Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks Upon Receiving an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at Delhi University

December 11, 1959

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, Mr. Prime Minister, Members of the Executive and Academic Councils of the University, Friends of Delhi University, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Among the honors which are bestowed upon men in public life, few awards have the dignity and symbolic importance which attach to an honorary degree granted by a world-renowned university. Realizing this fact, with the deepest gratitude and humility, I am proud to accept-in the name of the American people, Mr. Chancellor--this token of spiritual brotherhood.

Universities in the modern world have a difficult dual function to perform. They must be at the same time strongholds of traditional wisdom accumulated during the ages and alert outposts of a world advancing toward the conquest of the unknown. Within them, the traditional and the new are continually being molded together to form the substance of a better life for humans.

We are fortunate in the United States that we have had the opportunity to draw deeply from the wells of ancient enlightenment in other cultures. The treasures of Indian philosophical thought and writing have not been alien to the intellectual development of America.

In the last 20 years, our long-established interest in Indian studies has increased in scope and in intensity. And now, American scholars are seriously concerning themselves with the economic problems, the politics, and the social structure of your great experiment in democracy.

This scholarly effort reflects the growing conviction in my country that no nation can or should live by itself, isolated from the life-giving streams of other cultures.

I have been grad to learn that American studies are being introduced into the curriculum of this splendid University and in other outstanding universities in India.

I know, too, that thousands of your young men and women are studying in American schools, and that hundreds of our professors have come to India to learn from a country whose rich history goes back thousands of years.

Through this exchange of thoughtful people, this trading of ideas and of ideals, this patient building of a bridge of mutual understanding, we accelerate our march toward the goal of world peace.

History teaches us two lessons that are pertinent to the role of a university in this march.

The first is: mutual good is ever the product of mutual understanding.

The second is: a world of swift economic transformation and growth must also be a world of law.

As to the first, the need for great mutual understanding among the peoples, what has been done in the exchange of students should be only a beginning. These young people are a vital, dynamic element in the world's resources for the construction of a just and secure peace.

Most of us who have been given responsibility by our people have reached years of maturity. In some cases, prejudices and antagonisms we have acquired are so much a part of ourselves that they are not easy to eradicate. The older we grow the more stubbornly we cling to conceptions, and misconceptions, that have long been with us in response to real or fancied wrongs.

On the other hand, all of us recognize the ease with which young people absorb new ideas, new insight. I urge then that we amplify our thinking about the security and the peace of the world to embrace the role of our young people.

I propose to you that, while governments discuss a meeting of a few at the summit, universities consider a massive interchange of mutual understanding on the grand plateau of youth.

More enduringly than from the deliberations of high councils, I believe mankind will profit when the young men and women of all nations-and in great numbers--study and learn together. In so doing they will concern themselves with the problems, the possibilities, the resources, and the rewards of a common destiny.

Through centuries nations have sent their youth, armed for war, to oppose their neighbors. Let us, in this day, look on our youth, eager for larger and clearer knowledge, as forces for international understanding; and send them, one nation to the other, on missions of peace.

On the second lesson of history:

The time has come for mankind to make the rule of law in international affairs as normal as it is now in domestic affairs. Of course the structure of such law must be patiently built, stone by stone. The cost will be a great deal of hard work, both in and out of government-particularly in the universities of the world.

Plainly one foundation stone of this structure is the International Court of Justice. It is heartening to note that a strong movement is afoot in many parts of the world to increase acceptance of the obligatory jurisdiction of that Court. And I most heartily congratulate India on the leadership and vision she has shown in her new declaration accepting the jurisdiction of that Court.

Another major stone in the structure of international rule of law must be a body of international law adapted to the changing needs of today's world. There are dozens of countries which have attained their independence since the bulk of existing international law was evolved. What is now needed is to infuse into international law the finest traditions of all the great legal systems of the world. And here the universities of the world can be of tremendous help in gathering and sifting and harmonizing them into universal law.

Universities and research centers in my own country are now beginning specific projects aimed at tapping the deepest wellsprings of major legal systems--as well as the most modern developments of law around the globe.

A reliable framework of law, grounded in the general principles recognized by civilized nations, is of crucial importance in all plans for rapid economic development around the earth. Economic progress has always been accompanied by a reliable legal framework. Law is not a concrete pillbox in which the status quo is armed and entrenched. On the contrary, a single rule of law, the sanctity of contract, has been the vehicle for more explosive and extensive economic change in the world than any other single factor.

One final thought on rule of law between nations: we will all have to remind ourselves that under this system of law one will sometimes lose as well as win. But here is another thought: nations can endure and accept an adverse decision, rendered by competent and impartial tribunals.

This is so, I believe, for one good reason: if an international controversy leads to armed conflict, everyone loses; there is no winner. If armed conflict is avoided, therefore, everyone wins. It is better to lose a point now and then in an international tribunal, and gain a world in which everyone lives at peace under a rule of law.

Here then are two purposes which I see as particularly fitting within the mission of the world's universities:

A more massive mobilization of young people in the centers of learning where truth and wisdom are enshrined and ignorance and witless prejudice are corrected. They whose world this soon will be, can thus begin to make it now a more decent place for their living.

Second, an inquiry and a search into the laws of the nations for the grand principles of justice and righteousness and good, common to all peoples; out of them will be constructed a system of law, welcome to all peoples because it will mean for the world a rule of law--an end to the suicidal strife of war.

In pursuing these purposes, the universities--I most firmly believe-will add new glory to their names for they will be giving leadership to the worthiest human enterprise--the pursuit of peace with justice.

I repeat that I am proud to accept this University's degree--on behalf of the American people.

I thank you for the cordiality of your welcome, and I thank you for the honor you have done me here this morning.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:18 a.m. His opening words "Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, Mr. Prime Minister" referred to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Vice President of India, Dr. V. K. R. V. Rao, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks Upon Receiving an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at Delhi University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234903

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