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
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
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 was plainly marked by a few
clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. First: No
people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all
humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and
Second: No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly
achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with
Third: Every nation's right to a form of government and an economic
system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form
of government is indefensible.
And fifth: A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based
upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest
understanding with all other nations.
In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States
defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of
war, toward true peace.
This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United
Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears.
This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to
allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the
great and good tasks of healing the war's wounds, of clothing and
feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life,
of enjoying the fruits of their own toil.
The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the future.
In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual
trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of
neighbour nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost.
Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.
The result has been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet Union,
it has also been ironic.
The amassing of Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of
aggression. It compelled them in self-defence to spend unprecedented
money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of
war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon
It instilled in the free nations - and let none doubt this - the
unshakable conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to
freedom, they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for
the risk of war.
It inspired them - and let none doubt this - to attain a unity of
purpose and will beyond the power of propaganda or pressure to
break, now or ever.
There remained, however, one thing essentially unchanged and
unaffected by Soviet conduct. This unchanged thing was the readiness
of the free world to welcome sincerely any genuine evidence of
peaceful purpose enabling all peoples again to resume their common
quest of just peace. And the free world still holds to that purpose.
The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the
Soviet Union that their firm association has never had any
aggressive purpose whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed
to persuade themselves, or tried to persuade their people,
And so it has come to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared
and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the
This has been the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and force.
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is
found on this dread road?
The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a
burden of arms draining the wealth and the labour of all peoples; a
wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet
system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the
peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are
not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its
scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school
in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000
population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed
more than 8,000 people.
This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the
world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud
of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope
that come with this spring of 1953.
This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the
gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a
just and lasting peace.
It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak
their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.
It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of
all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?
The world knows that an era ended with the death of Joseph Stalin.
The extraordinary 30-year span of his rule saw the Soviet Empire
expand to reach from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan, finally to
dominate 800 million souls.
The Soviet system shaped by Stalin and his predecessors was born of
one World War. It survived with stubborn and often amazing courage a
second World War. It has lived to threaten a third.
Now a new leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its
links to the past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its
future is, in great part, its own to make.
This new leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its
history, by the will to stay free.
The free world knows, out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that
vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty.
It knows that the peace and defence of Western Europe imperatively
demands the unity of purpose and action made possible by the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization, embracing a European Defence
It knows that Western Germany deserves to be a free and equal
partner in this community and that this, for Germany, is the only
safe way to full, final unity.
It knows that aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are threats
to the whole free community to be met only through united action.
This is the kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership
confronts. It is a world that demands and expects the fullest
respect of its rights and interests. It is a world that will always
accord the same respect to all others. So the new Soviet leadership
now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with the rest of the
world, to the point of peril reached and to help turn the tide of
Will it do this?
We do not yet know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet leaders
give some evidence that they may recognize this critical moment.
We welcome every honest act of peace.
We care nothing for mere rhetoric.
We care only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds.
The opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a
great number of them waits upon no complex protocol but only upon
the simple will to do them. Even a few such clear and specific acts,
such as Soviet Union's signature upon an Austrian treaty or its
release of thousands of prisoners still held from World War II,
would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a
power of persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.
This we do know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust
among nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial
With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are
ready, with renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes
of our day.
The first great step along this way must be the conclusion of an
honourable armistice in Korea.
This means the immediate cessation of hostilities and the prompt
initiation of political discussions leading to the holding of free
elections in a united Korea.
It should mean, no less importantly, an end to the direct and
indirect attacks upon the security of Indochina and Malaya. For any
armistice in Korea that merely released aggressive armies to attack
elsewhere would be a fraud. We seek, throughout Asia as throughout
the world, a peace that is true and total.
Out of this can grow a still wider task - the achieving of just
political settlements for the other serious and specific issues
between the free world and the Soviet Union.
None of these issues, great or small, is insoluble - given only the
will to respect the rights of all nations. Again we say: the United
States is ready to assume its just part.
We have already done all within our power to speed conclusion of a
treaty with Austria, which will free that country from economic
exploitation and from occupation by foreign troops.
We are ready not only to press forward with the present plans for
closer unity of the nations of Western Europe but also, upon that
foundation, to strive to foster a broader European community,
conducive to the free movement of persons, of trade, and of ideas.
This community would include a free and united Germany, with a
government based upon free and secret ballot. This free community
and the full independence of the East European nations could mean
the end of the present unnatural division of Europe.
As progress in all these areas strengthens world trust, we could
proceed concurrently with the next great work - the reduction of the
burden of armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we
would welcome and enter into the most solemn agreements. These could
1: The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international
ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all
2: A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that
proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be
devoted to military purposes.
3: International control of atomic energy to promote its use for
peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic
4: A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of
5: The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions
by adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection
under the United Nations.
The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and
Neither the United States nor any other nation can properly claim to
possess a perfect, immutable formula. But the formula matters less
than the faith - the good faith without which no formula can work
justly and effectively.
The fruit of success in all these tasks would present the world with
the greatest task, and the greatest opportunity, of all. It is this:
the dedication of the energies, the resources, and the imaginations
of all peaceful nations to a new kind of war. This would be a
declared total war, not upon any human enemy but upon the brute
forces of poverty and need.
The peace we seek, founded upon decent trust and cooperative effort
among nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat
and by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and timber and rice.
These are words that translate into every language on earth. These
are the needs that challenge this world in arms.
This idea of a just and peaceful world is not new or strange to us.
It inspired the people of the United States to initiate the European
Recovery Program in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with
equal concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.
We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our
readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be
productive and prosperous.
This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations
in devoting a substantial percentage of any savings achieved by real
disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes
of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the
undeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitable and fair
world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of
The monuments to this new war would be roads and schools, hospitals
and homes, food and health.
We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the
needs, rather than the fears, of the world.
I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of
the United States.
I know of no course, other than that marked by these and similar
actions, that can be called the highway of peace.
I know of only one question upon which progress waits. It is this:
What is the Soviet Union ready to do?
Whatever the answer is, let it be plainly spoken.
Again we say: the hunger for peace is too great, the hour in history
too late, for any government to mock men's hopes with mere words and
promises and gestures.
Is the new leadership of the Soviet Union prepared to use its
decisive influence in the Communist world, including control of the
flow of arms, to bring not merely an expedient truce in Korea but
genuine peace in Asia?
Is it prepared to allow other nations, including those in Eastern
Europe, the free choice of their own form of government?
Is it prepared to act in concert with others upon serious
If not, where then is the concrete evidence of the Soviet Union's
concern for peace?
There is, before all peoples, a precarious chance to turn the black
tide of events.
If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future
ages will be harsh and just.
If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it
at least would need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of
who has condemned humankind to this fate.
The purpose of the United States, in stating these proposals, is
simple. These proposals spring, without ulterior motive or political
passion, from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in
the hearts of all people - those of Russia and of China no less than
of our own country.
They conform to our firm faith that God created man to enjoy, not
destroy, the fruits of the earth and of their own toil.
They aspire to this: the lifting, from the backs and from the hearts
of men, of their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find
before them a golden age of freedom and of peace.
The Chance for Peace speech
by Dwight D. Eisenhower