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Dwight D. Eisenhower
First Inaugural Address, 1953
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Tuesday, January 20, 1953


My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts
that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me
the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I
ask that you bow your heads:

Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future
associates in the executive branch of government join me in
beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication
to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens
everywhere.

Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong,
and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and
by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall
be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those
who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing
political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved
country and Thy glory. Amen.

My fellow citizens:

The world and we have passed the midway point of a century
of continuing challenge. We sense with all our faculties that forces
of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely
before in history.

This fact defines the meaning of this day. We are summoned
by this honored and historic ceremony to witness more than
the act of one citizen swearing his oath of service, in the presence
of God. We are called as a people to give testimony in the sight
of the world to our faith that the future shall belong to the free.

Since this century's beginning, a time of tempest has seemed
to come upon the continents of the earth. Masses of Asia have
awakened to strike off shackles of the past. Great nations of
Europe have fought their bloodiest wars. Thrones have toppled
and their vast empires have disappeared. New nations have been
born.

For our own country, it has been a time of recurring trial. We
have grown in power and in responsibility. We have passed through
the anxieties of depression and of war to a summit unmatched in
man's history. Seeking to secure peace in the world, we have had
to fight through the forests of the Argonne, to the shores of Iwo Jima,
and to the cold mountains of Korea.

In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to
know the full sense and meaning of these times in which we live.
In our quest of understanding, we beseech God's guidance. We
summon all our knowledge of the past and we scan all signs of
the future. We bring all our wit and all our will to meet the question:

How far have we come in man's long pilgrimage from darkness
toward light? Are we nearing the light? a day of freedom and of
peace for all mankind? Or are the shadows of another night
closing in upon us?

Great as are the preoccupations absorbing us at home,
concerned as we are with matters that deeply affect our livelihood
today and our vision of the future, each of these domestic problems
is dwarfed by, and often even created by, this question that involves
all humankind.

This trial comes at a moment when man's power to achieve good
or to inflict evil surpasses the brightest hopes and the sharpest
fears of all ages. We can turn rivers in their courses, level mountains
to the plains. Oceans and land and sky are avenues for our colossal
commerce. Disease diminishes and life lengthens.

Yet the promise of this life is imperiled by the very genius that
has made it possible. Nations amass wealth. Labor sweats to
create? and turns out devices to level not only mountains but
also cities. Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift,
the power to erase human life from this planet.

At such a time in history, we who are free must proclaim anew
our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our
faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral
and natural laws.

This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond
debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man's inalienable
rights, and that make all men equal in His sight.

In the light of this equality, we know that the virtues most
cherished by free people? love of truth, pride of work, devotion
to country? all are treasures equally precious in the lives of the
most humble and of the most exalted. The men who mine coal
and fire furnaces and balance ledgers and turn lathes and pick
cotton and heal the sick and plant corn? all serve as proudly,
and as profitably, for America as the statesmen who draft
treaties and the legislators who enact laws.

This faith rules our whole way of life. It decrees that we, the
people, elect leaders not to rule but to serve. It asserts that
we have the right to choice of our own work and to the reward
of our own toil. It inspires the initiative that makes our
productivity the wonder of the world. And it warns that any
man who seeks to deny equality among all his brothers betrays
the spirit of the free and invites the mockery of the tyrant.

It is because we, all of us, hold to these principles that the
political changes accomplished this day do not imply turbulence,
upheaval or disorder. Rather this change expresses a purpose
of strengthening our dedication and devotion to the precepts
of our founding documents, a conscious renewal of faith in our
country and in the watchfulness of a Divine Providence.

The enemies of this faith know no god but force, no devotion
but its use. They tutor men in treason. They feed upon the
hunger of others. Whatever defies them, they torture, especially
the truth.

Here, then, is joined no argument between slightly differing
philosophies. This conflict strikes directly at the faith of our
fathers and the lives of our sons. No principle or treasure that
we hold, from the spiritual knowledge of our free schools and
churches to the creative magic of free labor and capital,
nothing lies safely beyond the reach of this struggle.

Freedom is pitted against slavery; lightness against the dark.

The faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to the free of
all the world. This common bond binds the grower of rice in
Burma and the planter of wheat in Iowa, the shepherd in
Southern Italy and the mountaineer in the Andes. It confers
a common dignity upon the French soldier who dies in Indo-China,
the British soldier killed in Malaya, the American life given in Korea.

We know, beyond this, that we are linked to all free peoples
not merely by a noble idea but by a simple need. No free people
can for long cling to any privilege or enjoy any safety in economic
solitude. For all our own material might, even we need markets
in the world for the surpluses of our farms and our factories.
Equally, we need for these same farms and factories vital materials
and products of distant lands. This basic law of interdependence,
so manifest in the commerce of peace, applies with thousand-fold
intensity in the event of war.

So we are persuaded by necessity and by belief that the strength
of all free peoples lies in unity; their danger, in discord.

To produce this unity, to meet the challenge of our time, destiny
has laid upon our country the responsibility of the free world's
leadership.

