Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the State of the Nation.

April 05, 1954

[Delivered from the Broadcast Room of the White House at 8:30 p.m.]

Good evening, my friends:

This evening I want to talk to you about a very big subject. I want to talk to you about this great country of ours. I should like to ask you, with me, to make a quick survey of its strength, its problems, its apprehensions, and its future. Particularly I would like to talk to you about what you and I can do about its future.

Now, as we first take a look at the strength of America, you and I know that it is the most productive nation on earth, that we are richer, by any standard of comparison, than is any other nation in the world. We know that we have great military strength--economic--intellectual. But I want to call your particular attention to. spiritual strength.

Now, I don't think it is amiss, in this season of the year that has so many religious overtones, that we call attention to this fact: that in conception, our Nation had a spiritual foundation, so announced by the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. You remember what they said? "We hold that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain rights." That is very definitely a spiritual conception. It is the explanation of our form of government that our Founding Fathers decided upon.

And now, today, that spiritual strength is just as great in its requirements as it has ever been in our whole history. By this I mean it is very important that you and I value the spiritual things that they had in mind when they founded this country.

For example, the things that were stated in the Bill of Rights, the things that announce the rights that every single individual has in this country; his equality before the law, his right to worship as he pleases, and think as he pleases, and talk as he pleases, just so he does not trespass on the rights of others. And the other part of the spiritual strength we need today is the same stamina and courage and gallantry that our forefathers had in defending those rights.

I want to call your attention to this particular part of the American strength, because without all this everything else goes by the board. We must be strong in our dedication and our devotion to America. That is the first element of our entire strength. But all in all, this total strength of America is one of those things we call--and the world calls-unbelievable.

Now why, then, with all this strength, should we be worried at times about what the world is doing to us? Actually we see threats coming from all angles--internal and external, and we wonder what is going to happen to us individually and as a Nation.

Now, perhaps I can illustrate some of the reasons for this concern of today. Thirty-seven years ago tomorrow, our country entered the First World War. At that time, I was a lieutenant serving with the United States Infantry in Texas. My regiment was armed, as were all other regiments, with the same kind of equipment, at least as to type and general character of power, as were the regiments that fought the SpanishAmerican War. Now, only a year ago, the hydrogen bomb was exploded in the Pacific. Last month, another series of tests was undertaken.

Now, this transfer of power, this increase of power from a mere musket and a little cannon, all the way to the hydrogen bomb in a single lifetime, is indicative of the things that have happened to us. They rather indicate how far the advances of science have outraced our social consciousness, how much more we have developed scientifically than we are capable of handling emotionally and intellectually. So that is one of the reasons that we have this great concern, of which the hydrogen bomb is merely a dramatic symbol.

None of the questions that bothers us today has an easy answer. And many of them have no answers at all, at least in their complete sense. We may only do our best, and from there on make sure that we are doing all that human beings can do to meet these problems.

This is not greatly different from what the ordinary American family does. It has the problems of meeting the payments on the mortgage, paying for the family car, educating the children, laying aside some money for use in case of unexpected illness. It meets these problems courageously. It doesn't get panicky. It solves these problems with what I would call courage and faith, but above all by cooperation, by discussing the problem among the different members of the family and then saying: this is what we can do, this is what we will do, and reaching a satisfactory answer.

The problems of America are the family problems multiplied a millionfold. That is what we are talking about tonight.

Now I am not going to try to talk about all these problems. We can talk about water conservation, and soil erosion, and handling of the public debt, and all of these things that bother us day by day in our daily lives. But I am going to confine myself this evening to discussion of just four or five of these.

For example, we are concerned about the men in the Kremlin. We are concerned about the Atomic Age. We are concerned about the loss of our international friends in exposed areas of the world--the loss of them to the Communist dictatorship. We are worried about Communist penetration of our own country, and we are worried about the possibility of depression, and the loss of jobs among us here at home.

Now, the greater any of these apprehensions, the greater is the need that we look at them clearly, face to face, without fear, like honest, straightforward Americans, so we do not develop the jitters or any other kind of panic, that we do not fall prey to hysterical thinking.

Sometimes you feel, almost, that we can be excused for getting a little bit hysterical, because these dangers come from so many angles, and they are of such different kinds, and no matter what we do they still seem to exist. But underlying all of these dangers is one thing: the threat that We have from without, the great threat imposed upon us by aggressive communism, the atheistic doctrine that believes in statism as against our conception of the dignity of man, his equality before the law--that is the struggle of the ages.

Now, the H-bomb--the H-bomb and the Atomic Age. They are not in themselves a great threat to us. Of course not. The H-bomb is a threat to us only if a potential aggressor, who also has the secrets of the H-bomb, determines to use it against us. And against that, then, we have to make our provisions, to make certain that sensible men have done every possible thing they can to protect ourselves against that threat.

Communism seeks to divide us, to set class against class, good people against good people, when those good people should be standing together in defense of liberty and against communism. Because of that, we must take counsel among ourselves and stand together and let nothing tear us apart.

