evening, my fellow Americans: First, I should like to express my
gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunity they have given me over
the years to bring reports and messages to our nation. My special thanks go to them for
the opportunity of addressing you this evening.
Three days from now, after a half century of
service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional
and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.
This evening I come to you with a message of
leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.
Like every other citizen, I wish the new President,
and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed
with peace and prosperity for all.
Our people expect their President and the Congress
to find essential agreement on questions of great moment, the wise resolution of which
will better shape the future of the nation.
My own relations with Congress, which began on a
remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West
Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and
finally to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.
In this final relationship, the Congress and the
Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the nation well
rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should
go forward. So my official relationship with Congress ends in a feeling on my part, of
gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a
century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved
our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most
influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this
pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely
upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our
power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.
Throughout America's adventure in free government,
such basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement,
and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations.
To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and
Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of
comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us a grievous hurt, both at
home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently
threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention,
absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in
character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses
promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not
so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable
us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and
complex struggle with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every
provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them,
whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that
some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current
difficulties. A huge increase in the newer elements of our defenses; development of
unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and
applied research these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in
itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in light of a
broader consideration; the need to maintain balance in and among national programs
balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for
advantages balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable;
balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the
nation upon the individual; balance between the actions of the moment and the national
welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually
finds imbalance and frustration.
The record of many decades stands as proof that our
people and their Government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded
to them well in the face of threat and stress.
But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly
Of these, I mention two only.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our
military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no
potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little
relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting
men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United
States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as
required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of
national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast
proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in
the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income
of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military
establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total
influence economic, political, even spiritual is felt in every city, every
Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for
this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil,
resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard
against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power
exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination
endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only
an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial
and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security
and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping
changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during
In this revolution, research has become central, it
also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is
conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his
shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing
fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free
ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.
Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a
substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of
new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars
by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery
in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that
public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to
balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of
our democratic system ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the
element of time. As we peer into society's future, we you and I, and our government
must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and
convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of
our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.
We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent
phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written
America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a
community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual
trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The
weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as
we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many
past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a
continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms,
but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I
confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense
of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war
as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has
been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years I wish I could say
tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
Happily, I can say that war has been avoided.
Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done.
As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world
advance along that road.
So in this my last good night to you as your
President I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public
service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for
the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.
You and I my fellow citizens need to
be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with
justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with
power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations' great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give
expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all
nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity
shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its
spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy
responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity;
that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the
earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a
peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
Now, on Friday noon, I am to become a private
citizen. I am proud to do so. I look forward to it.
Thank you, and, good night.