Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks to the Committee for Economic Development.

May 20, 1954

Mr. Kestnbaum, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a special privilege that I have of extending to this group a welcome to the Capital City.

I think that among this group I would find a greater average of old acquaintances and personal friends than almost any other which I could meet, by reason of the fact that when I was President of a University you even allowed me to belong to your organization.

In spite of this, I am not going to make the mistake of talking economics to such a group-maybe it is because you so well know my limitations that I will not talk about it.

But I should like to mention a few things that I think are associated with your work. First, I believe that in such a group as this lies a great part of the major decisions--power for making these major decisions-that are going to determine the character of our future, not only immediately but over a longer period.

Many of those decisions are business decisions. It is a matter of great gratification, not only to me but to every associate I have in the administration, both on the legislative and executive side, that the decisions-that we can see the effects of--that you have been making reflect an optimism and a confidence that we believe is one of the greatest factors necessary to ensure that America will continue to march forward as it has been marching.

Your expenditures for capital investment, plant improvement, and greater productivity are the decisions of very courageous and forward-looking people--the same kind of people that have brought America to its position today.

Now, of course, in their sum, all of the things that Government does affects all of you far more, possibly, than they did in a simpler day. When I look over the list today and see great public works programs in buildings and roads, great expenditures for defense equipment, farm programs, great extensions in the security programs, old-age pensions, and all of this sort of thing, I am really staggered by the sum total that is poured into our economy, in a direct way, by the Government.

Nevertheless, that is still not the important part. It is the wisdom, the forward-looking capacities of our businessmen that are going to make America, and keep America, the healthy, economic organism that will bring the happiness and progress to our people.

Along with it I want to suggest only one thing where I believe the Government, with you, has a mission. That is the constant teaching that the problem of the economic development of the United States is more than mere economies; it is of the heart; it is the spirit; it is made up of such factors as courage, confidence, pride, and patriotism--faith.

We do not keep security establishments merely to defend property or territory or rights abroad or at sea. We keep the security forces to defend a way of life.

Now everybody knows that no security force is any good at all unless it is one of high morale, belief, and conviction. Consequently, the first thing we must do, it seems to me, is to believe in this system of freedom with all our hearts, to realize we are defending, first of all, our great system of freedoms and of rights. Everything we do that seems to impinge upon them, although at times we may think it is necessary in their modification, we must examine carefully and say how far may we go and still not ruin this system. Where do we establish the line beyond which we must not step, unless we are going to go and lose internally what we so desperately try to defend against externally?

I believe all the way through we must in this manner of faith recognize a relationship between free government and a religious faith. I believe that if there is no religious faith whatsoever, then there is little defense you can make of a free system. If men are only animals, why not try to dominate them?

We reject all these theories that are so earnestly promulgated by the totalitarian dictatorships. They have to believe or teach those things in order to get people to accept their domination.

We don't believe them.

That is the kind of thing that I believe Government can stand for and preach, along with you, as you try in a material way to bring greater opportunity to all men for jobs, for raising their standards of living. We must constantly remember that men do not live by bread alone. And the Government, and every leader of a business or profession must band together to show that the United States is a great organism of free men who put freedom above all other values.

I sometimes think that Patrick Henry may have overstated the case-for any one of us may not quite accept and live by his immortal statement, "Give me liberty or give me death." But I still believe that that statement is true for our race.

We will accept nothing over and above freedom. And as long as we live that--and believe in it--and do our work in that spirit, to my mind, America is not only safe but America is going forward in the expanding and growing economy that will bring greater and greater happiness to our people, security for us, and promote peace in the world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. His opening words "Mr. Kestnbaum" referred to Meyer Kestnbaum, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Committee.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks to the Committee for Economic Development. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232031

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