Jackson Day Dinner Address Delivered by Hon. Edmund S. Muskie, of Maine


Thursday, March 5,1959

Page 3469

Mr. SYMINGTON. Mr. President, on Saturday, February 21, the distinguished junior Senator from Maine [Mr. MUSKIE] spoke at Springfield, Mo., on the occasion of our annual Jackson Day dinner.

We in Missouri were privileged to play host to Senator MUSKIE We know him as a gracious gentleman and a true servant of the people.

His speech on that occasion was inspirational to all of us who had the opportunity to hear him.

I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the address 'was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


I can think of a number of reasons why it is good to be in Missouri.

First of all, there was the cordial invitation extended to me by your distinguished Senators, STU SYMINGTON and Tom HENNINGS, and your able Congressman, CHARLIE: BROWN. To my previous awareness of their impressive records of public service, I have been privileged to add the warmth and friendliness of personal association. The fact that outstanding Americans of this stature should welcome such a contribution as I can make to this great gathering is a compliment I could not ignore.

Secondly, I have long had a healthy curiosity about the State which entered the Union at the same time as my own State of Maine. The compromise, which made possible that historic coincidence, reflected sharp differences in public opinion with respect to the great political issues which were involved; but, more important, it was symbolic of the fact that, in America, such differences can be resolved, given mutual respect, patience, understanding, and good will.

Thirdly, I have enjoyed my associations in the Governors' conference with your personable and capable Governor, Jim Blair, who has a common sense knack of striking to the core of a problem which is familiar to one accustomed to dealing with practical, down-to-earth Maine Yankees.

Finally, this is the home of Harry Truman -- the man who made great decisions with the sure touch and unhesitating courage of a man of clear vision-with an instinctive understanding of the importance of firm and positive leadership in his high office.

Our times would be different and far more fearful but for this fact. It is appropriate that Democrats should gather from time to time as you have here, tonight. It is understandable that we should indulge in a little partisan rejoicing over the victories which swept the country from coast to coast -- from Maine in September to Alaska in late November. It is proper that we take stock of yesterday's results and tomorrow's prospects -- which have never looked brighter. It is an opportunity to gain in inspiration and enthusiasm from each other's presence.

More important, it provides an opportunity to reevaluate our party's meaning for ourselves, our neighbors, and our children.

There has never been a time in our country's history when such a reevaluation was so vital to our survival and our well-being as it is today. We love freedom. We believe in the dignity and the worth of the individual. We hold that a society which recognizes and implements these principles is best calculated to achieve happiness for each of us and for our neighbors. Today, all of this is in deadly danger, and cannot survive unless we are alert to the danger and willing to mobilize all our resources to meet the threat -- intelligently, effectively, and immediately.

Over the long years of its great history, the Democratic Party has demonstrated a sensitivity to the objectives of a free society, an alertness to the challenges and opportunities of each new day, and a willingness to move forward in the face of great obstacles and difficulties, which has been unmatched among political parties. This is not to say that every Democrat who ever lived has been, and is, more effective than any Republican who ever lived. We know this is not so. It is not to say the Democratic Party has always measured up fully to the responsibilities of any given day. We know this is not so. It is to say that, on the record, the Democratic Party has been a party of great achievements and that it will continue to be if we, who are entrusted with the stewardship of its affairs, will fortify ourselves with the best of its traditions.

What is required today?

Let me give you some thoughts expressed by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 in a discussion of the relationship between men and their governments:

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with. But I know also that laws and institutions must go hand-in-hand with the progress of the human mind. As new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."

Expressed and implicit in these words are some impressive beliefs:

1. That change, new and more difficult problems, unforseen circumstances, are inevitable in human affairs.

2. That the human mind and the human spirit are capable of recognizing and adjusting to them.

3. That society and governments must be so constructed as to give free play to this great potential for adaptability and change.

4. That our country has the resources -- material, human and ideological -- to meet any challenge, however great.

5. That our people, within the framework of a free society, have a capacity for growth which can carry them to even greater heights of achievement: but only if they are constantly stimulated by broad and wide-ranging thinking, and by imaginative and purposeful leadership.

I say these beliefs are impressive. This is so because, although they are as old as our country, they are a fresh and ever flowing fountain of inspiration and reassurance at a time when confusion tends to blur our vision, when doubt tends to paralyze action, when, timidity and fear of the unknown future tends to blunt our instinctive urge to grapple with the problems of the day in their full dimensions.

At the age of 81, with his youth and vigor far behind him, Jefferson said, in a letter to a friend:

"Men by their constitution, are naturally divided into two parties. Those who fear and distrust the people those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe depository of the public interest."

I don't know what kind of a program Jefferson would present to us if he were President today. I don't know what, specifically, he would have proposed to do about the budget, education, the Soviet menace, our military posture, labor-management relations, or any of the host of problems which beset us. There are those who indulge themselves in the game of speculating upon such things for the purpose of suggesting Jefferson's approval or disapproval of some point of view. Jefferson himself was not so presumptuous. Many times, he warned against those who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.

I do know that Jefferson's attention was always focused on the ultimate objective of a free society -- the advancement and well being of the people. I know that his versatile and searching mind was not restricted by the straitjacket of outmoded and outworn ideas and methods, however worthwhile they may have been yesterday. I am confident that he would have chosen means and methods suited to the dimensions of the tasks with which we are confronted. He would have believed today, as he believed in his own day, that there is a greater risk in standing still than in moving forward, that a problem is not solved by half measures, that a problem does not disappear because it is ignored: That, above all, the American people are willing, able, and eager to know the truth, to understand the truth, and to assume the burdens and sacrifices which the truth indicates they must assume. I believe this about Jefferson because he understood the nature and the responsibility of leadership in a free society -- leadership as demonstrated by the Jacksons, the Lincolns, the Roosevelts, the Wilsons, the Trumans.

