Radio Report to the American People on the Achievements of the Administration and the 83d Congress.
[Broadcast from the White House at 9:30 p.m.]
- My fellow Americans:
A mark of free citizens, proud and wise enough to govern themselves, is the searching scrutiny they turn upon the purposes and the performance of their own government.
It is the historic habit of a free people--it is our habit--to ask our Government at frequent times: Where are we going? How far have we come?
These questions arise logically in these very days. The first session of the 83d Congress has adjourned. The laborious work of the committees has ended. The debates have closed. The roll calls have been taken. A record has been written.
In the few moments we have this evening, let us take a look at that record.
The array of legislative actions, at first glance, seems bewildering in variety and complexity. It includes:
A revised defense program for a reorganized Defense Department working on a reduced defense budget;
Reorganization of whole Government departments;
Revised plans to help arm our allies in freedom;
Short-term extension of onerous but needed taxes;
Indefinite lifting of futile economic controls;
Emergency aid to drought-stricken areas of our own land;
Extension of legislation to aid and increase our commerce with the peoples of all lands;
Wheat to feed Pakistan;
Programs to rebuild Korea;
Simplification of customs regulations;
Admission of refugees;
Enactment of a multitude of normal appropriation bills.
With such an array of new legislation, it is little wonder that the intelligent citizen asks: what do all these things mean? Where are we going?
The first part of the answer is this:
Such actions as these are not the chance results of some wildly spinning wheels of governmental machinery.
These acts reflect thoughtful planning. They have demanded work--the earnest, exhausting work of hundreds of conscientious legislators. They denote purpose--clearly defined purpose.
When I first appeared before the 83d Congress 6 months ago to deliver the administration's message on the State of the Union, I tried to define what I referred to as "the grand labors" confronting this Government. They were these:
"Application of our influence in world affairs with such fortitude and foresight that it will deter aggression and eventually secure peace;
"Establishment of a national administration of such integrity and efficiency that its honor at home will ensure respect abroad;
"Encouragement of those incentives that inspire creative initiative in our economy, and
"Dedication to the well-being of all our citizens and to the attainment of equality of opportunity for all."
These purposes give meaning and sense to all that has occurred in these last 6 months.
We have adhered firmly to these purposes.
Let us begin with the first: the exercise of our influence in world affairs in the quest of lasting peace.
And here let us begin with that tragic land of war: Korea.
We made plain from the outset our determination, shared by our allies in the United Nations, to find--to fight for however long to win--an honorable armistice in Korea. We speeded the equipment and training of Republic of Korea troops, inspiringly led by President Syngman Rhee. We firmly--and successfully--upheld the right of prisoners of war to choose their own future.
We have now gained a truce in Korea.
We do not greet it with wild rejoicing. We know how dear its cost has been in life and treasure. We know how grave are the problems to be met before the people of Korea enjoy real unity and security.
Yet we also soberly know that we have won two precious victories.
We have shown, in the winning of this truce, that the collective resolve of the free world can and will meet aggression in Asia--or anywhere in the world.
And we have won the opportunity to show that free people can build in peace as boldly as they fight in war.
We have already given signs of our power and will to do just that. The Congress has authorized the spending of 200 million additional dollars for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of South Korea. This action springs directly from the heart of America, which has contributed so generously to private relief organizations like the American-Korean Foundation working to heal and help our stricken ally. I have now invited all the skilled specialists of the United States forces in Korea--engineers, signal corps, technicians of all kinds--to offer their knowledge to help rebuild the land whose freedom they have helped so bravely to save.
There is no finer task that could be entrusted to these men. I know that under the leadership of General Clark, General Weyland, Admiral Briscoe, and General Taylor, the results will bring pride to every American. Our purpose is sane and simple: to make secure and productive the freedom that has been saved-and to make it inspiring for the people for whom it has been saved.
For we know this: no military victory, no diplomatic triumph, no precision-perfect foreign policy of our own can mean very much for very long--if it does not bring hope to hundreds of millions of people who live today in fear or need or hunger. As surely as we seek lasting peace, we shall find it only as these people come to have faith in their own future in freedom.
This, then, is, in one area, the wise and purposeful use of our strength of which I spoke 6 months ago.
We have pursued the same objective on the other side of the world. In Western Europe, we have seen--and constantly aided--the slow, steady growth of unity, of economic health, and of military defense.
With the nations of Western_ Europe now producing even more than they did before World War II, it has become possible to devote most of our foreign operations to the needs of military defense. This means, for us as Americans, that these billions of dollars directly serve our own national security. They have thereby made possible part of the great savings effected in our own Department of Defense.