So it is proper that we assure our friends once again that,
in the discharge of this responsibility, we Americans know
and we observe the difference between world leadership
and imperialism; between firmness and truculence; between
a thoughtfully calculated goal and spasmodic reaction to the
stimulus of emergencies.

We wish our friends the world over to know this above all:
we face the threat? not with dread and confusion? but
with confidence and conviction.

We feel this moral strength because we know that we are
not helpless prisoners of history. We are free men. We shall
remain free, never to be proven guilty of the one capital offense
against freedom, a lack of stanch faith.

In pleading our just cause before the bar of history and in
pressing our labor for world peace, we shall be guided by certain
fixed principles.

These principles are:

(1) Abhorring war as a chosen way to balk the purposes of
those who threaten us, we hold it to be the first task of
statesmanship to develop the strength that will deter the
forces of aggression and promote the conditions of peace.
For, as it must be the supreme purpose of all free men, so it
must be the dedication of their leaders, to save humanity
from preying upon itself.

In the light of this principle, we stand ready to engage with
any and all others in joint effort to remove the causes of
mutual fear and distrust among nations, so as to make
possible drastic reduction of armaments. The sole requisites
for undertaking such effort are that? in their purpose? they
be aimed logically and honestly toward secure peace for all;
and that? in their result? they provide methods by which
every participating nation will prove good faith in carrying
out its pledge.

(2) Realizing that common sense and common decency alike
dictate the futility of appeasement, we shall never try to placate
an aggressor by the false and wicked bargain of trading honor
for security. Americans, indeed all free men, remember that in
the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a
prisoner's chains.

(3) Knowing that only a United States that is strong and
immensely productive can help defend freedom in our world,
we view our Nation's strength and security as a trust upon
which rests the hope of free men everywhere. It is the firm
duty of each of our free citizens and of every free citizen
everywhere to place the cause of his country before the
comfort, the convenience of himself.

(4) Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation
in the world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress
upon another people our own cherished political and economic
institutions.

(5) Assessing realistically the needs and capacities of proven
friends of freedom, we shall strive to help them to achieve their
own security and well-being. Likewise, we shall count upon them
to assume, within the limits of their resources, their full and just
burdens in the common defense of freedom.

(6) Recognizing economic health as an indispensable basis of
military strength and the free world's peace, we shall strive to
foster everywhere, and to practice ourselves, policies that
encourage productivity and profitable trade. For the
impoverishment of any single people in the world means danger
to the well-being of all other peoples.

(7) Appreciating that economic need, military security and
political wisdom combine to suggest regional groupings of
free peoples, we hope, within the framework of the United Nations,
to help strengthen such special bonds the world over. The nature
of these ties must vary with the different problems of different
areas.

In the Western Hemisphere, we enthusiastically join with all
our neighbors in the work of perfecting a community of fraternal
trust and common purpose.

In Europe, we ask that enlightened and inspired leaders of the
Western nations strive with renewed vigor to make the unity of
their peoples a reality. Only as free Europe unitedly marshals its
strength can it effectively safeguard, even with our help, its
spiritual and cultural heritage.

(8) Conceiving the defense of freedom, like freedom itself, to be
one and indivisible, we hold all continents and peoples in equal
regard and honor. We reject any insinuation that one race or
another, one people or another, is in any sense inferior or
expendable.

(9) Respecting the United Nations as the living sign of all
people's hope for peace, we shall strive to make it not merely
an eloquent symbol but an effective force. And in our quest for
an honorable peace, we shall neither compromise, nor tire, nor
ever cease.

By these rules of conduct, we hope to be known to all peoples.

By their observance, an earth of peace may become not a
vision but a fact.

This hope? this supreme aspiration? must rule the way we live.

We must be ready to dare all for our country. For history does
not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
We must acquire proficiency in defense and display stamina
in purpose.

We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept
whatever sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values
its privileges above its principles soon loses both.

These basic precepts are not lofty abstractions, far removed
from matters of daily living. They are laws of spiritual strength
that generate and define our material strength. Patriotism
means equipped forces and a prepared citizenry. Moral stamina
means more energy and more productivity, on the farm and in
the factory. Love of liberty means the guarding of every resource
that makes freedom possible? from the sanctity of our families
and the wealth of our soil to the genius of our scientists.

And so each citizen plays an indispensable role. The productivity
of our heads, our hands, and our hearts is the source of all the
strength we can command, for both the enrichment of our lives
and the winning of the peace.

No person, no home, no community can be beyond the reach
of this call. We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience,
to work with industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with
conviction, to weigh our every deed with care and with
compassion. For this truth must be clear before us: whatever
America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to
pass in the heart of America.

The peace we seek, then, is nothing less than the practice
and fulfillment of our whole faith among ourselves and in our
dealings with others. This signifies more than the stilling of
guns, easing the sorrow of war. More than escape from death,
it is a way of life. More than a haven for the weary, it is a
hope for the brave.

This is the hope that beckons us onward in this century of trial.
This is the work that awaits us all, to be done with bravery,
with charity, and with prayer to Almighty God.
 

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