Two Speeches Aspirational for Peace and Critical of War by President Dwight D. Eisenhower

by | Mar 16, 2024

Aside from being president of the United States for two terms spanning from January of 1953 through January of 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower is likely best known in America and around the world for his activities as a US Army general during and after World War II.

Earlier this month, John J. Duncan, Jr., in his always interesting Knoxville Focus column, suggested something else for which Eisenhower should be more well known than he is: two speeches Eisenhower presented that were aspirational for peace and critical of war. One is the first major speech of his presidency, and the other is the last. Duncan wrote:

Most of our wars have been more about money and power than any great threats.

If you doubt this, read the first major speech President Eisenhower gave after assuming the presidency. It was a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 18, 1953. It is probably the most anti-war speech ever given by a U.S. President.

Then read Eisenhower’s much better-known farewell address given on Jan. 17, 1961, where he warned us about the evils of military-industrial complexes.

And these were words given by a man who spent almost all of his career in the military.

If you have not already done so, or if it has been quite a while since you have, consider taking time to follow Duncan’s advice. Text of both speeches may be found at the website of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Read the April of 1953 speech, sometimes referred to as either the Chance for Peace speech or the Cross of Iron speech, here. Read the January of 1961 farewell address here. You may also listen to Eisenhower’s delivery of both speeches here.

A key point made by Eisenhower in his Chance for Peace speech is that spending money on war and preparation for war means forgoing wealth that would otherwise be created. For example, Eisenhower described the cost of a fighter plane as a half million bushels of wheat and the cost of a destroyer as new homes to house more than 8,000 people. Then, in his farewell speech, Eisenhower warned about the “military-industrial complex” — a term he coined — that threatened to “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Eisenhower was not a noninterventionist. This is clear from these two speeches as well as from various actions he took as president. Still, his expressed warnings and aspirations in these two speeches are important for supporters of a noninterventionist foreign policy to consider. They also are in stark contrast to the extreme militarism repeatedly espoused by President Joe Biden, as well as Biden’s refusal to admit that there are any tradeoffs and risks in regard to pursuing foreign intervention.

Duncan, who is an Advisory Board member for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity (RPI) and was a member of the US House of Representatives with RPI Chairman Ron Paul, mentioned in the conclusion of his column that these two speeches by Eisenhower are why Duncan sometimes refers to himself as “an Eisenhower Republican.” It would do America good if more Republicans, and Democrats and others too, read and ponder these two speeches.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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