What is the truth?

The truth today is that our position in the world, by any standard of measurement we choose to use, is incomparably weaker than at any other time since the dark days of World War II. The truth today is that there is less than full realization of this fact, and that there should be and must be if we are to make the hard decisions which are indicated. The truth today is that we are not being called upon to make the supreme effort that those in a position to know the facts acts should realize must be made. The truth today is that there is a lack of faith among too many that we have the resources, the stamina, and the guts to do all that must be done.

To these people of little faith, those who indulge in creative thinking are radicals.

To these people of little faith, those who honestly expose our weaknesses as a challenge to greater effort are purveyors of gloom and doom.

To these people of little faith, those who believe that a given problem cannot be solved without a greater effort are spenders.

To these people of little faith, our growth has stabilized at a level which holds little promise of greater things to come.

In speaking of people, I am not thinking of individuals or of particular parties. I am, rather, personalizing an apathy, a complacency, and a stagnation in thinking which is seeping out into the country and which can destroy us before a foreign enemy can get the chance.

To point out this weakness is not to say that the alternatives are prodigal spending, wasteful effort, or a frenzy of activity to do everything which comes to mind. There are things which government must do. There are other things which government should not do. There is a great broad area of desirable activity as to which we must be discriminating and intelligent in assigning proper priorities. There is room in this area for differences of opinion -- differences which can and ought to exist as between the executive and legislative branches of government, differences which can and ought to exist as between Members of the legislative branch. It is only by exposing these differences, by subjecting them to the crossfire of debate that we can work out sound and enduring answers.

The current concept that the Congress has no prerogative and no duty to think independently, to reach independent conclusions, and to act independently in its sphere of activity is destructive of the very vitality of our democratic process. It must not be allowed to prevail.

It is in the area of things that must be done, that we must give our concentrated and immediate attention. This has to do with our national survival - not just as an independent, geographically identifiable state -- but as a vital, meaningful force which, by its leadership and by its example, can lift the world upward to ever higher levels of social and economic progress for men and women everywhere. Unless we are the latter, we will not always be the former. This suggests, I hope, that we are concerned with more than Maginot line security. We are concerned with more than a retaliatory capability which can destroy our potential enemy. We are concerned with more -- and I should say something far different -- than political domination of other areas of the world. We are concerned with demonstrating here, at home, and to the peoples overseas that our way of life does give us strength, that it does enable us to prevail over those who would destroy us, and that it is the last best hope of little people everywhere who yearn for opportunity, dignity, and freedom.

I say that we are concerned with this -- and I mean concern with an emotion that we have never had to feel before. Our policies and programs since our beginnings have been based on the assumption that we had resources to burn, that no other nation could match them, that our way of life and our institutions had an irresistible attraction for peoples not privileged to enjoy them -- the assumption of manifest superiority.

This is an assumption that is no longer valid. What we are, what we have, and what we offer, are being weighed on the balance against the supposed attractions of an alien system. We are being judged by peoples who are not advocates of either democracy or communism, but who are concerned as to their own status in life and its improvement. To these peoples, we are no longer manifestly superior.

To capture their minds and hearts -- and there are more than a billion of them -- it is necessary that we utilize to the maximum every resource at our disposal -- material, human, and ideological. We must live our national life with a fire, and enthusiasm, and a confidence in ourselves that we have always found it possible to summon in times of national crisis.

What does maximum utilization require?

It requires, first of all, that we become a progressively stronger economic force in the world, gaining strength not only for ourselves, but for peoples everywhere who seek to develop an economic climate favorable to the recognition of the dignity and worth of the individual.

It requires, secondly, the establishment of a military posture which is dynamic, not static; which utilizes to the full the tools of scientific research; and which unhesitatingly and firmly seizes every advantage and makes maximum use of every new development which promises to strengthen our sinews. Such a posture is the shield behind which we can mobilize the economic and ideological strength which will give us the ultimate victory.

Thirdly, that we develop every resource here at home. Measured by the tasks to be performed, there is plenty of work for all our people and they must all be kept busy to the limit of their skills and their capacities. We do not have enough scientists. We do not have enough teachers. We do not have enough doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, technicians of all kinds. Everywhere we turn, we find shortages of skills. Who says there isn't enough work to keep all Americans employed? There is work begging to be done. How do we fit the square pegs in the round holes?

One great bridge between the man and the job is the educational process. This isn't to say that with the proper school we can train anyone to do anything. It isn't to say that the answer to current unemployment is to send everyone to school. It is to say that we have great unfilled needs In the field of human skills, that we are doing too little about it, and that we cannot retain the

image of America as the strength and hope of the world unless we utilize every potential talent which we have wherever it may be found. It is time to deal with a national problem by providing a national answer to it.

We won't do it today, or tomorrow, by sitting on our hands. We will not do it today, or tomorrow, by smugly glorying in past victories. We will not do it today, or tomorrow, without thinking, without taking the people into our confidence - without asserting the creative and productive capacity which lies in the hearts and minds of a free people.

Someone once said, "the road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs." What he was saying is that the heart is often capable of greater decisions than the mind: The heart of America is its secret weapon.

©2002 The Edmund S. Muskie Foundation. All rights reserved.