Address to Illinois Veterans of Foreign Wars

"Let us veterans solemnly pledge to guarantee the present and future security of our country by supporting education 100%, by supporting religion 100% and by inspiring high ideals in our people."
Chicago, IL • June 16, 1956

Congratulations to the Illinois Veterans of Foreign Wars. Your success in strengthening comradeship, your assistance to worthy veterans and their families, your efforts to foster patriotism and preserve the institutions of American freedom deserve the highest praise.

Your name, Veterans of Foreign Wars, has always meant Veterans of Foreign Wars. It could also mean values of the free world: VFW - an organization for men who know and have fought for the value of the free world.

Today, I, as one member of the VFW, would like to discuss one or two of the values of the free world - values threatened today but worthy of and susceptible to salvation.

Last month I took a post-graduate course at the Naval War College. Twenty admirals were in the class; a dozen army and Marine Corps generals; and every section of the Air Corps was represented. There were Global Strategy Discussions, conducted by the Navy, but combining some of the best brains of our armed forces.

One of America’s most distinguished statesman participated in three discussions. He told an interesting story. Several months ago in Washington, this statesman invited a group of high ranking generals and admirals, State Department Officials and businesses to steak dinner. After dinner the host put this question to his guest:

“I’d like to know”, he asked, “what do you mean by power? What is the basis of power? Or phrased another way, he said, you gentlemen are in positions of great influence, and you are filled with much knowledge. Tell me, what is the power of the United States today?”

The generals and admirals answered that power rests on armed strength. The businessmen answered that power rests on economic strength. The diplomats argue for a balances of power between nations, and said it was the key to world peace.

To all these ideas the distinguished statesman replied:

“Gentlemen, all of you have talked tonight in terms of material power. In effect, you have said that the security of the United States, her possessions, her people, depends upon guns, bombs, factories, production and material.

“But look at the case of China. Most of the guns, bombs, factories, production and materials were on the side of Chiang Kai-Shek. We poured billions of dollars of military and economic supplies into his war effort.

“Yet another man named Mao Tse Tung had few guns or factories, little production and little material. He had only guerilla soldiers - a mere handful at first - dedicated to the creation of a new social and economic revolution.

“Yet our ally, Chiang Kai-Shek, lost and with his loss went all the billions we had poured into the conflict. Or take the case of indo-China. The same thing happened there.

“We poured in billions of dollars, the bombs and the airplanes, the production of our factories, the economic material of war. French troops fought for months, and their courage, ability and training were beyond reproach.

“Yet France lost to Indo-China. And we lost, too - lost to an enemy with inferior equipment, fewer dollars, practically no planes or tanks and only a fraction of our material.

“The same situation exists today in Morocco. 400,000 crack French troops are fighting in the desert and on the beaches against untrained native guerilla soldiers, ill-equipped, ill-fed and ill-housed. But few observers predict that France will win. And if France loses, the air bases of the U.S. - an investment costing billions of dollars - will be lost.

Once again, guns, planes, the production of our factories will have been tried and found wanting. These things may have been enough to win World War II, but they alone are not the source of true power today. We must look elsewhere for the “New Force”, the “New Power”, necessary to win the world to freedom and democracy”. Men of the VFW- the admirals and generals, the military “brass”, if you will, at the Naval War College agreed with the thoughts and statements of this distinguished statesman. They agreed with the eloquent words of General Matthew B. Ridgeway who recently wrote:

“In the last analysis, man is the only ultimate weapon, and upon his determination, his courage, his stamina, and his skill rests the issue of victory or defeat…”

The admirals and generals agreed further that education was essential to the production of Americans men determined to preserve our way of life, courageous enough to die for it, and skillful enough to make it work at home and in matters of foreign policy.

The admirals and generals called on the civilians to send them trained and loyal personnel. Adequate manpower, they said, is one of their greatest needs. And, once again, they said, genuine education is the most important means for providing the skillful and dedicated men and women needed today.

My message, therefore, is this:

“…The important issue of 1956 and for many years to come remains whether the power of Western civilization, as God has permitted it to flower in our beloved land, shall defy and defeat Communism, of whether, through our own weakness, we shall perish in the despair and misery of a Godless world…” (Ridgeway, Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 25, 1956, page 130)

This “power of Western Civilizations” lies in our men, in their hears and minds, not in our factories and guns and bombs.

True, we must have great armies and great navies and great air power, but great men are infinitely more important. And great men are made by education, religion and high morality.

Today in Chicago, we are trying to improve the quality of education. We had started free career schools with advanced classes in physics, chemistry, mathematics and languages.

We have started teaching by television to give the best possible instruction to all children whatever school building they occupy.

We have inaugurated a new development program for our Teachers College.

We plan to double or triple the number of students in our junior colleges.

We have raised our teacher’s salaries to equal the best in America.

We are building more schools in 1 year now than we built in five years during the period from 1930 to 1950.

All these improvements cost money - lots of money. But every dollar spend on education is an investment in the most important product we produce- trained manpower.

Let us veterans solemnly pledge to guarantee the present and future security of our country by supporting education 100%, by supporting religion 100% and by inspiring high ideals in our people.

Let us remember the advice given last week by Vice President Nixon when he said at Lafayette College:

“We must appreciate the high place given to intellectual and spiritual values in many areas of the world.”

“In those areas the intellectual is not dismissed as an egghead.

“The artist is not considered a long… [unclear text]…

“The minister of religion is not considered an impractical idealist…”

The United States was respected and loved throughout the world in years gone by because we exported ideas and ideals; not guns and tanks and bombs.

We really believed in equality among the unions, brotherhood among men, and in the omnipotence and providence of God.

Let us reawaken faith in those ideals by concentrating on education and religion.

Then, we will once again enjoy true security, genuine power and the respect of other nations and peoples.

The people of any generation are not the owners of the public schools, or the churches, or the departments of state and local government. Each generation is merely the custodian of their institutions for the benefit of generations yet to be born.

Let us conduct ourselves in such a manner that future generations will bless the work we have done for education, for church and for our country.

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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