Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

April 27, 1959

Mr. McDonnell, Delegates, Members of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Guests:

May I first join you in a sincere tribute to your distinguished former President, Harper Sibley. With you, I deeply regret his passing.

It is a privilege to meet with you at this annual convention. It is particularly gratifying that in such meetings you, leaders of the business community from all parts of the country, concern yourselves with the broad range of problems of great importance to our Nation's life. In this way you demonstrate the deep sense of civic responsibility which characterizes modern American business.

On our part we of government look to the business community because of the vital role that this great force plays in contributing to American thinking and decisions, in helping to build America's security, and in expanding her economy.

To sustain the Nation's position in this world, sharply divided as it is between the values of freedom on one side, and the aggressive purposes of a communistic and atheistic dictatorship on the other, is a many-sided task.

At the outset, we must recognize one incontestable truth: in the face of the announced Communist intention to dominate the world, isolation for America is a futile and fatal policy. The fortunes of the free world are the fortunes of America. Our free society and our prosperity will flourish if freedom and progress flourish elsewhere. Our fortunes, our liberty and, indeed, our lives will be imperiled if the independence and welfare of other free nations are imperiled. Consequently, it is for us imperative that if international communism is to be frustrated in its drive for world domination, that there be a system of nations in which liberty, justice, and human dignity are the permanent pillars of society.

We have first to assure our own Nation's defensive and deterrent power. Beyond this, we know that the over-running of any free nation would transfer the resources of that nation to communism and by that much, weaken the free world. Should this step-by-step process be allowed to continue indefinitely, even our great Nation would face eventual encirclement and the result would be catastrophic.

We live in a climate of tension and challenge. We confront world communism in a protracted struggle in which we are menaced by political, economic, and military resources. As long as the Communists pursue their basic goal along broad and diverse fronts, we have no choice but to meet the challenge wherever or however it may be presented.

Now in the complicated problem of protecting freedom, one of America's essential requirements is to maintain an expanding national economy based upon a sound and stable dollar.

A strong economy is the physical basis of all our military power. A sound economy is proof to ourselves and to all others that we have the capacity to do indefinitely whatever we need to do in protecting our basic interests. Such an economy also provides the working proof that it can produce a standard of living which a regimented economy cannot remotely approach.

But there is still another reason for us to make certain of the health and growth of the American economy. Nations, less developed and smaller than ourselves, and which are more nakedly exposed to the Communist threat, cannot support their independence and liberty without some assistance from our economy. Whether the main weight of the Communist threat, applied at any given point, be military, political, or economic, the threatened area requires help from the more fortunately situated nations. Among these we are pre-eminent. And now that the Communists are adding to their threat of military force an increased threat of penetration through economic methods, the need for our economic strength and soundness and our assistance to others becomes even clearer.

Recognizing, then, the community of interest among the free nations to sustain our collective and individual safety, we must strive to make our cooperative associations stronger and more effective. The strongest tie that binds us together is a spiritual one--our common belief that the human values we support and defend are priceless beyond life itself.

Because we all regardless of differences in religion, race, and culture-are dedicated to the protection of these values, we have devised organizational mechanisms through which we may more closely cooperate in the common effort and, through unity, achieve greater strength to assure success.

Each of the free nations so associated supplies what it is best able to provide for the common defense. The contribution of our Allies in numbers of men in the armed services far exceed our own. Not always, however, can they, alone, maintain these numbers and at the same time provide even the minimum standard of living necessary to sustain health, hope, and morale. In these cases we see that it is to our advantage to provide some financial help.

Clearly, mutual security and the Nation's security are synonymous.

I cannot re-emphasize too strongly that in our struggle against Soviet imperialism we must have firm friends and willing allies. We must, through patient work, promote collective growth and strength. Aside from the material assistance we may provide through weapons, and private and public loans, we must help to produce a freer flow of world trade. We must do this without prejudice to our national security and without inflicting undue hardship on our local producers.

Especially among the less-developed countries we must use every available means--political, technical, professional, and material--to assure that these people not only add to the free world's strength, but eventually become valued participants as both sellers and buyers in the markets of world trade.

Such examples as these are those of what we Americans can do, and are doing, to promote our security and to build a new fraternity of peace-loving nations. There are, of course, many others.

Of one thing I am sure. Our investments in this work are the most fruitful we can make or do make. Our returns are earned in terms of greater security, stronger and sturdier friends with which to live and to work and to trade, and in more enthusiastic supporters in the search for peace and security.

Wisdom, a nation's wisdom, is needed. There is no room in America for narrow selfishness, either personal or collective. We must look frankly at the problem as it stands now before us and as it will change and develop in the future. We must strive to eliminate stupidity, prejudice, arrogance, and ignorance from our thinking. We must, as a people, employ the greatest degree of wisdom that we can, as humans, achieve.

Many of the decisions to be made in this great effort belong to the businessman rather than exclusively or even primarily to the Government. In the fields of private investment abroad and in promoting a greater volume of trade, there is much you can do to increase free world cohesion and strength.

Moreover, I hope that each of you in America's business community will work tirelessly for a better national awareness of the challenge before us and the character of the response we must make both in our own interests and in those of all humanity. Success demands the force of an informed public opinion to strengthen the instruments of freedom in the free world community. As business, community, and national leaders-leaders who do not panic under threat or grow complacent in apparent success--you have a priceless opportunity to help promote the understanding through which the needed public opinion can be produced.

At this point I mention with deep gratification the resolution of support for the Mutual Security Program passed by this Chamber a few short months ago. I am quite certain that all America applauds your forward-looking and decisive action.

Each year will bring new problems--always demanding the very best that is in us. And there will be no stopping, or resting, or turning back. We face a future of building and living, patiently and unflinchingly, in the shadow of danger--yet for all this, a brightly hopeful future for a nation and its friends which keep themselves strong, solvent and free--and who fight basically, and who fight only, for peace--a peace with justice for all.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at the opening session at Constitution Hall. His opening words "Mr. McDonnell" referred to William A. McDonnell, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235560

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