Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Memorandum Concerning the Commission on National Goals.

February 07, 1960

[Released February 7, 1960. Dated February 5, 1960]

THE PRESIDENT'S hopes for the Commission were stated in his State of the Union message in January, 1959, as follows:

"We can successfully sustain security and remain true to our heritage of freedom if we clearly visualize the tasks ahead and set out to perform them with resolution and vigor. We must first define these tasks and then understand what we must do to accomplish them.

"If progress is to be steady we must have long-term guides extending far ahead, certainly five, possibly even ten years... They must be goals that stand high, and so inspire every citizen to climb always toward mounting levels of moral, intellectual and material strength . . ."

The genesis of the study is rooted in our tradition and our history. Ours is a land carved out of a hostile wilderness, populated by people filled with a spirit of freedom and adventure, made strong by sheer perseverance, and dominated always by strong moral and religious beliefs. It was logical that for several generations we devoted all our energies to growing--developing our vast lands and resources, building a way of life. But the industrial revolution which we helped nurture has now reached a stage that makes it impossible for us to live in isolation.

We are now the strongest nation on the earth. This fact brings with it the realization that with power comes responsibility. We have found ourselves in a position in which the entire Free World looks to us for leadership and help, in the first instance against an aggressive Communist conspiracy, supported by rapidly growing economic and military strength, but more broadly in the worldwide struggle for realization of decent conditions of life.

But behind these problems of our external relationships, lie the more basic issues of realizing our own ideals for the development of American society. Unless we can press forward toward these goals, in an era of vast technological change and development, we shall not be able to fulfill our world role or, most basically of all, be true to ourselves and to the ideals on which this nation is based.

The Commission on National Goals is being asked to identify the great issues of our generation and describe our objectives in these various areas. To do so will be to give us the basis for coordinated policies in both the domestic and international areas.

One American aspiration is to develop a world in which all peoples will be living at peace under cooperative policies with maximum standards of living and opportunity for all. But more specifically, the Commission undoubtedly will want to consider how within a framework of free decision-making our economy can best be developed to meet the Communist challenge and simultaneously progress toward established goals. The Commission will also want to consider how our educational and other social institutions can best be shaped to develop mind and spirit; how individual well-being, health, and initiative can be nurtured without undesirable centralization of authority and responsibility; and how the various levels of our government can best contribute to the nation's welfare.

Since a universal understanding of basic issues and goals is, in a free government, necessary to its own perpetuation, one of the greatest accomplishments of the Commission could well be the outline of effective methods for producing this understanding.

The Commission has the opportunity to sound a call for greatness to a resolute people, in the best tradition of our Founding Fathers. It is no wonder that a nation so recently thrust into a position of world leadership is sometimes bewildered by its new role. That we have emerged so rapidly and accepted so readily our position of leadership is but another proof of our resilience. Now we must cast our eyes ahead toward the future. Some obstacles along this path will be frightening. Many decisions we must make are not easy. But through the haze of indecision one sees the strong and vibrant image of a future America--where modern-day pioneers, with deep religious conviction, develop the richness of a free society, where the dignity of each and every individual is recognized and his ability to enjoy life is enhanced.

Note: A copy of the President's memorandum was transmitted to each member of the Commission. In addition to Dr. Henry Wriston, President of the American Assembly, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, who was designated chairman, and Frank Pace, Chairman of the Board, General Dynamics Co., Inc., who was designated vice chairman, the members as announced by the White House were: James Killian, President of the Corporation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Alfred Gruenther, President, American National Red Cross; Clark Kerr, President, University of California; Learned Hand, Retired United States Circuit Judge for the 2d Circuit, New York; Erwin Canham, Editor-in-Chief, Christian Science Monitor, and President, United States Chamber of Commerce; Colgate Darden, former President of the University of Virginia and former Governor of Virginia; James Conant, former President of Harvard and former Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany; George Meany, President, AFL-CIO; and Crawford Greenewalt, President, E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Inc.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum Concerning the Commission on National Goals. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235369

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