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Remarks at the Dedication of the Hiawatha Bridge, Red Wing, Minnesota.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Remarks at the Dedication of the Hiawatha Bridge, Red Wing, Minnesota.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
October 18, 1960


Mr. Chairman, Congressman Quie, Governor Freeman, Mayor Rardin, Senator Humphrey, Congressman Judd, Lieutenant Governor Nash, Congressman Johnson, and my fellow Americans:

I welcome the opportunity to revisit Minnesota and to attend these ceremonies here in Red Wing. It is a real experience to stand here near the head of Lake Pepin and contemplate the contours and rugged beauty of this part of the upper Mississippi Valley. This area through which Father Hennepin passed almost three centuries ago, and known for such romantic figures of the past as Red Wing, Wabasha, and Winona, fills a large page in the history of America.

The dedication of this great new bridge across the Mississippi is another effective example of Federal-State partnership in meeting both local and national needs. Hiawatha Bridge, now spanning the Father of Waters, is a part of the Federal-State highway program. While this particular partnership dates back over 40 years, to 1916, it assumed a tremendous new work load in 1956 with the enactment of the Federal Aid Highway Act--a program which Vice President Nixon first publicly presented on my behalf at the 1954 Governors' Conference.

I am proud of this program for a number of reasons:

First, it is financed on a sound pay-as-you-go basis.

--It gives the States primary responsibility and initiative within their own borders.

--The program will eventually build 41,000 miles of interstate highways. Already, in the few years since its inception, 12,000 miles of highways have been built or are presently under construction.

And more important than all of these things, when the Interstate System is completed, it is estimated that it will save 4,000 lives every year.

And so I salute all those in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and across the Nation, who have made this partnership the efficient and effective union it is today.

And now may I dwell a moment on the name of this useful but equally handsome structure. I am not thinking of the Hiawatha in that charming legend of Longfellow's poem in which I found such enchantment when I read it as a boy. Today, it is the real Indian, Hiawatha, not the poetic legend, that I find so meaningful and whose work seems to me so relevant to the season of history that is now upon us.

The American Indian Chief Hiawatha is said to have lived about 400 years ago. But his deeds in the 16th century in what was then Stone Age America, are strikingly reminiscent of the work we are undertaking today. Except that his work was carried on four centuries back, it would today, in a different and wider scope, be noted by our daily newspapers and excite discussion throughout the world.

Hiawatha was a founder of a United Nations organization in America.

His United Nations or League of Nations had five members. They were the Iroquois tribes. He undertook the organization of a permanent league for the purpose of stopping for all time the shedding of human blood by violence. The constitution Hiawatha championed had as its founding principles, justice, righteousness, and power, or authority, and was intended to "safeguard human life, health, and welfare." Wisely, it did not limit membership in their United Nations to the five Iroquois tribes. The founding nations proposed for themselves and their successors the great task of gradually bringing into their organization to preserve peace, in the words of the constitution quoted: "all the known tribes of men, not as subject peoples, but as confederates." The end of that quotation.

Hiawatha's league failed, though for several generations it was remarkably successful in the achievement of its objectives. But failure does not dim the validity of his idea. Indeed it demonstrates the timelessness of mankind's desire for peace.

Hiawatha's experiment had an historical repetition in the sad fate of the League of Nations, founded in this century at the close of World War I. In retrospect we realize that there had been for the League of Nations insufficient intellectual preparation for such a world system. Its purposes were admirable but no firm ideology existed to sustain it.

We must not through lack of faith or understanding so endanger the United Nations of our own time.

Humankind has painfully discovered that peace with justice cannot be had merely by proclaiming a charter of confederation, no matter how skillfully devised, any more than freedom can be sustained by mere ritualistic worship of the concept of liberty. It must be undergirded by understanding, dedication, sacrifice, and effective machinery.

The problem has always been--in Hiawatha's time as in ours--to channel governments into peaceful ways, to build institutions that make peace easier and war more difficult and eventually impossible.

Such institutions we are now patiently building under the United Nations. One such example is an international police force.

All of us must struggle ceaselessly for the success of the United Nations; we must support its ideals and its operations. From this commonwealth of nations there must be eliminated the causes of war. A concomitant task is to banish poverty and disease, which have so much to do in disturbing the peace.

Day by day it becomes more clear that our faith in the United Nations is justified--that the system under which it operates is valuable in seeking solutions, for turning heat into light, and for keeping the true desires of nations and of peoples exposed to world opinion.

On Monday of next week--United Nations Day--we celebrate the 15th birthday of this organization. This is a time for reaffirming in unmistakable terms our determination that this time our effort to find peace through cooperation shall not fail.

In the 8 years I have occupied my present office, several truly remarkable achievements have been gained through this organization.

For example:

--America's atoms-for-peace proposal, under United Nations auspices, has become a reality and is gradually making its influence felt throughout the world.

--The Suez crisis in 1956 was resolved through the United Nations.

--The 1958 crisis in Lebanon was dealt with successfully when, through the United Nations, we sent our troops to the Middle East and then promptly withdrew them when the situation so warranted.

--Since early 1957 the United Nations' Emergency Force has effectively stopped the dangerous raids and reprisals in the Gaza Strip which continually threatened the peace of the Middle East.

These are merely a few sporadic instances. The great and sustained contribution of the United Nations is the opportunity it affords for composing, through discussion, mutually antagonistic viewpoints.

Today, my friends, truth and freedom and peace are forced to fight for survival. We must strengthen the United Nations as the great forum for ventilating differences, for the opportunity to present the truth, and for seeking workable compromises among our respective societies.

I say again, we can write a recipe for international cooperation and justice, but it cannot become a reality until we live it.

We dare not stumble. We must prepare our citizenry and our children intellectually for the task of sustaining the United Nations. Noble ideas must be supported by education and hard work. Unless we surrender to the possibility of being thrown back to the age of flint and steel, we will use wisely every instrument and means at hand to find peace with justice.

Only through the collective force of a strong and informed public opinion, united in its belief in the free spirit, shall we succeed. With such intellectual strength and spiritual faith, we shall not fail. To your hands and to the hands of your children, I commend this task. Indeed, that task can never be called completely finished, for peace, like freedom, will always demand the price of vigilance. I pray that this structure bridging a river between two commonwealths of our nation, and its name may ever symbolize the purpose of forging and sustaining indestructible bonds between free peoples.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. from a platform erected at the intersection of Main and Broad Streets in Red Wing. His opening words referred to Henry A. Swanson, Jr., program chairman for the Hiawatha Bridge Opening Committee, U.S. Representative Albert H. Quie and Governor Orville L. Freeman of Minnesota, Mayor Harry Rardin of Red Wing, U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and U.S. Representative Walter H. Judd of Minnesota, Lieutenant Governor Philleo Nash and U.S. Representative Lester R. Johnson of Wisconsin.



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