So let us first, then, take these purposes one by one, and think of some of the counterbalancing factors against the threat itself. By this I mean, take the Kremlin. When we say that word, we mean the politburo, and we think of what may be its designs against us, what may be the dictator's intentions with respect to war or aggression, his plans to enslave the world. Of all of these, of course, war poses to us the gravest threat, because of its destructive qualities.

Now let us take the first of what I would call the counteracting or counterbalancing factors. The very fact that those men, by their own design, are in the Kremlin, means that they love power. They want to be there. Whenever they start a war, they are taking the great risk of losing that power. They study history pretty well. They remember Mussolini. They remember Hitler. They have even studied Napoleon very seriously. When dictators over-reach themselves and challenge the whole world, they are very likely to end up in any place except a dictatorial position. And those men in the politburo know that.

So we have the first of these counteracting or counterbalancing factors, against the possibility of their declaring war. There are many risks of every kind in war. Among other things, the Russians have a system of satellites--captive satellites. Now they know, again, the risks of indulging in war when you have captive satellites.

Napoleon went into Russia in 1812 with exactly that kind of army. The Grand Army of France had been reinforced by Prussians and others of the regions that Napoleon had conquered, whose soldiers he had impressed into his own army. As quickly as he met his first disaster, they began to desert.

The Russians know all that. That very system of satellites could be, in a war of exhaustion, a very great source of weakness. They have, as compared to us, economic weaknesses, and after all a strong economy is necessary, if you are going to push through to victory in a modern war.

The Russians produced last year something less, probably, than half a billion barrels of oil. We produced two and a quarter by ourselves. We produced something over twice as much steel as they produced. Now these are strong elements in our economy, when you are going to use so much of your production to wage a war, particularly a war of exhaustion.

Now all of these things are deterrents upon the men in the Kremlin. They are factors that make war, let us say, less likely. As long as they know that we are in position to act strongly and to retaliate, war is not a decision to be taken lightly. Yet I admit--and we must all admit-that it remains a possibility they might do this, in a fit of madness, or through miscalculation.

Of course, as I mentioned before, the H-bomb is dangerous because those people have its secrets, possess and have exploded, as they did some months back, such a bomb. But we know, with respect to that bomb, we are not going to start a war. It is not going to. be used by our initiative. And I have just talked about this sobering effect of the risks of war upon the men in the Kremlin. Of all those sobering effects, none is greater than the retaliation that will certainly be visited upon them if they would attack any of our nations, or any part of our vital interests, aggressively and in order to conquer us.

In addition to all this, we devote ourselves to civil and continental defense, in order to make certain that we have the best possible chance to live through such a catastrophe, as well as to inflict upon the enemy such losses that he would quit fighting. But since insanity still exists, I again say there is still an element in that threat that we must calculate very coldly and very carefully.

Now the next thing that we fear, or concerning which we are apprehensive, is this idea of Communist infiltration into our own country, into our Government, into our schools, into our unions, into any of our facilities, any of our industries, wherever they may be, and wherever those Communists could damage us. Now, it would be completely false to minimize the dangers of this penetration. It does exist. We know some of them are here. Yet, let me give you now some of the counterbalancing factors.

First of all, this fear has been greatly exaggerated as to numbers. In our country today, there are possibly some 25 thousand doctrinal Communists. The FBI knows pretty well where they are. But the headlines of the newspapers would sometimes have you think that every other person you meet is a Communist. Actually, 25 thousand out of 160 million people means about one out of six thousand. But they are dangerous.

Now our great defense against those people is the FBI. The FBI has been doing, for years, in this line of work, a magnificent job. They are a great bulwark, and any one of you can notify them today about real valid facts which you have, and they will be on the job doing something about it. They are that kind. So great is the story that they have to tell that I am not going to attempt to tell it tonight. Instead, I have asked the Attorney General on next Friday night, to come before you and give you a complete account of what the FBI has been doing about this.

Along with this, this fear of Communist penetration, comes another fear that is related to it, the fear that we will use intemperate investigative methods, particularly through congressional committees, to combat communistic penetration.

As I pointed out before, it is minute. The great mass of governmental people, Government workers, civilian and in uniform, people in our schools, and everywhere else that we can think of, are just as dedicated as you and I. They are just as loyal. But this fringe still has to be hunted out, and as I say, you will get a full report of what the FBI is doing on this.

Now, the congressional committee. One of its functions--when it was set up as the congressional investigative committee it was to be your protection against the unwarranted attacks of an overpowering executive. It was to look after your civil liberties, to make certain that your liberties were not eroded away.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I admit that there can be very grave offenses committed against an innocent individual, if he is accused, possibly, by someone having the immunity of congressional membership. He can lose his job. He can have scars that will be lasting. But in the long run, you may be certain of this: America believes in, and practices, fair play, and decency and justice. In this country, public opinion is the most powerful of all forces. And it will straighten this matter out wherever and whenever there is real violence done to our great fights.

And now the next fear I want to touch upon is the fear of losing international friends, the fear that comes to us, or the apprehension that comes to us, when we consider that exposed areas of the world, not so strong as we are, not so strong in materials, or in this world's riches, or militarily, may fall prey to the subversion, the deceit, the bribery, and the propaganda that is practiced by the Russians.

