Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Address Opening the President's Campaign for Re-Election

September 19, 1956

[Delivered at a major network studio at 9:30 p.m.]

My fellow Americans:

This is the first of a series of talks that I hope to have with you between now and November 6th. In these talks I shall hope to give you some account of how my Republican associates and I have discharged the responsibilities you placed on us almost four years ago. I shall try to outline some of the problems facing this nation as we see them today, and point out the directions we propose to take in solving those problems.

Tonight I ask the privilege of coming quietly into your homes to talk with you on some serious national subjects--without the noise and extravagance usual during a political campaign.

I want to talk of one word--and of many things. The word is--Peace. And the many things are its many and momentous meanings.

The force and impact of this one word--Peace--reach all persons, all problems, in our land. Its meaning embraces past achievements, present problems, future hopes. It touches all things in our life and knowledge: from home and school, factory and farm, to the most distant points on earth--a frontier in Europe, an island in the Pacific, a canal in the Middle East. And this meaning ranges, too, from the highest kind of principle to the most personal kind of fact.

Let me begin with a very personal matter. It is a personal kind of peace that I possess--granted to me by the mercy of the Almighty.

It is this firm conviction: I am confident of my own physical strength to meet all the responsibilities of the Presidency, today and in the years just ahead. If I were not so convinced, I would never have accepted renomination to this office.

I hope that this conviction--this peace of mind--may bring assurance to many others, as I stand ready to serve as your President for another four years, if this be your will.

Let me speak now of matters far greater than personal ones.


Peace, like all virtues, begins at home. So examination of our problems and achievements should likewise begin at home.

Now peace--for any home in this land--means each family's freedom from need.

The workers of America today fill almost 67 million jobs--the largest number in our history. They receive higher wages and have better living standards than ever before known. And they know that, in the whole area of human welfare, every major Federal program affecting social security, health and education has been improved or expanded to the highest point in our history.

Now we should, I think, not waste time in self-congratulation as we face these facts. We know that America cannot claim perfection so long as any family in this land unjustly suffers need. We know that, at the same time, we already enjoy progress without precedent. And our anxiety to achieve still more is equalled only by our thanksgiving to God for the wisdom, the skills, the industry and the resources that make us, today, the most fortunate people on earth.

Peace--next--has a special meaning for our nation's industry, an industry upon which depend not only our own daily lives but indeed the strength of free men everywhere.

We have made real progress, these last three years, toward industrial peace. We have seen the loss of time--with its loss of wages caused by industrial conflict fall to less than half the rate of immediately preceding years.

This Administration has trusted and respected the free processes of collective bargaining.

The reward, for our country, has been two-fold. Industry has smashed all records of production and expansion. And organized labor has grown--in numbers, in resources, and in public respect--to a strength never known before.

Peace, for the farmer in our agricultural community, has, too, a special meaning, as he has special problems.

Because I shall speak of these special farm problems in days ahead, I now want to state only the plain principles that must guide us. We must meet these problems with government policies that apply to the conditions of peace--not with policies of the past that applied only to the demands of wartime. And we must develop and live by policies that are truly constructive--we must never, in a spirit of partisan warfare, treat the farmer as a kind of political prize to be fought for and captured.

Peace in our society involves more than economic groups: it involves understanding and tolerance among all creeds and races.

We have applied, these last three years, a clear philosophy to the whole conduct of the government. We have rejected all concept of a nation divided into sections, groups or factions. We have insisted that, in the American design, each group in our nation may have special problems, but none has special rights. Each has peculiar needs, but none has peculiar privileges. And the supreme concern, equal for all, is the justice, the opportunity, and the unity shared by 168 million Americans.

We have shown this concern by working to secure, wherever the authority of the Federal Government extends, equality of rights and opportunity for all men regardless of race or color.

We have done this in this nation's capital.

We have done this in all the establishments of our armed forces.

And we have done this in the policy ruling all government contracts with private industry.

Now these facts deserve one comment.

I am proud that all the progressive actions of these years-taken in the name, not of any political party, but of the American people--place no individual in debt to any political party. These actions are nothing more--nothing less--than the rendering of justice.

In all these ways, then, we have been building the strength of peace at home. And so, we have been able, on the whole, to act as a united people in our search for peace in its most critical form--the peace of the wide world itself.


Now upon my inauguration in January, 1953, I made to you this pledge: "In our quest for an honorable peace, we shall neither compromise, nor tire, nor ever cease."

