President Eisenhower and his report to the nation – the report card on the 83rd Congress, delivered August 6, 1953.
As was the custom, President Eisenhower delivered a report card to the nation, a status report on how Congress was doing as it was adjourned for the Summer and heading back home. All in all, not a bad year – the most significant was a truce finally signed in Korea. Now there was some breathing room:
President Eisenhower: “My fellow Americans:
A mark of free citizens, proud and wise enough to govern themselves, is the searching scrutiny they turn upon the purposes and the performance of their own government.
It is the historic habit of a free people–it is our habit–to ask our Government at frequent times: Where are we going? How far have we come?
These questions arise logically in these very days. The first session of the 83d Congress has adjourned. The laborious work of the committees has ended. The debates have closed. The roll calls have been taken. A record has been written.
In the few moments we have this evening, let us take a look at that record.
The array of legislative actions, at first glance, seems bewildering in variety and complexity. It includes:
A revised defense program for a reorganized Defense Department working on a reduced defense budget;
Reorganization of whole Government departments;
Revised plans to help arm our allies in freedom;
Short-term extension of onerous but needed taxes;
Indefinite lifting of futile economic controls;
Emergency aid to drought-stricken areas of our own land;
Extension of legislation to aid and increase our commerce with the peoples of all lands;
Wheat to feed Pakistan;
Programs to rebuild Korea;
Simplification of customs regulations;
Admission of refugees;
Enactment of a multitude of normal appropriation bills.
With such an array of new legislation, it is little wonder that the intelligent citizen asks: what do all these things mean? Where are we going?
The first part of the answer is this:
Such actions as these are not the chance results of some wildly spinning wheels of governmental machinery.
These acts reflect thoughtful planning. They have demanded work–the earnest, exhausting work of hundreds of conscientious legislators. They denote purpose–clearly defined purpose.
When I first appeared before the 83d Congress 6 months ago to deliver the administration’s message on the State of the Union, I tried to define what I referred to as “the grand labors” confronting this Government. They were these:
“Application of our influence in world affairs with such fortitude and foresight that it will deter aggression and eventually secure peace;
“Establishment of a national administration of such integrity and efficiency that its honor at home will ensure respect abroad;
“Encouragement of those incentives that inspire creative initiative in our economy, and
“Dedication to the well-being of all our citizens and to the attainment of equality of opportunity for all.”
These purposes give meaning and sense to all that has occurred in these last 6 months.
We have adhered firmly to these purposes.
Let us begin with the first: the exercise of our influence in world affairs in the quest of lasting peace.
And here let us begin with that tragic land of war: Korea.
We made plain from the outset our determination, shared by our allies in the United Nations, to find–to fight for however long to win–an honorable armistice in Korea. We speeded the equipment and training of Republic of Korea troops, inspiringly led by President Syngman Rhee. We firmly–and successfully–upheld the right of prisoners of war to choose their own future.
We have now gained a truce in Korea.
We do not greet it with wild rejoicing. We know how dear its cost has been in life and treasure. We know how grave are the problems to be met before the people of Korea enjoy real unity and security.
Yet we also soberly know that we have won two precious victories.
We have shown, in the winning of this truce, that the collective resolve of the free world can and will meet aggression in Asia–or anywhere in the world.
And we have won the opportunity to show that free people can build in peace as boldly as they fight in war.
We have already given signs of our power and will to do just that. The Congress has authorized the spending of 200 million additional dollars for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of South Korea. This action springs directly from the heart of America, which has contributed so generously to private relief organizations like the American-Korean Foundation working to heal and help our stricken ally. I have now invited all the skilled specialists of the United States forces in Korea–engineers, signal corps, technicians of all kinds–to offer their knowledge to help rebuild the land whose freedom they have helped so bravely to save.
There is no finer task that could be entrusted to these men. I know that under the leadership of General Clark, General Weyland, Admiral Briscoe, and General Taylor, the results will bring pride to every American. Our purpose is sane and simple: to make secure and productive the freedom that has been saved-and to make it inspiring for the people for whom it has been saved.
For we know this: no military victory, no diplomatic triumph, no precision-perfect foreign policy of our own can mean very much for very long–if it does not bring hope to hundreds of millions of people who live today in fear or need or hunger. As surely as we seek lasting peace, we shall find it only as these people come to have faith in their own future in freedom.
This, then, is, in one area, the wise and purposeful use of our strength of which I spoke 6 months ago.
We have pursued the same objective on the other side of the world. In Western Europe, we have seen–and constantly aided–the slow, steady growth of unity, of economic health, and of military defense.
With the nations of Western_ Europe now producing even more than they did before World War II, it has become possible to devote most of our foreign operations to the needs of military defense. This means, for us as Americans, that these billions of dollars directly serve our own national security. They have thereby made possible part of the great savings effected in our own Department of Defense.
The Senate vote of 69-to-10 on this issue was the largest such vote ever united in support of this kind of program. This reflects something more important than money. It signifies an unprecedented unity that crosses party lines and promises steady purpose in the conduct of our foreign affairs.
All these developments from the still smoldering East to the strengthening West–could not fail to have impressed the peoples of the Soviet world. Neither purges nor police nor prisons have been able to stifle the growing cries for food–and for freedom. Cold oppression has been repaid with cold hate.
In Germany, we have urged the Soviet Union to join with the Western nations in speeding that nation’s unity. Even as we have acted, the people of Germany have delivered an eloquent message of their own to Soviet occupation authorities. It has been a message of defiance–delivered by the thousands of Berlin workers who stormed through their streets in the memorable June uprising; and the tens of thousands who have defiantly come to West Berlin for the needed food sent by this Government for their relief.
Our action in Berlin–this reaching out to people to help, to feed, to strengthen their faith in freedom–partakes of the same spirit directing our course in Korea.
There is a significant connection between these distant spots on the great globe.
Berlin and Korea have been two of the scenes chosen by the Communist world for flagrant acts of aggression since World War II.
Today precisely these same two places present dramatic evidence of the will of free men to stay free and to make freedom work.
No clearer proof is needed of the power of the free world not only to defeat what is evil but also to create what is good.
We intend to keep the knowledge of that power before all men.”
And that’s a large excerpt of the address by President Eisenhower, which you can listen to in its entirety as it broadcast by CBS Radio on August 6, 1953