Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

October 03, 1957

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down. I have no announcements.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the Little Rock situation seems to have reached an impasse with the refusal of Governor Faubus to give the guarantees you asked before withdrawing Federal troops. What prospects do you see for working out an agreement with Faubus at this stage, and what do you think the next step in this direction should be?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to that one there are several things that could happen.

The Southern Governors' Committee that visited me, while unquestionably as they stated on the television disappointed by what happened, nevertheless are not completely hopeless and are pursuing the purpose for which they were originally appointed by the Southern Governors' Conference.

There are two different situations could justify the withdrawal of Federal troops: one, the satisfactory and unequivocal assurances that the orders of the Federal court would not be obstructed, and that peace and order would be maintained in connection therewith. The second would be an actual factual development of peaceful conditions to the extent where the local city police would say, "There will be no difficulty that we can't control in the carrying out of this court's orders."

I think, having answered your specific question, it is well to remember, to re-emphasize to ourselves why the troops are there. The problem grew out of the segregation problem, but the troops are not there as a part of the segregation problem. They are there to uphold the courts of the land under a law that was passed in 1792 because it was early discovered that unless we supported the courts in whose hands are all our freedoms and our liberties, our protection against autocratic government, then the kind of government set up by our forefathers simply would not work. That is why they are there, and for no other purpose, and it is merely incidental that the problem grew out of the segregation problem.

Now, the people that visited me, the governors, understand this responsibility that is on the Executive, on the President, in this connection. They are aware of it themselves. They themselves opposed and differed with the decision of the Supreme Court. They don't like it. They are doing their duty as good citizens and responsible officials. They were helpful, cooperative and I must say excited my admiration as citizens who wanted to do their duty even when disagreeable.

Q. Elizabeth Carpenter, Arkansas Gazette: Mr. President, do you feel that Governor Faubus really wants to put an end to the trouble in Little Rock?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't like to answer that question specifically, for this reason: I make it a practice never to try to interpret the motives of a person who does something that I believe to be a mistaken action. What his motives are, I am not sure. I just believe that he is mistaken in what he is doing, and is doing a disservice to the city and to his State.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Sir, should we interpret your statement of principles here in which you say that you are obligated to use whatever means may be required, as meaning that if a situation like this arises in any other part of the South, you will feel obligated to move in the Federal troops?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to be imitating the Supreme Court, but I don't think it is wise to try to answer hypothetical questions.

Each one of these cases is different. The National Guard, or the State Guard at that moment, was called out and given orders to do certain things which were a definite direct defiance of a Federal court's order. That put the issue squarely up to the Executive part of the Government, and I would not, as I told you once before in this meeting--such as this--I couldn't conceive that anyone would so forget common sense and our common obligations of loyalty to the Constitution of America that force of this kind would ever have to be used for any purpose. But I just say this: the courts must be sustained or it's not America.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Sir, I wonder if you would be willing to tell us what in Governor Faubus' statement the other night you found unsatisfactory? Could you spell that out a little for us?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to talk too much on this, for the simple reason I do not want to hamper any of the efforts of the southern governors to pursue further the objective that they have in mind. Consequently, I cannot possibly quote the exact conversations that took place, the sequence of events, and what was in our conversations. To do so might create greater difficulties. But--

Q. Mr. Steele: Was it Only--

THE PRESIDENT. I do say this: the message that came back must be read as an entire whole, and you will find that all the way through it says, "As I have intended from the beginning," meaning that anything stated in that telegram merely took the situation back to where it was before Federal troops arrived.

Now, under that situation, there was no revocation of the orders to the Guard already issued that they would, the Guard would, prevent the entry of those Negro children into the high school.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, in view of the high feelings, do you think that the Navy should go ahead with its plan to play in the Oyster Bowl Game with Georgia October 19th, where segregation is to be enforced?

