Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Annual Convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

November 10, 1953

Mrs. Long, and ladies:

In the task that I have now, there are certain parts of it that are most enjoyable. One of them is the privilege that comes to me occasionally to welcome to the Capital City a body of people in which all present are animated by desire to serve our country.

That is the kind of thing that gives a lift to the day. And so, as I come over here, I want to assure you that what you are doing for me is sending me back to work with a better feeling than when I came. And for that, I thank you.

Someone said to me this morning, there are many reasons for associating together in the United States--but why a group perpetuating memories of the Confederacy? We refer to it often, you know, in our books, as "the lost cause." Well, I think it is because you have very peculiar and personal values to offer in the United States scene for the rest of us to study, and to be inspired.

Two persons that I want to talk about today are your possessions more than they are of the whole country, I suppose, although we claim them: Lee and Jackson.

As a life-long soldier, it was my duty to read about these two great men who were leaders in that profession. But for me it soon became much more than a duty. It became a great pleasure. It became an inspiration.

When we think of Lee, the qualities for which he stood, the things for which his name stands today, it seems almost redundant--superfluous--for anyone to try to describe them, even to himself.

For me, let me give you my opinion, in a simple way.

In my office I have obtained and put up etchings, or pictures, of a few great Americans: Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, and Lee. Lee was one man who early showed to all of us that a man could be a soldier who could fight with all that was in him--and fight brilliantly--for ideals in which he firmly and honestly believed, but still, at the same time, could be a great and noble character. He himself did not fall prey to the passions of the battlefield and to its contaminating filth and dirt. He remained always a pure soul that today makes us better people.

And he had the perfect lieutenant in Jackson--a man of great purity of spirit, great strength of mind of his own--who could nevertheless grasp the plan of his commander and then go off and execute it perfectly.

Possibly one of the most extraordinary battles of that whole period of the mid-nineteenth century was that at Chancellorsville, where Jackson lost his life. And I will never forget, as I used to look at the pictures in the books, that it never occurred to me to look up his age. I thought any man with a beard that long must be rather venerable. It was almost a shock to discover that he was dead at 39. Today, when we think of a 39-year-old general, we think of somebody who must have had a lot of favoritism to get there that quickly. He had behind him the great accomplishments of those many dreary months of war. A strict disciplinarian, who yet had one great support outside of his faith in Lee--his unshakeable faith in his God.

These two people today are probably more influential than in the days when they led the Confederate armies to so many victories up until 1865--Jackson till 1863.

They hold before us a veneration for ideals, a conviction that to rise high in your profession you do not have to surrender principle. You can stand for what you believe.

I didn't come over here to make a speech, ladies. I do merely want to say this with all the strength that I have: if you had no other reason for existence except to hold before America the memory, the accomplishments, the characters, the qualities, of these two men, I still think your association would be well worth while.

And I think in providing for a memorial to Robert E. Lee, you have done something in which every single American, from one end to the other, even if his own ancestors were bitter opponents of these men in the middle of the nineteenth century, would be proud to join in that effort.

Thank you very much for inviting me over. I hope you have a good time while you are here.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Mrs. Glenn Long, President-General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Annual Convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232357

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