Remarks at the Dedication of the Eisenhower Memorial Hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center, Palm Desert, California.
Mrs. Eisenhower, Vice President and Mrs. Agnew, Governor and Mrs. Reagan, President and Mr. Hope [laughter],1 all of the very distinguished guests who are here on the platform and who are here in the audience:
When one studies the history of civilizations, he finds that one of the most difficult problems every society has is to find an appropriate way to honor their great men. Sometimes a statue is built. Sometimes a building is named, a street, many appropriate ways have been found.
1 Mrs. Bob Hope was president of the board of trustees of the Eisenhower Medical Center.
In the case of President Eisenhower, so many ways would have been appropriate. Here was a man who in the whole history of war led the greatest armies to the greatest victory and so he could have been a man on horseback a military statue, that could have been his memorial.
But, as the Vice President has so eloquently said, this is the most appropriate way to honor this man. It is what he would have wanted.
I recall, as Mrs. Eisenhower will, those last days in Walter Reed. And while physically he became weaker and weaker, mentally and spiritually he was stronger and stronger. I remember right to the last, where he wanted to go more than anyplace else in the world was back to Palm Springs. Oh, he loved Burning Tree and he loved Augusta and all the other places where he played golf, but his heart was here, here because of this place, the people that he knew.
And so from a personal standpoint, the man honored by this building, this institution, would have wanted it right here in this place, the place he loved so much.
But then, as we look at it in other terms, we find that President Eisenhower was a unique history figure, unique in the sense that he was a great leader in war--considering the size of wars, the greatest in history because of the armies that he led to victory--but also he had the opportunity, and met that challenge so well, to lead in peace. As President of the United States, he ended a war and kept America out of war for 8 years, and that is a great legacy for a man.
So this magnificent building behind us, the first of a number that eventually, probably, will be built here, memorializes this man who was a victor in war, but this man whose greatest contribution was to peace. And so this institution will be here to preserve life, not to destroy it, and that is what he would have liked and that is the way that we, very appropriately, honor him on this occasion and in the years ahead.
As we dedicate this building, I would finally suggest that we dedicate ourselves to the great challenges that lie ahead. We enter what we hope may be a period in which the United States can be at peace, not just for a few years, but perhaps for a generation; perhaps longer.
Building a generation of peace or a century of peace is, of course, a great task. But how we use that peace, what we do with it, is equally a very great challenge. We must see that America is physically healthy. This building and the men and women who will work in it will contribute to that goal.
We must see that America is economically healthy, and that means building a kind of prosperity that depends on peace and not on war; the kind of prosperity that we last had in 1955 and '56, when President Eisenhower was President.
And finally, building a people and a nation that is morally and spiritually healthy. The Eisenhower legacy speaks to that great challenge as it does to the others.
And so on this occasion, we as Americans, thinking of one of our great men, thinking of this institution that honors him, dedicate ourselves to the tasks ahead: of building a strong, healthy, vigorous America; meeting the challenge of building a world of peace for us, and for all people in the world.
Note: The President spoke at 11:44 a.m. at the hospital building.
Land for the Medical Center was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Hope, and funds for the nonprofit hospital were given by trustees and friends of the hospital. The hospital was the initial stage of a medical complex that will include research and teaching facilities.
On November 26, 1971, the White House released a fact sheet on the hospital.
Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Dedication of the Eisenhower Memorial Hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center, Palm Desert, California. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240278