In the spirit of this pledge, let me indicate a few facts--and compare, in some areas of our world, life today with life in 1952.

Korea.--In 1952 the loss of life, for ours and many nations, seemed endless. Today Korea means: peace with honor.

Iran.--This country had been tormented for years by Soviet threats and Communist subversion. The resources of that nation threatened, for a time, to be lost behind the Iron Curtain. We met that threat. Iran stays free.

West Germany.--Three years ago this great power was a territory of military occupation. Today it is sovereign--strong-and joined with the West.

Trieste.--Ever since World War II, riot and division in this city had poisoned relations between the two major powers: Italy and Yugoslavia. Today Trieste is at peace.

Austria.--Year after year, since World War II, military division and occupation had plagued the people of Austria. Today Austria is unoccupied--united--and free.

Guatemala.--This Central American republic was a chosen target for Communist aggression in our Hemisphere. This danger was met and repelled. And as never before all the American republics are united against international Communism.

These few examples circle the globe.

And they testify to our greater goal: to ease, for all men everywhere, the burden of arms and of fears which they have suffered so long. For we have been pledged to wage what I three and one-half years ago called "a new kind of war . . . a declared total war, not upon any human enemy, but upon the brute forces of poverty and need."

We have been waging this kind of war--in the world, as in our own land.

We have done this with our offer of nuclear material for world use.

We have done it with our specific plans for world disarmament under essential safeguards.

We have done it with what has been called the "open skies" declaration, proposing mutual air inspection of American and Soviet defenses.

We have done it with what I might call an "open minds" spirit in our diplomacy--for in meetings like those in Geneva last year we have made known our passion for peace in ways understood by men everywhere.

And we have given the firmest proof of our final purpose with this declaration of policy: In the interest of world peace and well-being, this Government is ready to ask its people to join all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction.

We stand ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears of the world.

We stand, too, in true and effective unity with our allies of all the free world.

This unity speaks through not only the world forum of the United Nations, but also our defense systems. It speaks through the solidarity of the American republics, our NATO alliances in the West, our SEATO alliances in the East.

And this spirit of unity imposes upon us this restraint: as issues and conflicts may arise between two or more nations who are allied with us in freedom, we cannot become impassioned champions of one side or the other. Our task is to try always to heal any such conflicts--in fairness, in justice and in the name of the greater unity we seek to serve. This task is not always easy. But it is always necessary.

Within this unity of free peoples, we carry both a responsibility and initiative uniquely our own. When we occasionally differ with some allies, we are, as a free people, simply being true both to ourselves and to our common cause. Thus, not long ago, facing a grave crisis in Indo-China inherited from the past, we spoke both more forcefully and hopefully than did some of our allies. As a result, we today point to the free nation of Viet-Nam--free not only from Communist rule, but also from any mark of colonial domination.

We face, in these days, another grave crisis concerning the Suez Canal. We have spoken with care and with restraint. We cannot yet know whether the issue can be settled with justice and fairness to all. But we can know that the world will know that America has spared no effort to save peace.

The full measure of our work for peace can be simply summarized. We have seen an end to the old pattern of tragedy: not a single nation has been surrendered to aggression. We have maintained this defense of freedom without recourse to war. And we have embraced, in this defense-without-war, lands in Asia-such as Formosa--previously written off as beyond the practical reach of our concern.

These are some of the reasons why I can say to you tonight: the pledge of peace, made to you upon the day of my inauguration, has been pursued--firmly and effectively.


Our task is far from done. New problems, and critical ones, rise before us. And they give to our generation this warning: there are walking beside us, at this moment of history, our two constant companions: great danger--and great opportunity.

We witness, as we scan this divided world, a number of grave problems. I wish briefly to state four of them.

First: We witness today, across a vast middle-area of our earth, an historic struggle by its peoples for freedom--freedom from foreign rule or freedom from domestic poverty. In this great belt, from the deserts of Northern Africa across to the islands of the South Pacific, there live 800 million persons--one third of the world's population. And through all these lands, Communist voices cry out to all men--to hate the West.

We act in this area by a few clear principles. We respect the right of all peoples, able and ready to govern themselves, to be free to do so. We realize that the future role of the West, with all these peoples, must ultimately be one not of rule--but of partnership. And we know that this role will require us--for the sake of the peace of the world--to strive to help these struggling peoples to rise from poverty and need.

Second: We witness today, in the power of nuclear weapons a new and deadly dimension to the ancient horror of war. Humanity has now achieved, for the first time in its history, the power to end its history.