THE. PRESIDENT. Well, I think you had better go ask the Superintendent of the Naval Academy. I have got enough responsibilities in this regard without taking this, too.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: When you said farewell to Governor Faubus at Newport, you wished him good luck. What was it you thought then that he was going to do? Can you take us back to--we never had very many details of what went on at that meeting, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again I don't like to put--this was a private conversation. A great deal of that conversation was private, with no one present but himself and myself, and I don't like to quote people even when I am sure of the understanding that I thought I had.

But you did read his statement that he issued immediately thereafter or within the hour up at Providence, and I certainly thought that, at the very least, the orders to the Guard to prevent the carrying out of the court's orders were going to be modified.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Sir, you probably are aware that some of your critics feel you were too slow in asserting a vigorous leadership in this integration crisis. Do you feel, sir, that the results would be any different if you had acted sooner instead of, as your critics say, letting the thing drift?

THE PRESIDENT. I am astonished how many people know exactly what the President of the United States should do. [Laughter]

To imply that this problem wasn't studied--not only from the time this particular one arose, but from the time that that decision was passed by the Supreme Court in 1954, the question has been discussed privately or at least within the inner circles of the Administration time and time again, and it's been discussed publicly.

Now, you will recall that I have here stated a belief that is the very core of my political thinking, which is that it has got to be the sentiment, the good will, the good sense of a whole citizenry that enforces law. In other words, you have got to win the hearts and minds of men to the logic and the decency of a situation before you are finally going to get real compliance.

Law alone, as we found out in the prohibition experiment, does not cure some of the things it set out to cure.

So I believed and I have preached patience, tolerance, the purpose of understanding both sides before you move; and I think that to use troops, to send them in or to attempt to dictate to any portion of the South as to what they should do and what they should not do before compulsion arose, would be the greatest mistake you could make.

Now, I realize when the plan--remember, these plans are all local plans, and that is where they must be solved--but when this local plan in Little Rock was put before the court to get his approval for it, I was besieged by people who argued that it was too lenient a plan and that I should move in with anything available, and protest and try to get it made a more abrupt, a more drastic plan.

The court found that it was made in good faith, and it represented a good start, even though completion of the plan was not to be until 1963, is that correct?

Mr. Hagerty: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. 1963. They found it was a decent plan.

I thoroughly approve--I believe that moderation, decency, education has got to go hand in hand with any kind of just sheer application of law in this case.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Governor Faubus--this may be a repetitious question--but as far as we can tell, he certainly has shown no sign of changing his stand. Now, should this situation continue, do you have any practicable matter in mind or practicable system for insuring the continued attendance of these Negro children at Central High School, beyond the continued use of Federal troops?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know of any method that could be used--that is, you have to use that means that will make effective the orders of the court. Now, you want to make that as minimum as possible. Certainly, you want to interfere in local situations as little as possible.

No one can deplore more than I do the sending of Federal troops anywhere. It is not good for the troops; it is not good for the locality; it is not really American, except as it becomes absolutely necessary for the support of the institutions that are vital to our form of Government.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, you said yourself you can't legislate emotions; and, as you just said, it isn't good to use troops; and you said that we need education, and you said a while back we needed patience. We saw patience did not work. Now, what will you do? Many people are asking, what will you do? Use the White House leadership to start some commission meetings or some educational program to do something about this throughout the South and the country?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know really much more that can be done.

I have written to a number of the ecclesiastical leaders of our nation. Every time that I have had conferences with educators we have brought this up; as a matter of fact, the educators seem to be among the more hopeful of the groups. And as I say, it is this kind of spirit that has been exhibited by these four governors who visited me themselves, certainly most of them--I can't speak for all--but I know most of them absolutely opposed to the content of the decision and the orders of the courts, nevertheless, as loyal citizens, carrying them out.

Now, the leadership of the White House can be exercised only, as I see it, through giving the convictions of the President and exhorting citizens to remember America as well as their own private prejudices.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, the Little Rock episode has been given a great deal of attention in the foreign press. It is quite a subject of conversation in Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain. What advice, sir, would you give to an American traveling overseas these days when asked by Europeans on either side of the Curtain how could this happen in America?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you have asked a very difficult question, because what has happened is not in accordance with what our founding fathers thought would happen.

