Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel of despair, but also the self-deceit of easy illusion. It weighs the chance for peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the vain hope of 1945.
In the spring of victory, the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument—an age of just peace. All these war-weary peoples shared, too, this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power.
This common purpose lasted an instant—and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads.
The United States and our valued friends, the other free nations, chose one road.
The leaders of the Soviet Union chose another.
The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the Soviet Union that their firm association has never had any aggressive purpose whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed to persuade themselves—or tried to persuade their people—otherwise.
And so came to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world.
This has been the way of life forged by eight years of fear and force.
What can the world—or any nation in it—hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?
The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies—in the final sense—a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than thirty cities.
It is: two electric power plants, each serving a town of sixty thousand population.
It is: two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is: some fifty miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people.
This—I repeat—is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.
This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.
It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.
It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: Is there no other way the world may live?
This we do know: A world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust among nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial nor punitive.
With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are ready—with renewed resolve—to strive to redeem the near lost hopes of our day.
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