The Senate vote of 69-to-10 on this issue was the largest such vote ever united in support of this kind of program. This reflects something more important than money. It signifies an unprecedented unity that crosses party lines and promises steady purpose in the conduct of our foreign affairs.
All these developments from the still smoldering East to the strengthening West--could not fail to have impressed the peoples of the Soviet world. Neither purges nor police nor prisons have been able to stifle the growing cries for food--and for freedom. Cold oppression has been repaid with cold hate.
In Germany, we have urged the Soviet Union to join with the Western nations in speeding that nation's unity. Even as we have acted, the people of Germany have delivered an eloquent message of their own to Soviet occupation authorities. It has been a message of defiance--delivered by the thousands of Berlin workers who stormed through their streets in the memorable June uprising; and the tens of thousands who have defiantly come to West Berlin for the needed food sent by this Government for their relief.
Our action in Berlin--this reaching out to people to help, to feed, to strengthen their faith in freedom--partakes of the same spirit directing our course in Korea.
There is a significant connection between these distant spots on the great globe.
Berlin and Korea have been two of the scenes chosen by the Communist world for flagrant acts of aggression since World War II.
Today precisely these same two places present dramatic evidence of the will of free men to stay free and to make freedom work.
No clearer proof is needed of the power of the free world not only to defeat what is evil but also to create what is good.
We intend to keep the knowledge of that power before all men.
The essential force behind this power is the unity of the free world; and one essential basis for that unity, in turn, is economic health nourished by mutually beneficial trade. The 83d Congress has shown clear understanding of this truth. This is the significance of the Congress's actions in simplifying our customs regulations and extending the Reciprocal Trade Act. These actions again testify to that growing unity of opinion which rises above party lines to see clearly the need for profitable trade throughout the free world. These actions--while consistent with concern for our own industries--recognize also our own dependence upon vital foreign markets and foreign sources of raw materials.
Again and again, as we have faced these problems of international trade and world diplomacy, we have stressed the central fact that we are concerned with the plain needs and hopes of the ordinary peoples of the earth. So we have undertaken the shipping of a million tons of wheat to help meet the famine in Pakistan. So the Congress has authorized this Government to make available excess reserves of crops to friendly nations in need. And so we have authorized the entry into the United States of some 214,000 refugees. These are men and women of the same character and integrity as their and our ancestors who, generation upon generation, have come to America to find peace and work, to build for themselves new homes in freedom.
In all these ways, then--in every deed and decision--we have sought to apply our strength in the world so as to deter aggression and to secure peace. We have accepted the burdens of world leadership with clear mind and confident heart--for we know that to strengthen other free men is to serve our own freedom and safety.
I come now to the second great objective of which I spoke 6 months ago--the building of an honest, efficient administration, honored at home and respected abroad.
The repair and reorganization of so huge a piece of political machinery as the United States Government is a colossal undertaking.
We have made a good start.
We begin with certain negative tasks.
There were some security risks still in the Government. They have been swiftly expelled.
There were some incompetents. They are lingering no longer than it takes to discover them.
There were simply too many people on the payrolls. We have reduced that number by stringent hiring policies that have cut the total by many tens of thousands.
The positive task of bettering government has produced less dramatic but even more profound results.
We submitted to the 83d Congress 10 major reorganization proposals. All 10 were approved. This is an unprecedented record.
Reorganization itself bears upon plans and practices of even wider scope. The whole area of Federal-State relations is being put under review by a Commission to bring order and sense into a field full of confusion and conflict. And within the Federal Government itself, both the executive and the legislative branches have worked with patience and good will to ensure that this Government not be divided against itself.
This mutual consideration between Congress and the President is less tangible but more vital than any reorganization bill ever passed or contemplated.
Vital to coherent and consistent policy, mutual confidence can never be legislated into existence. It is no easy thing to achieve. It certainly is not easy to perfect at a time when one great party, after 20 years of political life in the opposition, ousts another from office. Such an event casts both parties in new, strange roles. The strangeness for the party newly come to power, in this case, is dramatized by the fact that there is in the Senate not a single Republican who had ever held Senatorial office when a Republican President was in the White House.
I mention this to underscore the significance of the good will which, I believe, has been built, fast and firmly, between the executive and legislative branches. The two have differed many times. They have debated long and candidly. But the final results testify to a prevailing common purpose which is a credit to the high sense of duty of this 83d Congress.
That common purpose--I must add--found one of its most effective supporters in the late Senator Robert A. Taft. Its great advance was among the last and most important of his many important public achievements. Today, I know of no greater inspiration to all men seeking good, just government than the memory of his courage, his integrity, and the spirit of selfless cooperation that so brilliantly marked the last months of his life.
The building of this kind of government has proceeded simultaneously with our seeking of the third great objective I cited 6 months ago--the encouragement of creative initiative in our economy.
