Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks Upon Receiving an Honorary Degree From Catholic University

November 19, 1953

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Right Reverend and Reverend Fathers, members and friends of the great family of Catholic University:

First, I should like to make of record the deep sense of distinction I feel in the honor conferred upon me by the trustees of this great university. I personally hold that the greatest honor that can come to an individual under the various aspects of our Western civilization is to be awarded an honorary doctorate by one of our great educational institutions.

I should like also to address a word to your new Rector. Now, my own sojourn as a President of a university was not long enough to entitle me to speak to him in words of advice. Moreover, sir, I should say that fairness and frankness compel me to say that I heard no great clamor or outcry or protest or incidents of any kind when I left the exalted ranks of college presidents and again donned the uniform of my country.

But I was privileged to stay long enough in such a position to confirm my belief--my faith--that in the institutions of higher learning, in the secondary and primary schools of this country, there is, almost, our greatest opportunity to help satisfy man's oldest yearning; to live in peace with his fellows.

I believe that in the university resides a great opportunity and a great responsibility to bring about a peace that is based upon the only durable values.

Those who seek peace in terms of military strength alone, I am certain, are doomed to end up in the agony of the battlefield. There is no peace only in tanks and in guns and in planes and in bombs--even with the most terrifying instruments of destruction that science has produced. I am convinced there is no peace alone in edicts and treaties, no matter how solemnly signed. There is none in economic arrangements, no matter how favorable they will be. Not in these things alone. There must be knowledge, and there must be understanding to use knowledge. And the understanding cannot be only of ourselves and of our aspirations and of our hopes, and the knowledge that our purposes are pure. We must have understanding of others, and realize among other things that people the world over have, after all, many things in common.

It is my unshakeable conviction that no people, as such, wants war. On the contrary, I believe that the longing for peace among those people that we now must class as hostile to us is as great as it is among us. Else, why would their leaders have constantly to urge upon them an argument that we know to be false, that the free world wants war?

In this understanding, that I believe must undergird and substantiate the validity of any kind Of peace treaty among the nations, is an understanding of the essential spiritual character of man. Here in such a university as this, it seems to me there is sort of a happy marriage between the determination to instruct in the spiritual and moral values of life, as well as to develop the intellectual capacity of the students. Only as they grasp these truths and learn to understand, to appreciate and to sympathize with these longings of mankind, are we going to build a true peace.

And so let us by no means neglect the strength that we must have, the military strength, the economic strength. Let us by no means neglect anything that we can do through the normal channels of diplomacy and by agreements among ourselves. But let us remember that we must achieve, first, among those who think somewhat as we do, a unity--a unity based upon an understanding of these basic aspirations and values. And then in that strength of unity, seek tirelessly to convince others that a world of peace will be a world of prosperity and happiness, the kind of world in which men can satisfy their natural longing--their material, their spiritual, and intellectual aspirations.

In all of these things, it seems to me, the university has a special responsibility--a special opportunity. And in that sense, I address myself to the new Rector in terms of envy. Unworthy as I am, I should like to have that task.

Thank you very much.

Note: The degree of Doctor of Laws was presented to the President by the Most Reverend Patrick A. O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington. During his remarks the President referred to the Most Reverend Bryan J. McEntegart, Rector of the University.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks Upon Receiving an Honorary Degree From Catholic University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232444

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