Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address at the Sesquicentennial Commencement of Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

June 02, 1958

Archbishop Keough, Governor McKeldin, Senator Beall, Monsignor Sheridan, faculty, Students and Guests of Mount St. Mary's College:

Today I fulfill a long-held ambition. Since 1918 when I was assigned command of a camp in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I have been traveling this road just beyond the front of this College, and never before have I had the opportunity to come in and meet its personnel, to see inside--and to feel the spirit of the people here.

Before I proceed further, may I take the opportunity to congratulate you of this Graduating Class. I want to make special mention of the young Marine officers now just entering their commissions. I am very proud of that chorus and I am grateful for their courtesy in singing two of the songs which have been part of West Point for these many years.

I am interested in this College for a number of reasons. One of them is its founding. I hear that father DuBois came to this country with an introduction from Lafayette. It seems to me there was a certain symbolism that a great champion of freedom collaborated with a great educator when Father DuBois came to this country.

This was carried on, this symbolism, in a further adventure in father DuBois' life when he was taught English by Patrick Henry. Again friendship, traditions of learning and freedom symbolized in their union.

Then in the year 1808 when father DuBois opened the doors of this College, the United States had just closed the doors to the importation of slaves to this country. Again it would seem to me there is a symbolism-if not merely a fortunate coincidence--between these two events.

Now the most significant of all of these facts in Mount St. Mary's early history was the fact that it was a frontier institute. I am told that farther DuBois built a log cabin and here in the setting of mountain scenery opened his College. from that day it has grown and prospered. He exemplified, and certainly his students exemplified, those qualities that have meant so much to America. Indeed, they are characteristic of America--courage, creativity, self-reliance. He was indeed a frontiers-man.

Now, today, let me say a word to the Graduating Class. I have no advice to give you; but had I felt like doing so, I would have immediately changed my mind because I think your young valedictorian has given you all in the way of advice--coupled with determination, courage and spirit and the will to do--that is needed to be spoken from this platform.

By the way, I congratulate you young men by saying it's the best college valedictory I ever heard.

Not long ago I read a little document where a college junior asked a question. "first," he said, "there are no more frontiers, so what is there to crusade about?" This question and the spirit of that youngster almost baffled me.

Personally, I think there are more frontiers to explore, more crusades that need to be waged, than ever before in our history. Merely because we have conquered the rivers and mountains of our country and that we have expanded until there is no more unclaimed land in this great continent, where, indeed in all the world, only the Arctic and Antarctic zones seem to offer any great remaining adventure--adventure that is sought and fulfilled only in exploring; but think of the things there are to be done yet within the United States: slum clearance--elimination of substandard living conditions, bringing up the education of those where education has been halted along the way; combating juvenile delinquency, bringing up our children so we do not have to correct crime but to prevent it; to give them the spirit and the belief in the faith of our fathers so that they will not get into miserable juvenile courts because of gangster-like activity.

Then there are the racial problems that each of us must take to his heart, if we believe in the Constitution, if we believe the words of our founding documents, where they say that men are created equal--meaning equal before the law--meaning their equality in every political, legal and economic aspect of their lives. But beyond the crusades that will have to be waged for many long years before all these problems are solved is the global struggle. This of course has at its core the struggle between atheistic communism and every kind of free government which has its true roots in a deeply-felt religious faith. If we believe in human dignity, the value of the individual's soul, if we believe in every right which our founders said was given to us by our Creator, then we must hold fast to the conviction that this struggle of ours is truly a combat with this atheistic doctrine.

But more than just the statement of this world struggle, think of this: think of the mass awakening of peoples throughout the globe, newly-founded nations--people who have been denied all the opportunities of you young gentlemen in every kind of economic activity and opportunity, everything in the way of education, spiritual development. They are trying to catch up with the twentieth century overnight. for five thousand years many of them have made no progress.

And so, since the United States realizes that freedom and liberty are one and indivisible, we cannot ourselves enjoy them if we deny them to someone else. Then we understand what our responsibility is to all this great awakening mass of people: to make certain that they do not fall into immense dislocations and strange misunderstandings.

America recognizes its need to help these people. We have tried to do so. Much has been done, not always wisely, but always with a good heart. And every person in this room has contributed to that help. We need to do more.

Today I think it is a truism--which most of us recognize and clearly appreciate--to say America can no longer be isolated. It is part of the world. It must behave as it carries onward its part, in the beliefs, in the convictions, in the faiths that are America. If we don't do that, then we will be failures in the world and this glorious civilization of ours will indeed decline.

Now let me read to you a short extract from a newspaper account that illustrates the depths of the misunderstanding in some of these countries.

This is an article written by a man who had been traveling in Nepal, a little kingdom on the northern border of India.

He said: "The motives of the United States seem obscure even to the better-informed Nepalese. To the more than ninety per cent of the population who can neither read nor write, the American efforts defy all understanding. This unfamiliarity with western ways reflects Nepalese isolation. Before 1950 only 24 Europeans of any nationality had ever penetrated into Kathmandu, the capital city, located in the sacred valley, in the heart of the country. Most of this eight million, five hundred thousand Nepalese, many of whom are shepherds or grow rice or jute, have never traveled in a wheeled vehicle of any sort. And although there are believed to be at least twenty million cows in Nepal, more than twice as many as in Texas, they are all sacred and thus of no economic value to the population, most of which lies in extreme poverty."

My friends, there are such tremendous pioneering tasks to undertake today that I believe it is almost safe to say that any one of your elders here today--if he could have one wish--would be to join this Class and start out to see what he could do about it. We must help to get the world forward. We must not get twisted into hatred and violence and destruction of the freedoms that the world seeks.

Indeed, this problem is so hazy in its outlines and so difficult that we are going to have to teach many people what freedom means, before there is any hope that they themselves will want it. This seems difficult to us. We like to live as we live. We like to live as we choose, to speak as we choose, to think as we choose, and earn as we choose--subject to taxes.

They know nothing of what that means. These freedoms that are so precious to us, more precious--Patrick Henry said at least--than life itself, are not going to be won for them until they understand what freedom is.

So the two great things I should think to crusade for, to simplify the whole matter is: justice at home and abroad, and world peace for all of us.

One more word. I personally think that the traditions of the religiously-oriented colleges become more and more important. As I pointed out, I believe that the core of the struggle between the free and the despotic world today is that between a religious faith and an atheistic dictatorship.

If that is true, then I can see no limits to the possibilities of this type of college, where faith in our God is put at the very cornerstone of all that we hope to achieve--all America, or any one of us individually.

And so I salute the faculty, the administration, the students and the alumni of Mount St. Mary's College, on their 150th anniversary. It has been a very great honor and privilege to be here. I am particularly touched by the thoughtfulness of the authorities in making me an Honorary Doctor in this institution. I shall hope that the future will give me the chance, now and then, to see one of my fellow graduates. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. In his opening words he referred to the Most Reverend Francis P. Keough, Archbishop of Baltimore, Governor Theodore R. McKeldin and U. S. Senator J. Glenn Beall of Maryland, and Monsignor John L. Sheridan, President of the College.

The text of the address was released at Emmitsburg, Md.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address at the Sesquicentennial Commencement of Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233510

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