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Poem For America
 
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Michael Skakel
 
Sam Sheppard

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Farewell Address, January 17, 1961.

My fellow Americans:

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 State

house, every office of the Federal government. We

recognize the imperative need for this development.

Yet we must not fail to comprehend its graveimplications.

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 recent decades.

 

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

labaratories 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 mututal 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.