Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Author: Dwight D. Eisenhower  | Date: February 5, 1954

Remarks at the Lincoln Day Box Supper.
February 5, 1954

Mr. Vice President, Members of the Cabinet, and Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, guests from all over this country, and their ladies and wives, and my very dears—all of you-Republican friends:

In first attempting to acknowledge my very deep appreciation of the cordiality of your welcome, might I say, first that I have had a great inspiration over the past year in working with the representatives, legislative and executive, that you people have sent here to Washington. It has been a great privilege to work with individuals who are dedicated to the good of America, and place America above all personal or other gain.

It is a great privilege to address each of you, the people who throughout this land believe as we do, who support us with your hearts, with yourvoices, with everything that you have, to make certain that America is going to consistently grow stronger and better—spiritually, intellectually, economically, militarily.

It was only a bit more than four score and ten years ago that a very great man said, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Now, as he ended that great speech, a classic not only in the English language but in philosophical thought, Abraham Lincoln said that "government by the people and for the people and of the people shall not perish from the earth."

That was his philosophy. He uttered those words in a time of crisis. He dedicated his whole being to that one thought, that government by the people and for and of the people should not perish. He endured every indignity. We think of him today as a great leader. Yet he offered to hold McClellan’s horse if McClellan would win a victory. There was nothing, no sacrifice he would not make to say we will preserve this nation as it has existed for four score and seven years.

Now, in his time, the threat was a physical one—physical disunion of this great United States. But, my friends, he was only voicing a thought, he was only crystallizing a threat that has been with every type of free government since free government was first conceived. Always there is the struggle between domination by the few, and government of themselves by the many. And he was determined it should not perish.

And in every age and every time, there have been people so dedicated. And it is for that reason that free government exists today. And we are no different from those who have gone before us. We in our time must make certain that the genius of the Constitution and of our government shall not perish, that it shall belong to the young and to those who come after us in the same general form that it has been received by us.

Now, in doing this, Abraham Lincoln said something else of a very profound character. "The legitimate function of government," he said, "is to do for the individuals what they cannot do for themselves, or cannot so well do for themselves." In this we find the expression of his great heart, his determination that government should be interested in people, in that person’s disasters, in their privileges, in their rights. Everything that went to enrich their life or to damage that life was a legitimate concernof government, and when necessary, government would directly intervene.

So that here we have, really, the compound, the overall philosophy of Lincoln: in all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with the people’s money or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative—and don’t be afraid to use the word.

And so today, Republicans come forward with programs in which there are such words as "balanced budgets," and "cutting expenditures," and all the kind of thing that means this economy must be conservative, it must be solvent.

But they also come forward and say we are concerned with every American’s health, with a decent house for him, we are concerned that he will have a chance for health, and his children for education. We are going to see that he has power available to him. We are going to see that everything takes place that will enrich his life and let him as an individual hard-working American citizen, have full opportunity to do for his children and his family what any decent American should want to do.

And so, my friends—by the way, you know, I wasn’t supposed to make a speech, I was supposed to get up and greet you and sit down. [Applause] Now I am puzzled, I don’t know whether you meant it would be a good idea to sit down or not. [Laughter] But let me bring this thought to you. This is really what I want to say:

What a glorious challenge we have, what a privilege to live in this time. We know these threats to our system from abroad. We know those things that we have seen happening from within that have alarmed us.

Let us be courageous. Let us lift our chins, our heads, and square our shoulders, and walk right square into it like Lincoln would have walked into it.

Let us not be afraid to be humble, as he was humble when it was necessary. But let us—when it comes down to the basic purpose of the Republican Party: to preserve this Nation as it has existed, and to make government serve the needs of all our people, no matter in what way that needs to be done—let us be just as courageous as Lincoln was courageous as he met the problems of 4 years of dreadful civil war, with brother against brother, with state against state.

If we meet it in that way, it seems to me we will meet it almost withdelight—with happiness that it has been given to us, in our time, to serve our country.

Those men who fought on the battlefields of Gettysburg served their country, whichever side they were on. They believed in something. They did it to the utmost of their ability.

If we would do it in that way, we don’t have to listen to the prophets of gloom who say that we are going to go into this or that kind of a stumble or fumble or fall. The United States doesn’t need to fall.

The reason I believe in the Republican Party is because I believe it is the best political instrument available in this country to serve the United States in this kind of objective: for making certain that every individual American, whatever his station, will recognize that he has the opportunity of a free citizen, to make for himself what he can, and he will have a sympathetic partner—a big-brother partner, in the Federal Government; and that this Nation will persist in the kind of nation that was designed by our forefathers and in which it is now our great privilege to live.

Now, my friends, you have done me a great honor by asking me here, allowing me to address these few thoughts to you. I wonder whether before we break up this party, you would like me to go over and bring my Mamie to greet you?

NOTE: The President spoke at the Uline Arena in Washington at 10:00 p.m.


Related Resources

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Download Options

Title: Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Dwight D. Eisenhower, "31 Remarks at the Lincoln Day Box Supper.," Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1118 241–243. Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Eisenhower, Dwight D. "31 Remarks at the Lincoln Day Box Supper." Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1118, pp. 241–243. Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Eisenhower, DD, '31 Remarks at the Lincoln Day Box Supper.' in Public Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1118, pp.241–243. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from