Letter on Intellectual Freedom to the President of the American Library Association.
[Released June 26, 1953. Dated June 24, 1953]
- Dear Dr. Downs:
Thank you for your letter of June fifteenth. I am glad to know of the annual conference of the American Library Association convening this week, and of the spirit of conscientious citizenship ruling its deliberations.
Our librarians serve the precious liberties of our nation: freedom of inquiry, freedom of the spoken and the written word, freedom of exchange of ideas.
Upon these clear principles, democracy depends for its very life, for they are the great sources of knowledge and enlightenment. And knowledge--full, unfettered knowledge of its own heritage, of freedom's enemies, of the whole world of men and ideas--this knowledge is a free people's surest strength.
The converse is just as surely true. A democracy smugly disdainful of new ideas would be a sick democracy. A democracy chronically fearful of new ideas would be a dying democracy.
For all these reasons, we must in these times be intelligently alert not only to the fanatic cunning of Communist conspiracy-- but also to the grave dangers in meeting fanaticism with ignorance. For, in order to fight totalitarians who exploit the ways of freedom to serve their own ends, there are some zealots who-with more wrath than wisdom--would adopt a strangely unintelligent course. They would try to defend freedom by denying freedom's friends the opportunity of studying Communism in its entirety--its plausibilities, its falsities, its weaknesses.
But we know that freedom cannot be served by the devices of the tyrant. As it is an ancient truth that freedom cannot be legislated into existence, so it is no less obvious that freedom cannot be censored into existence. And any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.
The libraries of America are and must ever remain the homes of free, inquiring minds. To them, our citizens--of all ages and races, of all creeds and political persuasions--must ever be able to turn with clear confidence that there they can freely seek the whole truth, unwarped by fashion and uncompromised by expediency. For in such whole and healthy knowledge alone are to be found and understood those majestic truths of man's nature and destiny that prove, to each succeeding generation, the validity of freedom
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Note: The President's letter was read by Dr. R. B. Downs, President of the American Library Association, on June 26 at the 72d Annual Conference of the Association in Los Angeles.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter on Intellectual Freedom to the President of the American Library Association. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231675