But I want to point to this: the great overwhelming mass of America believes that our courts and the respect for our courts must be sustained. The people that are defying the Courts are doing so under a very mistaken notion of what can happen, because if we can with impunity defy successfully the orders of the court in one regard, we can in all regards. Consequently, if a case comes up where your right to print the news as you see it is challenged by the Government, and the courts find that you are innocent, and the Government says, "We will do nothing that the court says," what is going to be the result except chaos and anarchy?

These courts are not here merely to enforce integration. These courts are our bulwarks, our shield against autocratic government. Now, I think, therefore, you can say with certainty to these people the mass of America believes in the sanctity of the court.

There is a very great division on the destiny of the races in the United States, how they should act, particularly when we come into the social aspects of our lives as opposed merely to the economic and the legal. But those quarrels will, as some others in the past in our country, eventually be settled. But we will, the population itself on the whole, will remember its respect for law; and it will be settled on that basis.

Now, this is not, I admit, a very persuasive thing. As I have told this group before, I have had myself challenged on even more academic questions than this in Russia; and I wasn't too successful in convincing the other fellow, although I thought I was very eloquent. [Laughter]

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, to move to another section of national life: During the last few weeks there has been new revelation of widespread corruption and collusion in the labor-management field, particularly in the Teamsters Union and the trucking industry. Would you care to comment, sir, on this situation; and, second, is your Administration taking measures or preparing measures to counteract or eliminate such corrupt or improper practices?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can only say this: that as quickly as these revelations began to develop some months ago, I conferred with all of the responsible people who have to do with Labor and Justice in the Administration, and told them to follow the cases very, very closely to determine whether or not there was any place where the Federal Government had responsibility over and above that which we had already tried to exercise, which was introducing bills last year, you know, for the checking up on all the welfare and other funds and certain other data important to the public that has heretofore been kept secret concerning unions.

Now, whether or not there is going to arise anything out of any of these investigations where the Justice Department has to act, I don't know. They have not so reported to me yet.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Governor Clement told us yesterday that in view of the gravity of the situation in Little Rock, if all negotiations break down, he thought that perhaps you and Governor Faubus should meet again to settle this thing. Would you comment on that suggestion, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think I would comment on it at this time. I have met with him. I thought we had an understanding. I know that the four governors thought that they had an understanding.

But I will say this: to bring back respect for the law, to clear our whole present scene of this unpleasant incident, I would do a lot; I will tell you that.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in regard to the Middle East developments, sir, could you give us your estimate of the Syrian situation, and especially your reaction to the strong attack on the United States by the Saudi Arabian delegate at the United Nations yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not know what particular thing inspired the speech of yesterday.

I do know this: only within almost hours, I received from the King of Saudi Arabia a message of warm friendship, expressing satisfaction in the things we had been able to accomplish through cooperation, friendly cooperation, and the hope this friendship would continue and grow. I have expressed identical sentiments to him time and again.

Now, as to the Syrian situation itself, it seems to be solidifying to some extent. The original alarm of countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq and, to some extent, Saudi Arabia, seems to have been quieted by what they have learned.

Just exactly what grounds they have for that, I don't know, but I just can say this: we have tried our best to be friends with every nation in that area and, of course, we do know that the Arabs blame most of their troubles on the Israeli threat, as they call it.

We, nevertheless, have tried constantly to be neutral as between that quarrel, trying to make ourselves friends of both sides so we could be useful in promoting peaceful conditions there. And the only thing I can say further, we continue to watch it, study it, confer with our friends all the time as to its probable outcome.

Q. Walter Riess, This Day Magazine: Mr. President, you mentioned before the citizenry and the ecclesiastical leaders of Arkansas.

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say of Arkansas. I said of this country.

Q. Mr. Riess: Of this country.

The opinion has been published in the press that religious principles have failed in Little Rock. Do you feel, sir, that the failure of religious leadership, faith, and principle in the South is partly or perhaps more than partly, responsible for the integration crisis, and if so, what the churches could do to improve the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I must say not only do all our questions seem to be on one subject, but some of them get very deeply philosophical.

