Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks to the Third National Conference on Exchange of Persons.

January 30, 1959

Mr. Holland, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of International Education, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a privilege to greet the members of this audience, all dedicated to the promotion of knowledge of all peoples by all other peoples.

The theme for this Conference, "World Peace through International Exchange of Persons," suggests one of the most promising gateways for reaching our most sought after goal--a just and lasting peace.

We realize that peace demands understanding. I know of no better single method of reaching mutual understanding than by multiplying our international contacts through people-to-people diplomacy. Fourteen years ago, delegates from the world over met in San Francisco to draft the United Nation's Charter. One experience that accompanied this meeting seems to have some relevance for us today.

To escape the tedious strain of weeks of conferences, a party of a geographer, a statesman, and a lawyer driven by an Army Sergeant took a trip to the Redwoods. Walking among the giant trees, the geographer remarked that while it would be a slight exaggeration to say that over every square mile of the earth's surface, dust particles from the entire earth's surface circulated, the statement was, to all intents, true.

To this, the statesman replied, "If only we might have the same interchange of peoples and ideas, our troubling problems of the San Francisco Conference would be resolved over night."

From the lawyer came the jesting comment, "This is the greatest violation of private property rights that I have ever heard."

But the final observation came from the Army Sergeant, "What this means to me," he said quietly, "is that we're all really living in each other's backyard."

Now each passing year since the drafting of the United Nation's Charter has brought new reminders of a closer relationship among the peoples of all nations. As the world has moved through tensions and intermittent crises, the importance of our interdependence has been strikingly driven home by far reaching developments in atomic fission, electronic communication, and swifter than sound flight. Today when the possibility of war carries with it a threat to the survival of civilization, the urgency of dealing effectively with all threats to peace is self-evident.

Mutual understanding is more than important--it is vital.

The exchange of persons is one approach by which we may work for understanding along many fronts. The need is for a continuous activity based upon the commonsense belief that understanding is an exportable item to all nations, including our own.

We are glad to welcome here to our shores students, educators, lawyers, scientists, artists, government officials, and others from distant lands, and it is equally important that Americans also enjoy the enriching experience of work and study in other nations. Such programs, I am happy to note, are receiving constant encouragement and support from the 139 public and private organizations that are represented here today.

Here I should say this group is growing very rapidly, because the statistics given to me yesterday, allowing me to write down 130--on the way over here, your President told me it was 139.

Now the education and training of our people for effective service in our Government's overseas activities is important. Because of this, the Secretary of State has recently appointed a Special Assistant for the Coordination of International Education and Cultural Relations. The exchange of persons is an essential feature of this training effort.

Now, peace is a goal that must never slip from focus. We have the resources and faith in ourselves to do our part for its attainment. But we must use these resources wisely. We must use some of our strength to bolster the free nations that, with us, stand as the defenders of freedom and which, with us, work for the achievement of a just peace.

For a moment may I digress to mention a related matter that deeply concerns all of us. I refer to the funds that are appropriated by the Congress every year to enable our friends around the world better to defend themselves and to maintain their independence through viable economies. Of all the money which this country lays out in one year, none of it contributes more to the security of our Nation and to freedom than that allocated to our mutual security programs.

Those in public and private life who would have us cut America's mutual aid and loan programs simply do not understand what these programs mean to peace and to America's safety.

Any cutback of present budgetary levels for our mutual security programs would require additional outlays for our own security forces, far greater than any amount that could possibly be so saved. Moreover such reductions would in the long run dilute the faith of our allies in America's determination and ability to exercise leadership for freedom. I shall do all in my power to insure that our friends around the world will not have their faith in these American purposes undermined.

Building friendships among nations through the exchange of individuals is not an idea of startling novelty. Nor is it work that can be undertaken only through a single program of grand design. The very term "People-to-people diplomacy" implies a healthy variety of programs--lots of them. To each of you here today, along with the organizations that you represent, and to the Institute of International Education which will have a 40th anniversary celebration tonight, I extend warmest congratulations on your exchange work.

I hope your joint efforts will ever grow and multiply. We need more individual diplomats from Main Street, from our farms, schools, laboratories--from every walk of life. People-to-people diplomacy means thousands of part-time ambassadors--all working for better relationships among all peoples. And the finest definition of an ambassador, you will recall, is this: "He is, above all else, a man of peace."

And I would like to add again my expression of appreciation to each member of the groups here assembled, because of the personal work used to make these ideals or purposes that I have so haltingly tried to express become a reality. I could think of no finer work that you are doing, for yourself, your family, your nation--indeed, for civilization.

Thank you very much. It has been a great privilege to be with you.

Note: The conference, held at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C., was sponsored by the Institute of International Education. The President's opening words "Mr. Holland" referred to Kenneth Holland, President of the Institute.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks to the Third National Conference on Exchange of Persons. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234311

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