Remarks Upon Receiving the 1958 World Peace Award at the AMVETS Luncheon
Mr. Chairman, Commander Burdine, the Democratic Senator from Maine, distinguished guests, my fellow veterans and friends:
Any man privileged to receive from his fellow veterans an award signifying their respect for his efforts to promote peace should indeed be proud. Moreover, he should be very humble.
Any man who was part of the war must understand and must forever have engraved in his heart the truth that our opportunity to promote peace and to develop peaceful mechanisms was earned for us in the war by the sacrifices of thousands--of millions. When I think of the bravery and courage of men at war, for some reason I don't think so much of the bombardments or of the critical or dramatic moments that occurred to every one. Instead, the picture I get is one of endurance, faithfulness, duty, loyalty--the soldier slogging his way toward the front in the rain, in the mud, blue-lipped, often muddy-faced--drenched--miserable, with never the thought crossing his mind that he should lay down his burden or his task.
There is, of course, one thing he should always have: the knowledge of why he is fighting, and the knowledge that his great country, signified by this lovely flag, is always behind him.
We have too often forgotten our responsibility for doing that for the soldier. Sometimes we have not told him why men have been called to sacrifice everything, including life, for the cause of freedom which means the cause of peace.
Freedom means to live and to let live. Freedom does not seek to dominate. It wants no sway of power over others. It wants the right for each individual to develop himself to the full power of the rights and opportunities that our God has given us. This is what freedom wants, and the boy should, from babyhood, be taught that; all of us should be taught that.
Freedom has been defined as the opportunity for self-discipline. Other forms of discipline are imposed, but in freedom we must have self-discipline. Therefore, a soldier goes to his task because he feels within himself the duty to do it, to discipline himself, not to respond merely to the methods of tyranny and dictatorship.
So, as I think of the soldier, struggling, lying in the mud to get some rest, I think sometimes of ourselves.
Have we the courage, the stamina, the sense of duty, and the understanding of what freedom and peace truly mean? Have we got the courage and the stamina to continue everlastingly to carry on the search for peace, a peace with justice?
There is nothing jingoistic in America's ambitions. She seeks only for others the rights, the privileges, and the freedoms that she maintains for herself and will defend with everything she has.
This, it seems to me, is the one thing we must keep always in our understanding and in our hearts.
Freedom is not something that we keep just because this flag is so beautiful. As the commentator said in the beautiful description of the flag, the flag is what we make it. Peace is what we make it.
Are we ready to sacrifice for it? Are we ready to dig in our pocketbooks? Are we ready to give our efforts, our intelligence and everything we have to create the conditions under which all men can enjoy the fruitfulness of the earth, under the kind of conditions that we think of when at Christmas time we say "Peace on earth to men of goodwill everywhere"?
I cannot tell you how proud I am to have this emblem. I wish I were worthy of it.
Note: The President spoke at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C. His opening words referred to William H. Ayers, U.S. Representative from Ohio, Dr. Winston E. Burdine, National Commander of AMVETS, and Edmund S. Muskie, U.S. Senator from Maine.
The award, a silver helmet mounted on a silver base, was inscribed as follows: "AMVETS Peace Award presented to the Honorable Dwight David Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, in recognition of exceptionally courageous and devoted contributions to honorable world peace that all peoples might live with freedom and dignity. May 1959."
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks Upon Receiving the 1958 World Peace Award at the AMVETS Luncheon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235583