Friday, January 17, 2014


January 17, 1961


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago tonight, January 17,  1961, Dwight David Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, delivered his Farewell Address to the Nation.

The speech was broadcast on radio and television.

Three days after Mr. Eisenhower's Farewell Address, President-elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy would take the oath of office and become the 35th President of the United States.

President Eisenhower began his address with these words:

"After (a) half century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as...the Presidency is vested on my successor.

I wish the new President Godspeed.

I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world (but) we recognize that America's prestige depends on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment."

President Eisenhower went on with a warning for the future.

"(Today) we face a hostile ideology (communism) global in scope.  To meet it successfully there (must be) sacrifices which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely and without complaint."

The President said that there will be more crises which will lead to calls for "some spectacular costly action" but cautioned of the need for "maintaining balance."

Mr. Eisenhower concluded his address with these words...

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted the military-industrial complex. 

The potential for the disastrous rise of misled power exists and will persist.

We must never let this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."*

*This excerpt of the Farewell Address concerning the "military-industrial complex" was used by Oliver Stone in the introduction to his controversial movie "JFK".

More About Ike's Farewell Address

President Eisenhower's speech was the product of 21 drafts.  

The warning about the "military-industrial complex" is significant in that Eisenhower was the only General to attain the Presidency in the 20th century and a career army officer who had retired as a Five Star General.

As President, Eisenhower cut the Pentagon's budget and records show that his defense cuts totaled $200 billion during his term of office.

Several weeks before his Farewell Address, Ike told several advisers:

"God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn't know the military as well as I do"

Eisenhower's speech was actually drafted by Ralph E. Williams, who relied on guidance from Political Science professor Malcolm Moos and the President's brother, Milton Eisenhower.

Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy,  wrote:

"No president since Eisenhower has genuinely understood the degree of the Pentagon's increasing influence over national security policy."

Goodman wrote that Ike ignored the many Republicans and Democrats who advocated for increased defense spending and even cut the military budget by 20% between 1953 and1955.

Goodman went on to write: 

"....50 years later, we have...unprecedented military spending (and) continuous military deployments."

Goodman credited Ike for keeping America out of war (after the Korean Conflict ended) and "did not fall prey" to JFK's Bay of Pigs, LBJ's Vietnam, Reagan's Grenada, Bush II's Iraq or Obama's Afghanistan.**

**Source:  Center for International Policy