Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks to the American Field Service Students at the Interdepartmental Auditorium.

July 16, 1959

THANK YOU very much. A warm welcome to the boys and gifts that are visiting our country under the auspices of the American Field Service.

I have been meeting with groups of visitors brought here by the American Field Service since 1948. The first group I met was on the steps of Columbia University where I was then President. I think they numbered something on the order of 30 possibly 35.

Every time that I have been able to meet with you since then, your number has grown. This is the first time, incidentally, wherever I have met them, that we have had to come indoors. You at least have found that there's one thing not perfect about America, and that is the predictions of the weather service, because they told me we were going to have a rainstorm. But I am so hopeful that your number will increase to the extent where no enclosure could possibly hold you, that I personally would be willing--and I hope you would--to endure a little bit of rain while I had the chance to say to you a word of greeting.

There is nothing that I can think of that could more improve this project sponsored by the Field Service than to multiply your numbers. I hear that this year there are more than 1,100 of you. I would hope that I can live until the day I see 11,000 of you.

One reason that I would like to talk to you for a moment is because you are young. I like to think of the years--how much of the future you hold in your hands. As the years stretch out ahead of you, everything is a vital problem. There is an element of promise, a belief, a faith, that things are going to be better, and you are going to help make that true. And in the measure that you help make it true will be your true happiness and your true enjoyment out of the years that you have ahead of you.

Your journey to this country has certainly in many respects been an adventure. You must have wondered, when you were in your homeland, what your welcome would be. Would the people in the family with which you lived truly be interested in you? Would America show to you that courtesy, that hospitality, that we wanted to show but you could not be sure of it? And have you seen anything about our country that will help you, as you try to improve your portion of the world in these years that you have, just as we in America are trying to do the same thing?

I meet your counterparts from America quite often. I meet the young Future Farmers of America, the 4-H boys and girls, and from them I get exactly the same kind of inspiration that I do in meeting with you. Because through youth it seems to me is the best chance we have to make this a better world. You, like all the boys and girls you have met in the United States, want peace. You want a just peace. You want a peace that will give to each of you the right to star/d up as a dignified being, as one who is not a creature of someone else's will, but is entitled to expand and develop himself according to the dictates of his own conscience.

These are the things that our young boys and girls want. They are the ones you want. The more you meet together, the more the very factor of that meeting makes this dream come true. As you get to know us, as you carry back understanding of us, our Field Service visitors--800 this year going over to visit your countries--bring back better understanding of you. As a result of these visits reasons for conflict, argument, or at least for attempting to solve problems in any spirit except that of negotiation, and peaceful and friendly attitude, are gone. You can't know each other and be enemies between yourselves.

These are the things that people want, that you want, and will continue to want. The point is: I believe you will be better equipped than the average to help bring about understanding.

One of the greatest ambitions that I have had, both as a soldier and later as a political figure in this country, is to develop more of what I call the people-to-people programs. The Field Service is one of the most successful. But the whole people-to-people movement--whether it is in the areas just of teen-age youngsters, or as young executives, lawmakers, scholars and professors--as that grows and grows, the world itself will be better.

So I congratulate you for the opportunity that is yours, to help make your part of the world--and therefore the whole world--better.

As I give you my confidence that you are going to do this, I say to you Godspeed as you prepare soon to go home.

I hope that each of you, whether you be a whole deputation or a single individual, will carry back with you an expression of America's hope that we will be friends--your country and ours--that we will be bound together by this same appreciation of the high values of personal liberty, freedom, and dignity--and that you bring with you the good wishes of every single American for rising living standards, greater educational opportunities--all of those things that make life worthwhile--just exactly the things that we in this country are seeking.

God bless you all--goodbye.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks to the American Field Service Students at the Interdepartmental Auditorium. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235149

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