Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at Annual Breakfast of the International Council for Christian Leadership

February 02, 1956

Mr. Chairman and Mr. Hilton and my friends:

It is a touching thing that Mr. Hilton has done in presenting to me this plaque and the desk and the chair where I wrote the little prayer that I used at the Inauguration some three years and more ago.

That incident brought to me a great lesson. It seemed to me a perfectly natural thing to do. I was seeking some way to impress upon the audience at that moment that all of us realized a new Chief Executive was being inaugurated over a nation that was rounded on a religious faith.

Our founding documents so state. In explaining, you know, our government and what we intended to do in the Declaration, our founding fathers held it was our Creator that gave us certain rights, and this government was set up to sustain them.

So that seemed to me a perfectly natural thing to do, as an emphatic way of showing that I also realized it.

Now it was with some astonishment that I began to see this response. Literally thousands of messages coming in, some of them from people who did not particularly think I was the man to occupy that place that day, still applauded that act.

And here is the lesson as I see it. I know very few men, I know very few people that tell me they are atheists or they are even agnostics, but we find among the laity a curious diffidence in merely stating the fact that they believe there is a God and He is more powerful than I and I am dependent upon Him. That is what the prayer did, and it was because a layman as I see it, did do so--and of course, in such a position--that this response came in.

Now I think that that prayer is somewhat related to these prayer breakfasts. We can stay in our quarters--we can pray. But by gathering occasionally--and I understand this whole ceremony is something of a week long--by announcing to the world that we come up as laymen and meet, making the same acknowledgments that are made in that prayer, we are doing exactly the same thing: we are telling people that this nation is still a nation under God.

This is terrifically important today. There has been too much of the world that believes the United States to be completely materialistic, boastful, proud and arrogant. It makes no difference how they have achieved it or how they have been misinformed in order to achieve such a feeling, but it is there. Traveler after traveler, poll after poll have reported the same thing.

It is such meetings as this, continued, repeated, and brought home to them, that help to dispel this very great and dangerous delusion. It still is a nation that is rounded on the religious faith, with great concern for the sentiments of compassion and mercy that Mr. Hilton so eloquently spoke about. That is what we want others to think about when they think of the United States.

People have talked of the spirit of Geneva. The thing that the spirit of Geneva did accomplish. and at least so far has not been destroyed--one part of it that is valuable--is that people there, in watching that conference, gained a belief that the United States was truly trying to follow in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace, and to establish a just peace for the world.

That is a tremendous gain, in this day of fears, hysteria and sometimes too great a reliance on force.

Though we be strong--I believe if I am not misquoting even the Bible says "When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace"--we intend to remain that strong, but let us always do it with certainty that anyone who will come in integrity, observing the moral values that we know are imbedded in this great religious faith, that he will be received as a friend and taken with us down the road to the future in peace.

I had no intention of making a speech. As a matter of fact, I was promised I didn't have to--and I don't know how I got started. But thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C., at 8:40 a. m. His opening words "Mr. Chairman and Mr. Hilton" referred to Frank Carlson, United States Senator from Kansas, and Conrad Hilton, host at. the breakfast.

The silver plaque referred to in the first paragraph was engraved with the prayer offered by President Eisenhower on the occasion of his inauguration on January 20, 1953. The desk and chair were from the Presidential suite of the Statler Hotel, Washington, D.C., which the President occupied before his inauguration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at Annual Breakfast of the International Council for Christian Leadership Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233762

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