Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Breakfast in Los Angeles Given by Republican Groups of Southern California

September 24, 1954

Governor Knight, Mr. Chairman, and my friends:

This meeting, insofar as it involves a talk from me, is sort of an added number on my schedule. I have no text, and I think I have no particularly brilliant ideas. But I must say that the great pleasure of meeting with a group of people that you know to be friendly, who wish well to you and to the cause for which you struggle, is a very warm feeling.

And this inspires me to tell you a little bit of what we are trying to do, how truly simple it is, and therefore, to see whether we may not draw even a little closer together because of the simplicity of these ideas and, I think, the fact that we see all right-thinking Americans should be for, in general this kind of thing.

Carter Glass once went to a great university. He was to receive an honorary degree of doctor of laws; and the dean of the law school, in presenting him to the president of the university, read a long citation. This citation had to deal largely, almost exclusively, with the long record of Carter Glass's integrity, his absolute unimpeachable honesty as a public servant throughout his life. It dwelt on this theme in numerous ways and I think even quoted examples.

Finally it was Carter Glass's turn to speak. He said: "My friends, I think I should decline to receive this decoration, because if the time has come when the American people and their great institutions of learning find it proper or necessary or desirable to decorate a man and give him awards because he is honest in the public service, then I despair of the Republic."

"This," he said, "is something you can demand of your public servants; you don't .have to reward them for it. You can demand it through the proper use of your authority as an American citizen, through the ballot box, and you can see that you get good men--honest men and women in government. ' '

Now there is a particular reason why this is so important. We are very apt, when we speak about government in Washington, to think of some rather amorphous, distant, bewildering, comprehensive, complex thing. We don't really know what we mean when we say government. We realize there is a President up there, and a few leaders in the Senate and the House, and we sort of have them visualized; and the rest of it is just a bunch of bureaucrats.

And that's largely true.

But what I want to get over is this: government is nothing in the world but men and women that you select and send to fill the several offices.

Now of course, there is an organization roughly outlined by a Constitution, and more crystallized through our laws as the decades have gone on. But the only thing that comprises government is men and women.

Now those men and women, therefore, must be the people that you carefully select.

Frankly, that is all that the administration that you people have sent to Washington is trying to do.

Make certain they are men and women who, first, are unimpeachable in their approach to every public problem; that neither politics nor cronyism, nor hope of reward nor hope of favoring any particular class or group, has any influence on it; that they are motivated and inspired by one thing: what is the good of 160 million people? That must be, of course, the purpose in their hearts, but take a look at their heads.

You have to send people who are, by their reputations in their own localities, fitted to tackle such complex jobs as now plague a government. They have to be men that have established some success. And you have got to work out in your own mind, "What kind of man do I believe is a good Senator, a good Congressman, a good Governor?"

Incidentally, may I pause to say, you have so many good ones in California, you seem to know more about this, maybe, than I do.

But one thing I want to point out is this: we must not have doctrinaires. This world moves. We outlined, through our forefathers, a great set of principles in the Constitution, and that Constitution--through our Supreme Courts, through actions of the Congress and the Chief Executive down through the years--has been molded and modeled to our needs.

Our needs are not what they were 20 years ago. It is just as senseless, today, to talk about the social security of today in the same terms we would have talked about social security when there were free lands everywhere, and this country was a debtor country with great assets and resources yet to be explored, as it is to talk about taking off here and flying to the moon, instead of waiting for the 50 years that it is going to take for the scientists to show how to do it. It is just that silly, to talk about going back to that kind of thing.

Now, how do we get a man that is that flexible, that adjustable? We want men that can take and listen to facts, who are not so doctrinaire that every fact that is brought in front of them, if it doesn't agree with their preconceptions, it is just thrown out in the woodpile. That is a very necessary thing.

And I want to assure you that in the last 20 months I have watched some very great people making up the executive department--I have watched them work. I don't know of a single one who comes in with the theory--into the Cabinet meeting, or anywhere else--and with this theory fixed in the back of his mind forces everything to conform to it.

On the contrary, every one of them is supported by his own selected group of associates, of advisers throughout this country--from trade associations, from every kind of professional group, from businessmen--everywhere. Those people are the ones that come in and help formulate the policies that this group then tries to translate into recommendations for the legislature to consider.

