Saturday, May 10, 2008

Presidential Oratory

I just finished reading President Eisenhower's farewell speech to the American public, from 1961 (aka the Military-Industrial Complex speech).

It's a remarkable piece of history and oratory. The elevated tone and language is striking, particularly since he was talking to everyone, not just Congress or university professors. This is how he spoke to ordinary citizens. I would love to see today's political leaders (and aspiring leaders) talk to us this way - even though to do so would certainly carry the risk of being labeled "elitist."

I hope you'll go read the entire speech - it's not long, but it is thought provoking. For those who can't muster the mouseclick necessary to read the entire thing, here's a short excerpt:

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 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.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

Hmm....neat quote. My opinion as a citizen is that I have lost certain liberties to the military machinery. I'm not sure we have kept the proper meshing as being so proper in these days of conflict.