Like Washington, Eisenhower’s Farewell Address Counseled Balance

Ted Bromund /

Fifty years ago, on January 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his famous Farewell Address. The speech ranks, as Eisenhower intended it to, with Washington’s Farewell Address as a masterpiece of American rhetoric, of balance, and of prudent, far-seeing counsel. It is the fate of such masterpieces to be much quoted but seldom read. On this anniversary, therefore, before you read further, we encourage you to read the speech.

Nothing could be further from the truth than the popular myth, which still lingers, of Ike as casual president, more interest in the golf course than affairs of state. Like Reagan – it is curious how this myth is applied only to conservative presidents – Eisenhower had prepared long and well for the Oval Office. Like Reagan – and Washington – Ike was supported by great speechwriters but the words he spoke expressed his own thoughts.

Eisenhower’s guiding vision in his Address, indeed in his presidency, was the need for balance. Deeply aware of the threat posed by Communism, and the Soviet Union, he wanted not only to meet the danger, but to ensure that the victory did not come at the cost of American liberty. He was concerned that the trend of the modern age – not simply because of the demands of the Cold War – was for the federal state to expand ceaselessly, and he regarded this as a danger to America’s ideals, as much as to its chances of victory in the Cold War. (more…)