This serious, long-range purpose cannot record headline-making results in a few weeks or months. But--again--I believe the bright beginnings are clear for all to see.
We have, first of all, faced the tough facts of the Government debt. The last 23 years have seen this debt climb by 258 billions--at the relentless average rate of more than 11 billions a year. This, of course, includes a part of the inescapable cost of war. Yet the terrible momentum of that increasing debt could not be allowed to continue. Neither could it instantly be arrested. The weight of obligations made 2 and 3 years ago has forced upon us, as you know, the possibility of our having to raise the debt limit later this year. For one thing is a certainty: bills already contracted by the Government must be paid the day they become due.
In so critical a time of transition, we have done what sense and honesty dictate. We delayed lowering or removing taxes which, however harsh, provide essential revenue if the tide of debt is to be turned. We did not delay in cutting deep into governmental expenditures. The Executive and the Congress reduced the previous administration's budget request for the current year by almost 13 billion dollars--an amount representing some 80 dollars for every American.
This striving to bring the budget under control--as I have said before--is no mere academic, technical exercise challenging Government accountants. It profoundly influences the buying power of your dollar. It vitally affects every family in our land.
Our over-riding concern is not with elaborate theories of economics, but the plain well-being of all the people. And the balancing of the Government's budget is critical simply because it can help every family in our land to balance its own budget.
Moreover, in pursuit of this great objective of encouraging individual initiative, we have taken a series of major economic decisions. To free our economy from bonds that denatured healthy and necessary competition, we abolished a labyrinth of needless controls. To reform a tax structure that threatens to smother free initiative, the Treasury and the appropriate committees of the Congress have begun a total review of our tax system. Their recommendations will be ready for action by the next session of Congress.
I repeat: all these actions, governed by a single purpose, are not mere gestures in honor of preconceived economic dogmas. They reflect our awareness of the mighty productive power of individual enterprise to which America itself is history's greatest testimony.
Upon the productive might of the individual American depend the wages, the diet, the health, the homes of millions of families. Upon this productive might depends even more--the preservation of freedom itself in this, its age of greatest peril.
Now, what of the fourth and last great objective which I set forth last February: dedication to the well-being and the equal opportunity of all our citizens?
This objective affects, directly or indirectly, every action of this Government. For every deed of this Government is tested, judged, and inspired by this resolve--to serve the well-being of 160 million Americans.
In this spirit, there has been created a new Cabinet division-a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare--to carry steadily forward all the labor of care that we associate with schools, pensions, clinics, hospitals.
In this same spirit, the Congress authorized prompt emergency farm loans to our drought-stricken areas of the Southwest; and representatives of every farm area and organization have been brought together to help shape laws making our farm population more productive and more secure than ever. Today I signed a piece of legislation which farm organizations have been seeking for many years. This new legislation provides for increased participation by farmers in the farm credit system.
Serving this same purpose, we have been preparing specific recommendations on labor legislation to submit to the next session of Congress--to make sure and clear the rights of workers and unions, to promote increased industrial output and lasting industrial peace.
Through the cooperative action of many citizens and organizations, we have prepared recommendations for the extension of Old Age and Survivors Insurance coverage to 10 ½ million Americans, that they too may be encouraged to look forward to an old age of health and independence.
We have used the power of the Federal Government, wherever it clearly extends, to combat and erase racial discrimination and segregation--so that no man of any color or creed will ever be able to cry, "This is not a free land."
These, then, are some of the things we have been doing--and the reasons why.
They all total--I repeat--only a little more than a beginning.
I know of no official of this administration so foolish as to believe that we, who in January came to Washington, have seen and conquered all the problems of our Nation.
The future, both immediate and distant, remains full of trial and hazard.
The end of our staggering economic burden is not yet in sight.
The end of the peril to peace is not clearly in view.
There is only this in sight: a firm and binding purpose that guides all our objectives--our every deed.
This purpose is to serve and to strengthen our people, all our people, in their faith in freedom and in their quest of peace; and to strengthen all other peoples who share with us that faith and that quest.
In this short summary of the record, you can see how this single, supreme purpose rules and relates foreign relations; world trade; defense appropriations; reorganization of Government departments; domestic programs affecting agriculture, labor, and industry; taxes; debts; tariffs.
This ruling purpose inspires all the men who are your servants in Government--men from the professions, the trades, from business, from farm and factory--each representing a part of America in such a way as to make a united America.
The men and women in the Congress, the men and women in the executive departments, in both appointive and civil service offices--all are working together to serve you with this common purpose.
I know no other purpose, no other toil, worthy of America.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio Report to the American People on the Achievements of the Administration and the 83d Congress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231882