This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses the Republican National Convention. He insists that for the good of America Republicans must be reinstalled into a large number of political positions, including the presidency.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71913
Municipal archives id: T279
Republican National Convention Speech July 14, 1964
Retrieved 11/1/2011 from http://www.eisenhowermemorial.org/pages.php?pid=769
I am here this evening, first of all, as a citizen of the Untied States, with primary allegiance to my country; but second, I am here, with great pride, as a Republican.
I am dedicated to the purposes of this party; I am jealous of its good name; I am grateful to those among us who represent us all by their discharge of political responsibility.
Because of these feelings, I hold this simple conviction: For the good of America, Republicans must be restored in great numbers to controlling positions at all governmental levels, including the highest - the Presidency of the United States.
My purpose this evening is very personal - to give you the reasons for my deep dedication to Republicanism - as I understand Republicanism. To do so, I shall cite a few incidents in our party's history, and then take a glance at its opportunities for service today and in the future.
This means that, only for a moment, I must ask you to bank the fires of fiercely competitive intra-party politics and contemplate with me the whole of this great party of ours - the reasons for its birth, its record of valuable service, and the bright promise of its future. Please understand that just as soon as I finish, you are at liberty to resume the fray!
Our party, let us never forget, was born out of protest against the supreme indignity to mankind - slavery - the story of which is found on the darkest pages of America's history, both North and South. It persisted as a social cancer even in this land of liberty, until Abraham Lincoln eliminated it a century ago, supported by our party, which he led. This Republican Party, then, was conceived to battle injustice. It was born committed against degradation of people. So it is more than mere coincidence that we Republicans have, as an article of political belief, faith in the individual. Nor is it coincidence that our party, so born, has never ceased to champion the rights and privileges of every citizen, regardless of race or station. It is not our claim, therefore - and may it never be - that we or any others have the right or duty to control the individual in the legitimate conduct of his daily life. Rather, we have ever sought to create an atmosphere of liberty and to sustain its substance. Consistent with this effort, we have maintained that in all those things that the citizen can better do for himself than can his government, the government ought not to interfere.
From the time that Lincoln signed the Land Grant Act in 1862 to recent weeks when Republicans in Congress, to their great credit, voted far more overwhelmingly than did our opponents to pass the Civil Rights Bill, our party's programs have reflected concern for the individual citizen, whoever he may be - wherever he may be - whatever he may be. Though often cast in the role of the opposition in recent years, and compelled to battle a never ending stream of unwise proposals, the party's stature has been earned through its dedication to positive purposes.
For a half century after Lincoln's inauguration our country lived under almost continuous Republican leadership. And it prospered mightily. Transcontinental systems of railways, roads and waterways - great manufacturing plants, schools and bustling communities - sprang forth as if by magic; all the product of a free people, vigorously and freely competing among themselves. Protected by laws against an unwarranted concentration of industrial or financial power, our citizenry proudly and happily pushed forward to new levels of achievement and prosperity.
The next half century, beginning shortly before World War I and marked later by the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean Conflict, ushered in a season of troubles. In the last thirty-two years, our political opponents have controlled the executive branch of the Federal Government for twenty-four, and the Congress for twenty-eight. During this period our money was recklessly devalues, with great hardship visited upon much of our citizenry. The expansion of federal influence was made permanent policy, even though its miserable lack of success in the economic arena persisted until the violent demands of war obscured the unhappy failure. The centralizing process even went so far as to include an attempt, by summary executive power, to seize the steel industry.
Some of these acts and laws were necessary - others not - but the sinister trend toward paternalism, which now again grows apace, was interrupted only by the eight-year determination of a Republican administration in the 1950's. That administration stood for integrity in government. It stood for fiscal responsibility, including disciplined management of public spending. It supported our private competitive enterprise system. It insisted that all public responsibilities be carried out, wherever possible, by local and state governments; by the federal government only when necessary.
Our party stood also for a sound foreign policy, within which every critical development would be carefully judged and consistent action forthrightly taken. Recognizing that in this troubled and threatened world, security forces unmatched in efficiency and strength are necessary to sustain the peace, our party provided them. At the same time it insisted upon avoiding the peaks and valleys in military activity that spell, always, waste and extravagance.
It was an administration which set its face directly for the people and their well-being and directly against any increase in the concentration of power in Washington. We rejected those steps which, over the long run, would make the citizen a ward of government; instead our Republican position was that the ambitions, incentives and aspirations of free men are the mainspring of progress.
In these years the party achieved, I submit, a record of strength for America abroad - a record of responsible, common sense government at home. But the raucous cry of demagoguery has never ceased. Beginning in the 1930's and continuing to today, our countrymen have been subjected to a sustained barrage of political misrepresentation.
