President Eisenhower’s Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People, January 17, 1961, contained some almost prophetic wisdom that so aptly applies to our current situation today. So much so, that I want to share it with my readers so we once again remember that the health of our nation and economy is all our responsibilities. That we are all empowered and required to do our part to insure the health of our nation and to protect its legacy for our children and grandchildren. Here then are some of the excerpts from that address which most significantly apply to today. I have taken the liberty to add my emphasis points.
“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. “
“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 (editor’s note: realize here he made this speech in 1961,PCs were still 20 years away!).”
“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 our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
I cannot think of more insightful words than these to rededicate ourselves to the tasks at hand. I was a child when Eisenhower ran for president. One of his campaign slogans was “I like Ike”. After re-reading these words I can say I like Ike. What’s more is through halls of history his voice rings loudly now in my ears. It both challenges me and empowers me to act. I do so through this blog. What are you doing? I mean doing. Words are meaningless unless we take action. If not us who? When we lack leadership, we must step up to lead ourselves. We have come to this point where we so complacently resign ourselves to the fact that our congress does not represent our interest. Not only is that pathetic, it is unacceptable. The “tea baggers” have it right about acting, but have it all wrong that this is a conservative versus liberal issue or that it is Republican versus Democratic issue. It is an issue of the state of our union. It is sick and we must all together heal it. We do that by not pointing out our differences, but by examining the system and fixing what is wrong. Our system has been usurped by bankers and major corporate interests. It is time to balance the scales of government in all three branches of government so that it serves the interests of all peoples in a fair and balanced manner. This is the urgent task before us all at this moment. Failure to act may just signal the fall of the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever seen and it may be many centuries before a similar opportunity arises.
Here is Uncle Willie’s Thought for the Day: