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History Book: A Chance for Peace

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WORLD Radio - History Book: A Chance for Peace

Excerpts from a notable speech by President Dwight Eisenhower during the Cold War


President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Manila Aiport, shortly after his arrival in the Philippines capital, June 14, 1960. Associated Press

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, April 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, the WORLD History Book. Today, we feature a notable speech from U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.

In the years that followed World War II, the Soviet Union had dramatically increased its military strength and influence. It had its own nuclear weapons. It controlled most of Eastern Europe by force and fear. And was engaged in a cold war with its former allies—as the Korean proxy war turned into a stalemate. Many feared another world war.

EICHER: Then, on March 5th, 1953, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died—leaving a power vacuum in the USSR. General Eisenhower had just been elected president in 1952 and saw a chance to pressure the Soviet Union to consider a different future. One of peace and not conflict.

REICHARD: Although a former military leader himself, Eisenhower speaks out against increased military spending—and invites the Soviet Union to join with Western nations to consider shifting from spending on armaments to spending on domestic needs. Not spending on guns, but spending on butter.

So here are a few highlights of President Eisenhower’s nationally broadcast speech: “The Chance for Peace” —delivered on April 16th, 1953. It’s been edited to fit the available time:

U.S. PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER: 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 stated. 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 labor of all people; 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 laborers, 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 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is 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?

Again we say: the United States is ready to assume its just part.

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.

The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex.

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 by timber and by rice. These are words that translate into every language on earth. These are needs that challenge this world in arms.

There is, before all peoples, a precious chance to turn the black tide of events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages would be harsh and just. If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least 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 and clear.

They conform to our firm faith that God created men 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.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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