Monday, January 16, 2012

Eisenhower's First Inaugural Address

On January 20, 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower took the oath of office as the 34th President of the United States from Chief Justice Frederick Vinson. The ceremony not only marked a change of presidents, but the recovery of the office by the Republican Party after Herbert Hoover had lost his re-election bid 20 years earlier.

Without naming names -- Stalin would be dead in less than two months, but no one knew that yet -- Eisenhower asserted that the United States had the lead role in a new geopolitical reality: the Cold War.

"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...

"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."

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