Mandate for Change, 1953-1956

Mandate for Change, 1953-1956

Mandate for Change, 1953-1956

Mandate for Change, 1953-1956


When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property. -- Thomas Jefferson

ON January 20, 1953, I stood on a platform at the East Front of the Capitol in Washington to take the oath, administered by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, as the thirty-fourth President of the United States -- an office I was to hold for eight years.

Those were to be momentous years and the problems challenging the new administration were complex and urgent. Two wars, with the United States deeply engaged in one, and vitally concerned in the other, were raging in Eastern Asia; Iran seemed to be almost ready to fall into Communist hands; the NATO Alliance had as yet found no positive way to mobilize into its defenses the latent strength of West Germany; Red China seemed increasingly bent on using force to advance its boundaries; Austria was still an occupied country, and Soviet intransigence was keeping it so. European economies were not yet recovered from the effects of World War II. Communism was striving to establish its first beachhead in the Americas by gaining control of Guatemala.

At home we faced large and continuing deficits, the value of our currency was eroding rapidly, industrial conflict had been prevalent, the economy was limping along under wage and price controls, and taxes were more than burdensome. Our confidence was eroding, too. Americans had become divided -- over questions of loyalty, Communists in the government, and corruption of high public officials.

The story of our attack on such problems cannot be told in terms all black or all white. Those years brought to me -- and often to the nation -- satisfaction in many accomplishments, disappointments in certain failures.

They were prosperous years. In spite of one mild and one sharp recession the income and productivity of the nation advanced markedly . . .

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