|PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER'S
Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American
People. January 17,
[Delivered from the President's Office at 8:30
My fellow Americans:
Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country,
I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and
solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.
This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell,
and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. Like every other
citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed.
I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity
Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential
agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will
better shape the future of the Nation. My own relations with Congress,
which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the
Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during
the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent
during the past eight years. In this final relationship, the Congress and
the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated will, to serve
the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that
the business of the Nation should go forward. So my official relationship
with the Congress ends in a feeling on my part, of gratitude that we have
been able to do so much together.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed
four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country.
Despite these holocausts, America is today the strongest, the most influential
and most productive nation in the world. Understandably, proud of this
pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend,
not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength,
but on how we use our power in the interest of world peace and human betterment.
adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep
the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance
liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To
strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious
Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness
to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the
conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs
our very beings. We face a hostile ideology--global in scope, atheistic
in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the
danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully,
there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices
of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily,
surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle--with
liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation,
on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or
domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that
some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution
to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense;
development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a
dramatic expansion in basic and applied research--these and many other
possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the
only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration:
the need to maintain balance in and among national programs--balance between
the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our
essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation
upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national
welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of
it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.
The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their
government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded
to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind
or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our
arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor
may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today
bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,
or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the
United States had no armaments industry. American makers of
plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.
But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation
of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments
industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men
and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually
spend on military security more than the net income of all United States
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large
arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence--economic,
political, even spiritual--is felt in every city, every State house, every
office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for
this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.
Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure
of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition
of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists
and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties
or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert
and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial
and military machinery of defense without peaceful methods and goals, so
that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our
industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution
during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central;
it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing
share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed
by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the
same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free
ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct
of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract
becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old
blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment,
project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely
to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect,
as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that
public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological
elite. It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate
these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic
system--ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As
we peer into society's future, we--you and I, and our government--must
avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease
and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage
the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also
of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive
for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that
this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community
of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual
trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to
the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we
are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, through
scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain
agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.
Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with
intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent
I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with
a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror
and the lingering sadness of war--as one who knows that another war could
utterly destroy this civilization which has so slowly and painfully built
over thousands of years--I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace
is in sight.
Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward
our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a
private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the
world advance along that road.
So--in this my last good night to you as your President--I thank you for
the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and
peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for
the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the
You and I--my fellow citizens--need to be strong in our faith that
all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May
we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with
power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's
prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races,
all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied: that those
now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all
who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings;
that those who have freedom will understand,
also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the
needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease
and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the
goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed
by the binding force of mutual respect and love.