourishing free economies abroad.

The application in President McKinley's time: Here are his own words of 1902 about the American situation. This is what McKinley said in his last and greatest speech, just the day before he was shot: "The period of exclusiveness is past ....Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times ....Isolation is no longer possible or desirable."

The application today: not merely encouraging the maximum flow of mutually profitable trade, but also employing programs of mutual aid. Why? Because around the globe new nations have sprung up which must make industrial progress if they are to continue to live in freedom and as our friends. Because godless dictatorship is bent on seeking their destruction--and through theirs, eventually our own. And because we know that as they prosper, we not only prosper but enjoy greater assurance of world stability and peace.

It is the problem that has changed; not the principle.

Overseas Information Activity. The principle: We have a responsibility to explain our motives and actions to the people of the world.

An early application at the dawn of our history as a nation, we find it in the eloquent words of our Declaration of Independence. "Let facts be submitted to a candid world." And further, "... out of a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

The application now of that same truth must recognize that almost every action we take has an impact on the interests of other countries. At the same time, unfriendly powers use every device of communication to misrepresent our actions and purposes. So the modern application of the old principle requires us to maintain a first-rate overseas Information Agency.

It is the problem that has changed, and not the principle.

And Defense. The principle is that the Federal government must provide for the common defense, using those methods that are most effective and the most economical.

The application of a century ago: Almost exclusive dependence on state militias, with tiny and inexpensive Federal forces.

The application today is changed because the nature of defense requires military forces of great size armed with costly equipment. To lessen the cost, we participate in a system of mutual aid with friendly nations. We do this because it costs far less than if we tried to provide the same amount of effective defense by direct accumulation of military might at home. But secure we must be.

The principle remains: The most effective defense for the least cost.

Now, although we are agreed en our underlying principles, when we try to apply them to the fast-changing and highly complex world, it is not surprising that we develop among ourselves real disagreements, some of them sharp.

But let us not talk and act as though our disagreements concerned our basic principles. I believe they do not. I believe they concern the application of the principles to new facts, through specific measures and proposals.

Now let us look squarely at this question of internal disagreement within the Party. Let us not react to it as though something unheard-of and catastrophic had suddenly appeared for the first time in the history of political parties.

You know, some of us Republicans have a talent for magnifying and advertising our differences. Our opponents then seize on these statements to throw up a smoke screen to conceal their own deep division. Why should we help them play that game?

The true fact is that it is our opponents who are hopelessly split. In their case the split is not mainly one of methods, but is one of basic philosophy and principle. They combine long enough to seek election--but when they are sent to Washington they tend to cancel each other out at the expense of needed action.

And so, if our opponents say we suffer from splinters, let us remind them that a splinter in a party's political structure is one thing; but a political house divided against itself is quite another.

The real question for the Republican Party is: Accepting the existence of some disagreement as normal and natural, how do you then go on as a party to take the decisive and unified action that a party must take if it is to survive and play its proper part in representative government?

This, I think, we do not need to argue. Unless a representative political party in Washington can in its legislative and executive parts effectively enact the program for which it stands and which it is pledged, then in the long run it will not deserve, nor will it get the support of the American people.

So the answer to our question seems obvious. We can do this-we can be loyal to principle and meet the problem of disagreement on methods by carrying out loyally the pledges and promises of the Party Platform.

Let us remember that the Platform itself is not the product of one mind or of one group of minds. It is a consensus of Party thinking.

We argue and debate and hold hearings, at which everyone is welcome to express himself.

Then we do our best to iron out the differences, through compromise, concessions, and the application of good will, good sense and restraint on all sides.

As a result of just such a process, the Republican Platform of 1956 was drawn up. It was unanimously adopted by the National Convention. It was then overwhelmingly endorsed by the country's voters--by a margin of almost 10 million votes.

On the pledges of that Platform, your Administration was returned for another four years.

Now, there may be some cynics who think that a Platform is just a list of platitudes to lure the naive voter--a sort of facade behind which candidates sneak into power and then do as they please.

I am not one of those.

Anyone who talks like that about Party Platforms is, in effect, saying the whole principle of representative government is a pretense and a sham. This none of us believes.

So far as I am concerned, the Republican Platform of 1956 is a solemn commitment to the people of this nation. It was accepted as such by them and endorsed by them--and I am going to use every power at my disposal to see to it that their hopes and expectations are honored!

Now, when you go to carry a Party Platform into effect, the first step is its translation into legislative proposals. I do not know how this may have been done in the past, but in this Administration there have been each year earnest, exhaustive and long consultations between the Executive Branch and our leaders of the Legislative Branch to devise a program best giving legislative effect to the Platform.

My friends, I do not mean to say that there has been unanimous approval behind any proposal, so far as I know, ever made in such meetings, but again the effort is exactly like it is in making the Platform, to get the consensus of opinion and to present something sensible and right to the Congress.

This, today, the result of the last consultations, is the Administration's Legislative Program.

And so far as the Budget is concerned--that Budget represents the cost of conscientiously fulfilling those pledges--nothing more and nothing else. Our need for economy--and it is a real need-must be balanced against the things that need to be done.

