The America Experience, Part 4: Veterans Day – Eisenhower on Liberty

Psalm 144:1 “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

“Americans, indeed, all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier’s pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner’s chains.” These were the words of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, at his January 1953 Inaugural Address. He understood that freedom is not free. In the same speech, he emphasized that freedom must be won and then defended by courageous men and women who defend freedom: “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”

Who are these courageous Americans who not only uphold our liberty today but gave it to us in the first place? In his 1970 poem ‘It Is the Soldier’, Charles M. Province explains who we can thank for our liberty.

“It is the Soldier, not the minister who gives us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter who gives us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet who gives us freedom of speech. It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer who gives us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer who gives us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician who gives us the right to vote. It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Eisenhower explained the purpose of war is never for conquest but to combat evil and preserve liberty: “Though you follow the trade of the warrior, you do so in the spirit of Washington — not of Genghis Khan. For Americans, only threat to our way of life justifies resort to conflict.” (Graduation Exercises at the US Military Academy, June 1947). American soldiers never go to war to take from another. We defend the freedom of those who cannot defend themselves against the modern-day Genghis Khans.

And to what does Eisenhower attribute this ideology of defending liberty? His faith in the God of our Founders, the foundation of America’s birth: “Without God, there could be no American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism. The Founding Fathers saw it, and with God’s help, it will continue to be.” (American Legion 1955 ‘Back-to-God’ Program).

In the 1956 broadcast ‘The Women Ask the President’, Eisenhower explained what Americans must do to maintain liberty: “We must be strong at home if we are going to be strong abroad. We want to be strong at home in our spirit, be strong intellectually, in our education, in our economy and when necessary, militarily.”

For Eisenhower, military might is the result, not the cause, of American virtue. We are strong militarily because we are strong as a nation. This strength comes from acknowledging God’s sovereignty over us.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #474

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