Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Address to the American People Following Decision on a Second Term.

February 29, 1956

[Delivered from the President's Office at 10:00 p.m. ]

My Fellow Citizens:

I wanted to come into your homes this evening, because I feel the need of talking with you directly about a decision I made today, after weeks of the most careful and devoutly prayerful consideration. I made that decision public shortly after ten thirty this morning. Immediately I returned to this office. Upon reaching here I sat down and began to put down on paper thoughts that occurred to me which I felt might be of some interest to you in connection with that decision. This is what I wrote. I have decided that if the Republican Party chooses to renominate me, I shall accept that nomination. Thereafter, if the people of this country should elect me, I shall continue to serve them in the office I now hold. I have concluded that I should permit the American people to have the opportunity to register their decision in this matter.

In reaching this conclusion I have, first of all, been guided by the favorable reports of the doctors. As many of you may know, their reports are that my heart has not enlarged, that my pulse and blood pressure are normal, that my blood analysis is excellent, my weight satisfactory, and I have shown no signs of undue fatigue after periods of normal mental and physical activity.

In addition, I have consulted literally with multitudes of friends and associates, either personally or through correspondence. With their advice--once I had been assured of a favorable medical opinion--I have sought the path of personal responsibility, and of duty to the immense body of citizens who have supported me and this administration in what we have been jointly trying to do. In the last analysis, however, this decision was my own. Even the closest members of my family have declined to urge me to any specific course, merely saying that they would cheerfully abide by whatever I decided was best to do.

From the moment that any man is first elected President of the United States, there is continuous public interest in the question as to whether or not he will seek re-election. In most instances, Presidents in good health have sought, or at least have made themselves available for, a second term.

In my own case this question, which was undecided before my recent illness, has been complicated by the heart attack I suffered on September twenty-fourth last year. Aside from all other considerations, I have been faced with the fact that I am classed as a recovered heart patient. This means that to some undetermined extent, I may possibly be a greater risk than is the normal person of my age. My doctors assure me that this increased percentage of risk is not great.

So far as my own personal sense of well-being is concerned, I am as well as before the attack occurred. It is, however, true that the opinions and conclusions of the doctors that I can continue to carry the burdens of the Presidency, contemplate for me a regime of ordered work activity, interspersed with regular amounts of exercise, recreation and rest. A further word about this prescribed regime. I must keep my weight at a proper level. I must take a short mid-day breather. I must normally retire at a reasonable hour, and I must eliminate many of the less important social and ceremonial activities.

But let me make one thing clear. As of this moment, there is not the slightest doubt that I can perform as well as I ever have, all of the important duties of the Presidency. This I say because I am actually doing so and have been doing so for many weeks.

Of course, the duties of the President are essentially endless. No daily schedule of appointments can give a full timetable--or even a faint indication--of the President's responsibilities. Entirely aside from the making of important decisions, the formulation of policy through the National Security Council, and the Cabinet, cooperation with the Congress and with the States, there is for the President a continuous burden of study, contemplation and reflection.

Of the subjects demanding this endless study, some deal with foreign affairs, with the position of the United States in the international world, her strength, her aspirations, and the methods by which she may exert her influence in the solution of world problems and in the direction of a just and enduring peace. These-all of them--are a particular Constitutional responsibility of the President.

These subjects that require this study and contemplation include, also, major questions affecting our economy, the relationships of our government to our people, the Federal government's proper role in assuring our citizens access to medical and educational facilities, and important economic and social policies in a variety of fields.

The President is the Constitutional Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and is constantly confronted with major questions as to their efficiency, organization, operations and adequacy.

All these matters, among others, are with a President always; in Washington, in a summer White House, on a weekend absence, indeed, even at a ceremonial dinner and in every hour of leisure. The old saying is true, "A President never escapes from his office."

These are the things to which I refer when I say I am now carrying the duties of the President. So far as I am concerned, I am confident that I can continue to carry them indefinitely.

Otherwise, I would never have made the decision I announced today.

The doctors insist that hard work of the kind I have described does not injure any recovered coronary case, if such a recovered patient will follow the regime they lay down. Certainly, to this moment, the work has not hurt me.

Readiness to obey the doctors, out of respect for my present duties and responsibilities, is mandatory in my case. I am now doing so, and I intend to continue doing so for the remainder of my life, no matter in what capacity I may be living or may be serving.

