My fellow Americans:
This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell,
and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.
Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor
with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with
peace and prosperity for all.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed
four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own
country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most
influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud
of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and
prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches
and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of
world peace and human betterment.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the
conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs
our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in
character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the
danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it
successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and
transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry
forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged
and complex struggle--with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain,
despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace
and human betterment.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our
arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential
aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any
of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World
War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no
armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as
required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency
improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a
permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and
a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense
establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net
income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms
industry is new in the American experience. The total influence--economic,
political, even spiritual---is felt in every city, every State house,
every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need
for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave
implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is
the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of
misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or
democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert
and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge
industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and
goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our
industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during
In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more
formalized complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted
for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed
by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the
same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free
ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the
conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a
government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual
curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment,
project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is
gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we
should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public
policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate
these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our
democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we
peer into society's future, we--you and I, and our government--must avoid
the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and
convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the
material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their
political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all
generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that
this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community
of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of
mutual trust and respect.