The Chance for Peace Speech

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The Chance for Peace speech was an address given by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on April 16, 1953, shortly after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Speaking only three months into his presidency, Eisenhower likened arms spending to stealing from the people, and evoked William Jennings Bryan in describing "humanity hanging from a cross of iron." Although Eisenhower, a former military man, spoke against increased military spending, the Cold War deepened during his administration and political pressures for increased military spending mounted. By the time he left office in 1961, he felt it necessary to warn of the military-industrial complex.

The Chance for Peace
by Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953
Washington, D.C.

President Bryan, distinguished guests of this Association, and ladies and gentlemen: I am happy to be here. I say this and I mean it very sincerely for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is the number of friends I am honored to count among you. Over the years we have seen, tanked, agreed, and argued with one another on a vast variety of subjects, under circumstances no less varied. We have met at home and in distant lands. We have been together at times when war seemed endless, at times when peace seemed near, at times when peace seemed to have eluded us again. We have met in times of battle, both military and electoral, and all these occasions mean to me memories of enduring friendships. I am happy to be here for another reason. This occasion calls for my first formal address to the American people since assuming the office of the presidency just twelve weeks ago. It is fitting, I think, that I speak to you the editors of America. You are, in such a vital way, both representatives of and responsible to the people of our country. In great part upon you -- upon your intelligence, your integrity, your devotion to the ideals of freedom and justice themselves -- depend the understanding and the knowledge with which our people must meet the facts of twentieth-century life. Without such understanding and knowledge our people would be incapable of promoting justice; without them, they would be incapable of defending freedom. Finally, I am happy to be here at this time before this audience because I must speak of that issue that comes first of all in the hearts and minds of all of us -- that issue which most urgently challenges and summons the wisdom and the courage of our whole people. This issue is peace. In this spring of 1953 the free world weighs one question above all others: the chances for a just peace for all peoples. To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent moment of great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of 1945, bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hopes of all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace. The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the world. Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel of despair but also the self-deceit of easy illusion. It weighs the chances for peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the vain hopes of 1945. In that spring of victory the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument -- an age of just peace. All these war-weary peoples shared too this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power. This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads. > The leaders of the Soviet Union chose another.

The way chosen by the United States...
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