Second Inaugural Address (1957): "The Price of Peace"

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Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice,
Mr. Speaker, members of my family and friends, my countrymen, and the
friends of my country, wherever they may be, we meet again, as upon a
like moment four years ago, and again you have witnessed my solemn oath
of service to you.

I, too, am a witness, today testifying in your name to the principles
and purposes to which we, as a people, are pledged.

Before all else, we seek, upon our common labor as a nation, the
blessings of Almighty God. And the hopes in our hearts fashion the
deepest prayers of our whole people.

May we pursue the right — without self—righteousness.

May we know unity — without conformity.

May we grow in strength — without pride in self.

May we, in our dealings with all peoples of the earth, ever speak truth
and serve justice.

And so shall America — in the sight of all men of good will — prove
true to the honorable purposes that bind and rule us as a people in all
this time of trial through which we pass.

We live in a land of plenty, but rarely has this earth known such peril
as today.

In our nation work and wealth abound. Our population grows. Commerce
crowds our rivers and rails, our skies, harbors, and highways. Our soil
is fertile, our agriculture productive. The air rings with the song of
our industry — rolling mills and blast furnaces, dynamos, dams, and
assembly lines — the chorus of America the bountiful.

This is our home — yet this is not the whole of our world. For our
world is where our full destiny lies — with men, of all people, and all
nations, who are or would be free. And for them — and so for us — this
is no time of ease or of rest.

In too much of the earth there is want, discord, danger. New forces and
new nations stir and strive across the earth, with power to bring, by
their fate, great good or great evil to the free world’s future. From
the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the South Pacific one
third of all mankind has entered upon an historic struggle for a new
freedom; freedom from grinding poverty. Across all continents, nearly a
billion people seek, sometimes almost in desperation, for the skills
and knowledge and assistance by which they may satisfy from their own
resources, the material wants common to all mankind.

No nation, however old or great, escapes this tempest of change and
turmoil. Some, impoverished by the recent World War, seek to restore
their means of livelihood. In the heart of Europe, Germany still stands
tragically divided. So is the whole continent divided. And so, too, is
all the world.

The divisive force is International Communism and the power that it

The designs of that power, dark in purpose, are clear in practice. It
strives to seal forever the fate of those it has enslaved. It strives
to break the ties that unite the free. And it strives to capture — to
exploit for its own greater power — all forces of change in the world,
especially the needs of the hungry and the hopes of the oppressed.

Yet the world of International Communism has itself been shaken by a
fierce and mighty force: the readiness of men who love freedom to
pledge their lives to that love. Through the night of their bondage,
the unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp
thrust of lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city;
henceforth it is a new and shining symbol of man’s yearning to be free.

Thus across all the globe there harshly blow the winds of change. And,
we — though fortunate be our lot — know that we can never turn our
backs to them.

We look upon this shaken earth, and we declare our firm and fixed
purpose — the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral
law prevails.

The building of such a peace is a bold and solemn purpose. To proclaim
it is easy. To serve it will be hard. And to attain it, we must be
aware of its full meaning — and ready to pay its full price.

We know clearly what we seek, and why.

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. And now,
as in no other age, we seek it because we have been warned, by the
power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible
for human life itself.

Yet this peace we seek cannot be born of fear alone: it must be rooted
in the lives of nations. There must be justice, sensed and shared by
all peoples, for, without justice the world can know only a tense and
unstable truce. There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by
all nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager
justice as the pity of the strong upon the weak. But the law of which
we speak, comprehending the values of freedom, affirms the equality of
all nations, great and small.

Splendid as can be the blessings of such a peace, high will be its
cost: in toil patiently sustained, in help honorably given, in
sacrifice calmly borne.

We are called to meet the price of this peace.

To counter the threat of those who seek to rule by force, we must pay
the costs of our own needed military strength, and help to build the
security of others.

We must use our skills and knowledge and, at times, our substance, to
help others rise from misery, however far the scene of suffering may be
from our shores. For wherever in the world a people knows desperate
want, there must appear at least the spark of hope, the hope of
progress — or there will surely rise at last the flames of conflict.

We recognize and accept our own deep involvement in the destiny of men
everywhere. We are accordingly pledged to honor, and to strive to
fortify, the authority of the United Nations. For in that body rests
the best hope of our age for the assertion of that law by which all
nations may live in dignity.

And, beyond this general resolve, we are called to act a responsible
role in the world’s great concerns or conflicts — whether they touch
upon the affairs of a vast region, the fate of an island in the
Pacific, or the use of a canal in the Middle East. Only in respecting
the hopes and cultures of others will we practice the equality of all
nations. Only as we show willingness and wisdom in giving counsel — in
receiving counsel — and in sharing burdens, will we wisely perform the
work of peace.

For one truth must rule all we think and all we do. No people can live
to itself alone. The unity of all who dwell in freedom is their only
sure defense. The economic need of all nations — in mutual dependence —
makes isolation an impossibility; not even America’s prosperity could
long survive if other nations did not also prosper. No nation can
longer be a fortress, lone and strong and safe. And any people, seeking
such shelter for themselves, can now build only their own prison.

Our pledge to these principles is constant, because we believe in their

We do not fear this world of change. America is no stranger to much of
its spirit. Everywhere we see the seeds of the same growth that America
itself has known. The American experiment has, for generations, fired
the passion and the courage of millions elsewhere seeking freedom,
equality, and opportunity. And the American story of material progress
has helped excite the longing of all needy peoples for some
satisfaction of their human wants. These hopes that we have helped to
inspire, we can help to fulfill.

In this confidence, we speak plainly to all peoples.

We cherish our friendship with all nations that are or would be free.
We respect, no less, their independence. And when, in time of want or
peril, they ask our help, they may honorably receive it; for we no more
seek to buy their sovereignty than we would sell our own. Sovereignty
is never bartered among freemen.

We honor the aspirations of those nations which, now captive, long for
freedom. We seek neither their military alliance nor any artificial
imitation of our society. And they can know the warmth of the welcome
that awaits them when, as must be, they join again the ranks of freedom.

We honor, no less in this divided world than in a less tormented time,
the people of Russia. We do not dread, rather do we welcome, their
progress in education and industry. We wish them success in their
demands for more intellectual freedom, greater security before their
own laws, fuller enjoyment of the rewards of their own toil. For as
such things come to pass, the more certain will be the coming of that
day when our peoples may freely meet in friendship.

So we voice our hope and our belief that we can help to heal this
divided world. Thus may the nations cease to live in trembling before
the menace of force. Thus may the weight of fear and the weight of arms
be taken from the burdened shoulders of mankind.

This, nothing less, is the labor to which we are called and our
strength dedicated.

And so the prayer of our people carries far beyond our own frontiers,
to the wide world of our duty and our destiny.

May the light of freedom, coming to all darkened lands, flame brightly
— until at last the darkness is no more.

May the turbulence of our age yield to a true time of peace, when men
and nations shall share a life that honors the dignity of each, the
brotherhood of all.