We must not forget that to be truly conservative today is to be alert to the dangers of loose spending and of tampering with our nation's fiscal integrity. It involves, also, providing those things which would keep this country healthy, strong, growing and secure.

My fellow Republicans: we all want to see victory in 1958 and 1960. And we can have victory in 1958 and in 1960.

To bring this about, one thing is necessary.

That one thing is: to subordinate our differences on specific methods or measures, and to unite as a Party to forward these basic principles which the country has so overwhelmingly endorsed at the polls.

Although there were disagreements on some of the platform pledges before they were adopted, we did adopt them unanimously, and we did commit ourselves and our Party to them before the public.

It follows that there must be general support within our Party, either for the Administration's specific legislative measures to carry out these pledges, or else for some other measure that equally carries out these pledges. Otherwise the entire concept of Party responsibility, and indeed of representative government, collapses.

Republican leaders, whether in Congress, in the Executive Branch, in the Party organization, have a special responsibility for carrying out these pledges. None of us can afford to allow his personal preference as to detail to blind him to the need of loyally supporting our Party's platform.

Suppose, during a team huddle on the football field, an argument develops on what the next play should be. The halfback wants an end run. However, the play called is a plunge through the line by the fullback. Now the fullback gets through the line and has only one tackler between him and the goal. Now the dissenting halfback is in position to block out that tackler. Now does he say, "I disagreed with this play; therefore I won't throw this block"? Of course not. He does his part, and the team goes on to score.

In the infinitely more important business of producing good government and good legislation, surely it is not too much to expect the same degree of selflessness in a joint cause.

It's this simple: We've got a good team. Let's look like one!

And next, I have talked of our principles, of how we use them to meet changing problems, and of how we must deal with the inevitable disagreements that develop. Let me make one more point.

If we are true to our principles and pledges, and if we rise above these detailed disagreements, there is every reason for the most buoyant and enthusiastic confidence in the success of the Republican Party, not only in 1958 and 1960, but in the years beyond!

As we work out our troubles, let us never for a moment forget our tremendous assets.

Let's talk like winners!

Let's not forget that only a few months ago a Republican Administration was returned by a majority of almost 10 million-which majority included millions of Independents and Democrats attracted to our Platform!

Let's not forget--and may I interpolate, let's not let the country forget, that in the past four years business has continued to grow and flourish, wages and employment have been strong, steady progress has been made toward easing of world tensions and toward the hope of some start on disarmament.

Let's not forget that thousands of young people have caught the excitement of our forward-looking program, and have cast in their lot with us. This is particularly heartening for the long-range future of the Party--a great gain that we must maintain and enlarge.

We believe that our principles and our program truly reflect the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Americans. There are those who rationalize a narrower point of view by saying they would rather be right than win. If such were the issue, all of us would agree. But this is not the issue. The Republican Party can and will be both right and win. It will do so because its central core of conviction is what America believes and wants today.

If we unite behind these principles and programs that the American people have so emphatically endorsed--my friends, we just can't lose!

The key to victory is unity.

As for myself, I welcome every person who believes in the principles our Platform expresses.

The great main stream of our cause is broad enough to include the oldest and finest of our conservative traditions, along with the most up to date application of those traditions to the age of automation and the atom.

Certainly none of us would want to be guilty of the supreme suicidal folly of forfeiting victory for vital principles, in order to indulge too long our differences as to the tactics to use.

Consider the alternative!

Suppose we go down to defeat? Suppose we go down to defeat because of these tactical differences, in support, we think, of the same principles? Will the Administration that follows be more to the liking of any Republican? I think we know the answer to that one.

Who wants to go back on the New-Deal Fair-Deal toboggan of loose spending, centralization, punishment of business and fiscal irresponsibility?

Of this there is no danger, if we close ranks now!

Lincoln said, in one of his most powerful statements:

"We succeed only by concert. It is not," he said, "'can any of us imagine better?' but," the question is," 'can we all do better?'"

Certainly, each of us thinks he can "imagine better" than the Platform on which the Party has agreed. But this is not the question. The time is here for doing.

My fellow Republicans: I believe in the Republican Party, with all my heart. I believe in its capacity, in positions of political leadership, to serve our country today more effectively than can any other. I accepted nomination for this office, and again re-nomination, because I believed this, and because I believed in Republican principles of good government. I still believe those things. Every act of this Administration, of all my principal associates and myself stands witness to this fact.

Above all, I sincerely believe, as I said at last summer's convention, that the Republican Party can, should and must be the Party of the Future. It can and should be an instrument through which the American people, by the grace of God, carry our country forward to new heights of well-being, justice, harmony and peace.

Thanks very much, my friends.


Note: The President spoke at the Sheraton-Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., at 5 p.m. The Conference was sponsored by the Republican National Committee, the Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican Congressional Committee.

The President's opening words "Mr. Chairman, Senator Schoeppel, Congressman Simpson" referred to Meade Alcorn, Chairman, Republican National Committee, Andrew F. Schoeppel, Chairman, Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and Richard M. Simpson, Chairman, House Republican Congressional Committee.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address to the Republican National Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233189

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