What I am trying to show is this: that throughout the ten governmental departments, through the heads of agencies, of the FOA, and the Office of Defense Mobilization, and everything else, there is a very earnest attempt on the part of these people to get the opinion of the United States. There is a very great conviction there that the commonsense of the United States--if we avoid both extremes, and take the commonsense judgment of the United States, you have got a pretty good guide as to where we should move in legislation and in programs.

I commend, therefore, the kind of man whom you know to be absolutely unimpeachable in his honesty, who has shown by his standing in the community that he deserves the respect of that community, and who has been something of a success, either as a young man or at any stage of life.

And finally, a man who has got the flexibility of brain, in this day and time, to try to adjust the basic principles in which we believe, the liberty of the individual and his rights, and adjust to the problems that face us every day, whether it be in Indochina, Formosa, or whether it be right here in your great city of Los Angeles.

That is the kind of people that we need so desperately in Washington. And I think that you people who helped to send this administration there, if you will look at the character and types of people now occupying the executive positions, all the way from the Secretary of State on down to the newest appointee, that you can take some pride in the people that have been selected.

And largely, after the Cabinet is selected, remember, all these other people are selected by those Cabinet officers. So there is a wide geographical distribution among these people. There is a wide distribution of professional attainment in their particular specialties.

This same applies, of course, in the Congress, by their very nature being so representative. Our leaders--particularly Senator Knowland and his senior associates in the Senate, Joe Martin and the great Charlie Halleck, a very great lieutenant, their associates in the House--are really doing a remarkable job.

So, as we face this coming election, recognizing as we do that if you are going ahead with a positive program--and I am not going to take up your time this morning to outline this program again; it has been recited time and again in the newspapers, it has been on the television. As a matter of fact, some of you may know I made a little speech about it last night.

Now, of course, none of us is in detail going to agree entirely with that program, because no program, if it is made up as I have been trying to describe to you, is reflective of any single person's complete ideas. But if it follows the general purpose, the good of 160 million people, if it is supported by honest men and women who want nothing in the world but the good of those people, and if it has been intelligently, broadly based, then I think we have got something that we ought to be able to sell.

One of the troubles, of course, is that anyone who takes something of that kind to carry to the people is robbed, really, of the drama of the extremes. It is much easier, you know, to get up and say everybody is a so-and-so except my little gang and me, than it is to go out and sell a really constructive truth, because we tend to take it for granted.

Well, I think that the Administration, probably, is not capable of telling anybody how to dramatize these truths, these programs, and carry them out so that people will overwhelmingly accept them.

But I know it can be done. I believe that if you carry the truth to the people, that there will be only one decision from the mass of 160 million Americans.

I am going to end this little talk with a little story.

Not long ago, I went out to Illinois to the State Fair, and on the way I happened to pick up a paper that was on my airplane. And Paul Hoffman had had a little trouble there at Studebaker--you remember he had asked his union to take a lower wage, a wage they agreed was in conformity with the average. Studebaker had been well above it, I understood, so he asked them to go to two dollars-and-something an hour. He got his teeth kicked in, the first time he proposed it, although the president of the union was very much on his side--I believe his name was Horvath. This story was after they had voted the second time and the union had overwhelmingly voted to accept this cut and then go to work.

This union leader was interviewed by the press, and they said to him, "Well, what do you think about all this?" He said, "Well, you know, I have found this: if you can just get time to tell your people the whole truth, they will always go along with the right thing."

It was a rather comforting thought to have this labor leader saying this, when we had so many wise-cracking so called intellectuals going around and showing how wrong was everybody who didn't happen to agree with them.

By the way, I heard a definition of an intellectual that I thought was very interesting: a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.

I hope that no one is going to get up and wisecrack at me and say, "You've already done it."

I think, though, with those thoughts, and I do pray there is a little bit of commonsense and homely philosophy in them, that you will accept, now, my thanks for the cordiality of your welcome, for the great honor you have done me by inviting me to appear before you.

I assure you that within just about a half hour or an hour, I am to appear before another audience who are not going to be nearly as friendly.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at the Statler Hotel at 8:05 a.m. His opening words "Governor Knight, Mr. Chairman" referred to Governor Goodwin J. Knight of California and to George Meany, President of the American Federation of Labor. Later he referred to Paul Hoffman, President of the Studebaker Corporation, and to Louis Horvath, President of Studebaker Local No. 5 of the United Auto Workers.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Breakfast in Los Angeles Given by Republican Groups of Southern California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232753

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