Let me offer a few examples. First, for thirty years opposing political leaders have claimed that ours is the party of privilege. This is utter nonsense. Our concern for every citizen, whatever his status, shines forth from every tenet of Republican doctrine. The truth is, it is Republicans who think of, and really try to serve, the "littlest" of all citizens - the children of America, and even the grandchildren of today's unborn babe. By our insistence upon paying now for what we demand from government today, instead of charging our bills to posterity, we are seeing to it that those who follow us will not one day be working out their lives, paying off gigantic debts run up through our own selfishness and profligacy.
This concern for the future is in keeping with Republican conviction and American tradition. America is here, not just for a day or a century! In the Constitution we read, as the purpose of our inspired founders, "To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity." Any political party that counsels us to ignore the needs of tomorrow, so that, on deficit spending, we may live today in comfort and ease, is false to America’s true meaning and to her destiny. Our policy of sound conduct of fiscal affairs is simply proof of our concern for all Americans, both now and in the future.
When Republicans stand for a sound dollar - meaning one that will buy tomorrow roughly as much as today - demagogues cry out that we care less for people than money. Yet, who can be hurt more by spiraling costs than the wage earner? The worker will, one day, have to live on his hard earned pension, insurance policy, or savings account. He has no defense against the silent, but most insatiable, thief of all - inflation. It is for the sake of that worker - white collar, blue collar or no collar - that we fight to prevent erosion of our currency.
Again, when public opinion polls indicate that Democrats can keep America at peace more surely than Republicans can, certainly nothing but public misinformation or blind partisanship is reflected. The causes of America's wars of this century cannot fairly be laid to any political party or individual. But when we remember that all three of them - World War I, World War II and the Korean War - were started during Democratic administrations, and that none in this century started during Republican administrations, it is hard to believe that an informed and impartial public should conclude Republicans are less able to keep the peace than Democrats.
The most persistent charge against us is that Republicans have ignored the great human problems that have been occasioned - or at least intensified - by modern mass production. While Republicans have insisted that these problems should not become the football of Washington bureaucrats, we have approached them sympathetically and at the grassroots - so that the solutions for emerging difficulties would be tailored best to the conditions pertaining to specific needs. Thus, such participation of the federal government as is necessary should reflect the wisdom and desires of those closest to the problem.
It was in this framework of conviction and action that a Republican administration in the 1950's extended social security coverage to 10 million more people. It is why Republicans increased social security payments to meet the increased living costs caused by earlier inflation. For the same reasons we initiated programs to meet the conditions in chronically depressed areas - programs designed to help people help themselves. Also it is why we took steps by law to insure the ability of able young men and women to obtain university training, today so badly needed by the nation.
In all such work the Republican aim has been not merely to meet the immediate and inescapable material needs of the citizen, but so to act as to do no damage to his pride, dignity, self-reliance and confidence. This is the kind of help in which Republicans believe, the kind they evidenced when, under the leadership of a Republican administration, the first breakthrough in eighty years was made in obtaining civil rights legislation. Except for that success in 1957, and except for Republican leadership in the current congress, it is scarcely likely that the comprehensive bill of 1964 could have become law. With the passage of this law I believe that every Republican should now take upon himself a moral commitment: to do his utmost to see that it is implemented not merely by the power of legally constituted enforcement agencies, but by the hearts of a determined and free people.
These few examples warn us that the spreading of the truth about our party, and about the philosophy that has guided us from Lincoln's day to this moment, is for us a basic mission and duty. To do this we must maximize our own strength. We must learn that when any Republican concerns himself too much in condemning this or that faction of decent people in the party, he is hurting himself and the party. Strength is found in unity, under a consensus broad enough to accommodate the honest thinking of all who subscribe to our basic doctrines.
Of course, individually and as a party, we must never shut our eyes to problems that adversely affect numbers of our people and that they are unable themselves to solve. These include certain phases of health programs, education, care of the aged, civil rights, slums and impoverished areas. In attacking them, however, we refuse to clothe the federal government with exclusive power to handle such matters. To achieve a balance between local and federal participation is difficult - so difficult that it is in these efforts we find differences - sometimes deep differences among us.
But these differences do not go to the root of Republicanism and our basic doctrines. Rather they concern matters of degree of effort, procedures and other matters. Other divisions, far less valid, are created among us by geography. Frankly, I doubt that I belong to any of these sectioned party groupings. But I do hope no one will read me out of the party because I was born in the southwest, raised in the Midwest, now live in the east, spend the fall in the deep south, and winter in the far west.
Clearly, we should set some clear limits on the extent to which each Republican should go in trying to prove himself a better, wiser, and sounder Republican than any of his fellows. Cannot we also agree wholeheartedly that radicalism of any kind, whether of the right of the left is bad not simply for our party but also for America?
I believe with all my heart that the kind of party ours must be, is one that rejects as unfit and unwholesome all who are purveyors of hatred and intolerance, who are prone to the use of violence, who malign the character of fellow Americans, and who baselessly charge decent Americans with treasonable acts or intentions. We should reject as well those who misguidedly, through extremist economic nostrums and wishful thinking in foreign affairs, would weaken or deliberately destroy this Republic.