Was that letter I sent to the Bishop ever published? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty.]

I have written letters on this, but they are personal; and unless they, the recipients, choose to release them, they probably will remain confidential, because I wrote in answer to queries from bishops and the like.

Now, this is what I think. This is really getting very repetitious, I have said it often before: I believe that all forms of free government are based either knowingly or unknowingly on deeply held religious convictions, and that religious conviction is the equality of man that is acknowledged nowhere except that all men are the sons of a Creator, a common Creator.

Now that, in my mind, gives validity to our form of Government; and if we don't believe that, then we had better take another look and see why we are trying to do these things, because that is the only place that I know of that it is claimed that all men are equal: the common Fatherhood of a common God. That, to my mind, gives to all religious leaders a special responsibility for supporting the institutions of free government because, conversely, it is only free government where there is freedom of worship, as there is freedom of the press and freedom of speech and thought and so on.

So I think that the ministers of all denominations have here a very peculiar, very specific, and very important role to play.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, Budget Director Brundage said that he was trying to hold down or hoped to hold down the 1959 budget to $70 billion.

THE PRESIDENT. Expenditures.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Expenditures.


Q. Mr. Brandt: Could you tell us where those cuts will be? He said that this fiscal year it would be 72 billion.


Mr. Brandt, if I could tell you that I would have one of my hardest problems solved, because every single department of Government, most of them pleading the responsibilities that have been placed upon them by law, want more money. They quote rising prices, higher prices, and, of course, we know bigger budgets contribute to still higher prices. So you are asking a question that as yet I just don't want to even speculate on.

Q. Mr. Brandt: He said it could only be done by cutting down programs.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, cutting out programs.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Cutting out programs?


Q. Mr. Brandt: Could you give us some examples of those programs that could be cut?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can give one fifty million one. I think fifty million a year we put into it--the Congress put into it-and that is this water pollution, in the building of that. That, I think, is strictly local in its character, and I think it belongs to local government.

You know there is a very great difference between local or State government building things, that is, a public utility system or a dam or anything else, and the Federal Government doing it; because as Federal Government begins to run riot with the expenditures that it deems good for the country, if necessary it can print money, it can go into debt. The State and the locality can't do it.

I think, for example, and I am probably getting afield from your question, but I think that we talk too simply about public power and private power. I don't see how anyone can complain about public power as long as it is local. I can complain about public power when it gets all Federal, though, because any government that controls all the power in the country can really dictate what the economy is going to be. They can shift it and everything else.

So I believe that we have got to find many things like that; and, of course, with this Committee meeting again today in Chicago, they are making very considerable progress. They are quite hopeful.

For instance, vocational training and a few other things of that kind, the States say, "We ought to have them back"; and that would tend to reduce our expenses and, of course, would reduce our income, because certain income will have to go to them to carry out the job.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Can I ask another question? He also said the Defense budget would remain about around 38 billion. There is no thought of cutting the Defense budget?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see how it can be, and I assure you I have been over that budget, not just before coming to see a press conference. Certainly there is no week goes by that the Defense budget isn't in some form or other before me in very serious consideration two or three times. It is very difficult.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, a moment ago you said that the Syrian situation seems to be solidifying, and that Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and also Saudi Arabia, to some extent, seem to have lessened the alarm that they felt about the situation.


Q. Mr. Scali: Could you tell us how we view the Syrian picture? Do we find it less dangerous to the free world than it was before?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, I think that I had better not speculate on that. I think we had better wait a couple of weeks for further developments.

I do say this: we do watch it with concern. I agree with the one part or one statement made by the Arab in his speech of yesterday: these affairs that are internal should be handled locally and internally. We can make our concern felt; we can try to win people to us by showing the dangers of the situation, by mutual help all the way around, in both the military primarily, but secondarily in the economic field; but we cannot afford to view such a situation developing with anything less than real concern. We have to watch it.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twenty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:29 to 10:57 o'clock on Thursday morning, October 3, 1957. In attendance: 243.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233694

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