Now, some of these areas are very, very important to us, not merely because of the necessary materials we get from them--tin, tungsten, rubber, manganese, and all the things we need to keep our economy going--but because those people, if regimented under the Communist dictators in the Kremlin, could make them stronger and stronger as against us, as the free world was chipped away.

Now, let us take, again, some of the counterbalancing values. Did you ever stop to think there is no nation in the world that has ever freely adopted communism in a vote of the people? On the contrary, every time Communists have taken over a country, even Russia, it has been done by a very small minority practicing violence. Or through some slick method, or political move it has gotten control of the country, establishing a gestapo or other method of police control and has ruled that country.

Moreover, there is a growing understanding in the world, of the decency and justice of the American position in opposing the slavery of any nation. We do not believe that any nation, no matter how great, has a right to take another people and subject them to its rule. We believe that every nation has a right to live its own life. Every bit of aid we give, every cooperative effort we undertake, is all based upon the theory that it is cooperation among equals.

The other night, a newspaper by a curious error, spoke of allies as "appliances" instead of alliances. Now the one mistake we must never make is to think of our friends in the international world as being tools of ours. They are not. They are friends of ours. And as they are friends, they are equals to us.

The United Nations was conceived with one idea: that cooperative effort among great and free, peace-loving nations could establish peace in this world. That the United Nations authorizes coalitions in different areas of the world designed for the same purposes and in the same spirit. We believe in these. In every corner of the world, whether it is to protect the southwest Pacific, or NATO in Europe, or wherever it is, we believe that the interested nations should band together, and in cooperative spirit, maintain the freedom of those countries against any kind of communist aggression. Still, some of these nations are weak; they are indecisive. And we have our disappointments in trying to build them up. So we have again that form of apprehension to take into our calculations, prepare for and prepare against.

Now I want to take up, just very briefly, the fear of depression and loss of jobs. You will hear people talking about the level of 3,700,000 unemployed. And it is very true. And it is a figure that comes about as a result of our efforts to go from a war to a peace economy. That figure happily shows every sign now of leveling off. The last report was only a few thousand greater than the one just earlier.

But these people who look on it so gloomily never say to you that there are more than 60 million people today gainfully employed in the United States, entirely aside from the 3,500,000 that are in the armed services. We have a number of peacetime jobs and an employment that is very near to an all-time high. We have great insurance plans in this country against loss of jobs. We have a farm program to protect the farmer against disaster. We have the great savings of our people near an all-time high. And then we have the great requirements of the 160 million people of good income, and that is the kind of thing that gives employment and insures the productivity of our farms and factories.

But aside from this, my friends, we have also a Government that is ready to act whenever necessary. Now one of the important things in this kind of problem is the attitude of your Government. I have tried to define our Government several times as one that is completely liberal in its relationship to people, but earnestly tries to be conservative when it deals with your money and your economy.

Now already there have been many measures taken to ease and to accommodate this transition from war to peace economy. We have made loans easier and facilitated construction. We have reduced and are reducing to some extent the surpluses that overhang our agricultural market. We are trying to increase our markets abroad, stimulating production, and so on. But there are many, many more plans in reserve, ready to use if necessary. Among these, of course, is public construction, further lowering of taxes, increasing your money to spend in many ways, and that is something to be brought out if necessary. But on the other hand, your Government does not intend to go into any slam-bang emergency program unless it is necessary.

Now, my friends, I should say that the one great aspiration of America is a free, peaceful, and prosperous world. To have a free, peaceful, and prosperous world, we must be ever stronger; we must be ever stronger not only in the things I have mentioned but particularly in this spiritual sense, in the belief--the faith that we can do certain things. We must have the faith that comes from a study of our own history, from the inspiration of leaders like Washington and Lincoln, and what our pioneering forefathers did.

But as we look at the whole problem, and we sum up these apprehensions of which I have just spoken, we find that each of them has a certain lingering element of truth in it. And so we have plans, and this administration has presented to the Congress a plan--a legislative program. In that program there is ample measure for defense, civil, and continental defense and for the deterrent effects of our atomic development. We have lowered taxes so that six billion dollars or more have been turned back to the public so as to stimulate production. We have farm programs-taxes--trade--mutual security--housing--social security--health programs--all of these things. My friends, if they are done, we will be certain of a stronger America that will be capable of bringing closer to us this peaceful, prosperous, and secure America.

But I say, again, that it is the American belief in decency and justice and progress, and the value of individual liberty, because of the rights conferred upon each of us ,by our Creator, that will carry us through, as we study and plan these things. There must be something in the heart as well as in the head. So as we do this, as you and I approach our problems in this way, I assure you we don't have to fear. I don't mean to say, and no one can say to you, that there are no dangers. Of course there are risks, if we are not vigilant. But we do not have to be hysterical. We can be vigilant. We can be Americans. We can stand up and hold up our heads and say: America is the greatest force that God has ever allowed to exist on His footstool.

As such it is up to us to lead this world to a peaceful and secure existence. And I assure you we can do it.

Good-night, my friends.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Address to the American People on the State of the Nation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233652

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