Let me repeat one critical point: the divisions I mention within commonsense Republicanism do not evolve from differences over basic ideals and principles. They involve the lesser questions, and far too often, in the heat of debates, we exaggerate their importance. Possibly we should take a good hard look at ourselves. If such differences should ever become so deep and permanent that, even after our platform is agreed and our nominees are selected, we are unable to unite in good will for victory, then our quarreling groups could hardly coexist in the same party.
I do not accept, not for a single moment, the need for any such ridiculous outcome. For a minority party it would be tragic and, in addition, stupid. We can - and we should - compete vigorously and honorably among ourselves. But never can we afford to permit ourselves to be led astray by meaningless slogans, labels, preconceived notions and prejudice; and we shall not be, if we cleave to the straight path of principle and common sense. The disappointed should strive to improve our Party - not destroy it.
My friends, we are Republicans. If there is any finer word in the entire field of partisan politics I have not heard it. So let us particularly scorn the divisive efforts of those outside our family, including sensation-seeking columnists and commentators, who couldn't care less about the good of our party.
Now, in saying this, I do not mean that we can turn our attention only inward. For three decades we have been the minority party. Victory cannot be won by Republicans alone, no matter how tightly we are joined together. But a great chasm of public prejudice and lack of information separates us from millions of independents and those Democrats who, being thoughtful, are disenchanted. We simply must find better ways for bringing the truth to the public.
Here, I have a word about an obligation that rests with special force upon the Republican Party. Since 1932 we have been protesting vigorously against the drift of political power to Washington, a drift that places far too much influence in the hands of federal government for controlling our lives and our entire economic structure.
One effective way to counteract this trend is to insist upon better government in communities and in the several states. There are many ways of an organizational or legal character in which this improvement can come about. Here I refer only to a single type of method - a moral and, therefore, an individual one.
There are many problems which are peculiarly local in character but are so serious and widespread as to occasion a national concern, thus increasing the demands "that something must be done." Among these are crimes in our city streets and public parks, juvenile delinquency, slaughter on our highways, attacks upon law enforcement officers, drop outs from our schools, and disorders arising out of the effort to integrate our institutions of learning.
Good local governments will attack these problems by legal methods. They can impose punishment more in keeping with the crimes committed, especially in the case of repeaters. They can expand police protection, build more and better schools, and provide better lighting on our streets and parks. But beyond the cures that can be effected by local government lies the attitude of the average citizen, his degree of concern, his readiness to recognize and attack the problem himself, and to encourage the people that operate his government to perform their duty without favor. It is not enough to limit ourselves merely to writing letters to the editor or refusing to walk our streets after dark. In the home, in the school and the church is a great field where the aggregate influence of dedicated concern among the local citizenry can be applied with revolutionary impact on all these evils.
We can demand that our judges dispense justice without fear or favor, ignoring special pleas from any of us even where friends or family are involved. We can encourage and offer assistance to the policeman and his family when he is injured in the line of duty. Let us not be guilty of maudlin sympathy for the criminal who, roaming the streets with the switchblade knife and illegal firearm, seeking a helpless prey, suddenly becomes, upon apprehension, a poor, underprivileged person who counts upon the compassion of our society and the laxness of weakness of too many courts to forgive his offense.
Meeting in such conventions as this we attempt to do our duty as we see it; and we donate to the campaigns of the nominees we have selected. I submit it is equally necessary that with our substance and our political support we help our governors, our mayors and the organizations operating under them to keep the peace and maintain order. In this entire field I would hope that the Republican Party will assume its proper place in the forefront of the forces fighting for decency, safety and progress in all the localities that make up this fair land.
So, in sum, the question before us comes down to this: How intense is our determination to live and act Republican throughout our lives? Just how determined are we to elect Republicans to office in order to reapply fiscal soundness to federal affairs and strengthen local and state responsibilities and authority? How important is it, really, for us to restore an atmosphere in which the initiative of the individual and the vigor of competitive enterprise can again have the greatest possible influence throughout the land? If the answer be that these are truly our fundamental goals, then let us renew our strength from the fountain of unity, not drown ourselves in a whirlpool of factional strife and divisive ambitions. And let us not stain our image by consorting with radicals of any kind.
This, in sketchy outline, is my treasured picture of the Republican Party. It is the kind of party in which I, for one, and I would hope the vast majority of Americans, could serve with lasting pride. I count on it - and with confidence.
My friends, for me the shadows lengthen. But my loyalty to the historic mission of my party, to its great record and to its promise for the future, is as strong and bright as ever.
My confidence will never dim so long as all of us stand together for human dignity and for the sound and steady progress of this wonderful land; for so long as we stand as the strong, wise and sturdy leader of freedom in the world.
May the Almighty look with favor on your purpose and an your work. And now, good night and Godspeed.