This truth must guide our every deed. It makes world disarmament a necessity of world life. For I repeat again this simple declaration: the only way to win World War III is to prevent it.

Third: We witness today--partly as a result of Western unity and strength--the turning of Communist world ambition toward new methods and devices. These methods are, first of all, political. They mean--across the world, within each country--new and powerful Communist effort to win with the ballot what they have been unable to win with the bayonet.

We can meet this threat with neither anger against allies nor scorn for neutrals. But we can be vigilant, patient and comprehending. We can, in the name of freedom itself, remind our allies of their responsibilities within their frontiers. And we can, as we address all neutral nations, remind them that there is no neutrality between right and wrong. And, therefore, there is one issue on which we are not neutral--their right to stay free.

Finally: We witness today, in the economic arena, the rise of the first great industrial power to challenge the West. This power is the Soviet Union--with its steel production, its heavy machinery, its natural resources, its technical skills.

This power, as it is pitted against the West, will demand of us many things. It will demand the most vigorous economy of our history. It will demand the technical training of our youth as a direct concern of national security. And it will demand, among the governments of the free nations, the closest possible coordination of economic action.

Such--in the simplest of forms--are some of the great problems we face.

There are--let me state plainly and immediately--some ways not to meet these problems, as they must be met: with wisdom and strength.

We cannot prove wise and strong with public speech that erroneously asserts our economic weakness. For the people of the world and the leaders of the Soviet Union must never be deceived--or delighted--by any myth of American weakness. They must know the truth of our strength.

We cannot prove wise and strong by any such simple device as suspending, unilaterally, our H-bomb tests. Our atomic knowledge and power have forged the saving shield of freedom. And the future use and control of atomic power can be assured, not by any theatrical national gesture--but only by explicit and supervised international agreements.

We cannot prove wise and strong by hinting that our military draft might soon be suspended--even though every family naturally hopes for the day when it might be possible. This--I state categorically--cannot be done under world conditions of today. It would weaken our armed forces. It would propagate neutralist sentiment everywhere. It would shock our allies who are calling upon their people to shoulder arms in our common cause.

We cannot--in short--face the future simply by walking into the past--backwards.

We cannot salute the future with bold words--while we surrender it with feeble deeds.

Now I suggest only a few plain principles by which we can and must direct our quest of world peace.

We must maintain our military strength: balancing it and perfecting it, in weapons and in strategy, so that its sheer effectiveness will restrain any aggressor.

We must perfect such military strength in ways that impose the least possible penalty upon our economic strength, for upon the economic arena Communism is now focusing its power and strategy.

We must act with the knowledge that peace can be sustained, for all the world, only with wider and growing markets, rising living standards, and flourishing world trade among the free nations.

We must put effort, skill and faith in our diplomacy--tested, as it has been through these last years--for upon it ultimately will depend the prevention of World War III.

And we must practice this truth: the honor and strength of our own national life offer the clearest proof of the kind of world and the kind of peace in which we believe.

This truth touches the lives of each one of us.

We cannot encourage economic strength in other lands--if we, for political expediency, again let loose forces of inflation that would weaken our own economy.

We cannot urge unity of purpose upon all free nations--if we ourselves were to think and act, not as one people, but as a divided and discordant nation.

And we cannot claim the trust of hundreds of millions of people across Asia and Africa--if we, in a free America, do not ourselves hold high the banner of equality and justice for all.

All this is what I meant when I said, three years ago:

"Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America."


I have tonight, my fellow citizens, submitted to you a kind of personal report on the state of our nation. I have sought to define clearly the many meanings, to me, of this one word--Peace.

For the peace of which I speak embraces the home and the toil, the hope and the fortune, of each and all of us.

This peace, therefore, is no static thing, no passive mood.

It is not a prize. It is a quest.

It is not a present to be received. It is a principle to be respected.

It inspires not relaxation, but resourcefulness--not stagnation, but stamina.

Now, my friends, upon the day when I took the oath to serve you in this office, I spoke my abiding conviction:

"The peace we seek . . . is nothing less than the practice and fulfillment of our whole faith, among ourselves and in our dealings with others.

"More than an escape from death, it is a way of life.

"More than a haven for the weary, it is a hope for the brave."

If this be our faith, I humbly believe that we may ask the blessings of God upon our labors.

Thank you and good night.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Address Opening the President's Campaign for Re-Election Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233193

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