The Chance for Peace

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I had never heard of President Eisenhower’s “Chance for Peace” speech till today. He gave it in 1953, in the context of the Cold War, shortly after the death of Stalin. But many sections of it are startlingly relevant today, and stand in stark contrast to many policy proposals making headlines now.

I’ll quote a few passages:

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 justice.

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No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.

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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.

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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 neighbor 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.

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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.

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This is … a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

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This free world knows … that the defense of Western Europe imperatively demands the unity of purpose and action made possible by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, embracing a European Defense Community.

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We welcome every honest act of peace.

We care nothing for mere rhetoric.

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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 monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. […]

I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purpose of the United States.

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Full text of the speech on Wikisource (or as a PDF from the Eisenhower Archives).

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