Incidentally, some of my medical advisers believe that adverse effects on my health will be less in the Presidency than in any other position I might hold. They believe that because of the watchful care that doctors can and do exercise over a President, he normally runs less risk of physical difficulty than do other citizens. This fact is probably of more importance to my family than to the nation at large, but believing you may have some interest in the point, I wanted to inform you.

Now, with this background of fact, and medical opinion and belief, what do these circumstances imply in terms of restrictions upon the activities in which I have been accustomed to participate in the past?

During the first two and a half years of my incumbency, I felt that a great effort was needed in America to clarify our own thinking with respect to problems of international peace and our nation's security; the proper relationships of the Federal government with the States; the relationship of the Federal government to our economy and to individual citizens; increased cooperation of the Executive Branch with the Congress; problems of the nation's farmers; the need for highways; the building of schools; the extension of social welfare; and a myriad of other items of similar importance. To this public clarification of issues I devoted much time and effort. In many cases these things can now be done equally well by my close associates, but in others I shall continue to perform these important tasks.

Some of the things in which I can properly have a reduced schedule include public speeches, office appointments with individuals and with groups, ceremonial dinners, receptions, and portions of a very heavy correspondence.

Likewise I have done a great deal of travelling, much of which was undertaken in the effort to keep in personal touch with the thinking of you, the people of America. Both in war and in peace, it has been my conviction that no man can isolate himself from the men and women he is attempting to serve, and really sense what is in their hearts and minds. This kind of activity I shall continue, but not on such an intensive basis that I must violate the restrictions within which I must work.

All of this means, also, that neither for renomination nor re-election would I engage in extensive travelling and in whistle-stop speaking--normally referred to as "barn-storming." I had long ago made up my mind, before I ever dreamed of a personal heart attack, that I could never, as President of all the people, conduct the kind of political campaign where I was personally a candidate. The first duty of a President is to discharge to the limit of his ability, the responsibilities of his office.

On the record are the aims, the efforts, the accomplishments and the plans for the future of this Administration. Those facts constitute my personal platform.

I put all these things clearly before you for two reasons.

The first is that every delegate attending the Republican convention next August is entitled to know now that, for all the reasons I have given, I shall, in general, wage no political campaign in the customary pattern. Instead, my principle purpose, if renominated, will be to inform the American people accurately, through means of mass communication, of the foreign and domestic program this Administration has designed and has pressed for the benefit of all our people; to show them how much of that program has been accomplished or enacted into law; to point out what remains to be done, and to show how we intend to do it.

If the Republican delegates come to believe that they should have as their Presidential nominee one who would campaign more actively, they would have the perfect right--indeed the duty--to name such a nominee. I, for one, would accept their decision cheerfully and I would continue by all means within my power to help advance the interests of the American people through the kind of program that this Administration has persistently supported.

The second reason for placing these things before you is because I am determined that every American shall have all available facts concerning my personal condition and the way I am now conducting the affairs of this office. Thus, when they go to the polls next November to elect a President of the United States, they can, should I again be one of the nominees, do so with a full understanding of both the record of this Administration and of how I propose to conduct myself now and in the future.

I know of little that I can add to this statement. As I hope all of you know, I am dedicated to a program that rigidly respects the concepts of political and economic freedom on which this nation was rounded, that holds that there must be equal justice and equality of opportunity for individuals, that adapts governmental methods to changing industrial, economic and social conditions, and that has, as its never changing purpose, the welfare, prosperity, and above all, the security of 166 million Americans.

The work that I set out four years ago to do has not yet reached the state of development and fruition that I then hoped could be accomplished within the period of a single term in this office. So if the American people choose, under the circumstances I have described, to place this duty upon me, I shall persist in the way that has been charted by my associates and myself.

I shall continue, with earnestness, sincerity and enthusiasm, to discharge the duties of this office.

Now my friends, I have earnestly attempted to give you the most important facts and considerations which I took into account in reaching the decision I announced today. If I have omitted anything significant, it is something I shall strive to correct in the weeks ahead.

Thank you very much for permitting me to visit with you this evening on this very important matter. Good night to all of you.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Address to the American People Following Decision on a Second Term. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233007

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