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Atoms for Peace speech

Speaker: Dwight D Eisenhower
Delivered On: 12/8/1953
Place: UN General Assembly, New York City, NY
Subject: Nuclear energy
Audio/Video Available:



Description: On December 8th, 1953, President Eisenhower found himself giving a speech he never thought he’d have to give. He spoke about taking the existing nuclear weapons and harnessing the energy peacefully. He wanted to halt the nuclear arms race, and instead focus on peaceful acquisition of energy. Eisenhower’s speech was the inspiration behind the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1956. He diminished the importance of keeping nuclear arms a secret by saying that secrets like those only caused more conflict and gave the potential for inevitable warfare. The Atoms for Peace program aimed to stop the use of military nuclear weapons, and to prevent any other countries from building nuclear weapon supplies. The program did allow nuclear energy to be used in a positive way to build technology.
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Transcript/Log:

Members of the General Assembly. When Secretary General Hammarskjold's invitation to address this General Assembly reached me in Bermuda, I was just beginning a series of conferences with the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Great Britain and of France. Our subject was some of the problems that beset our world. During the remainder of the Bermuda conference, I had constantly in mind that ahead of me lay a great honor.

That honor is mine today, as I stand here, privileged to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. At the same time that I appreciate the distinction of addressing you, I have a sense of exhilaration as I look upon this assembly. Never before in history has so much hope for so many people been gathered together in a single organization. Your deliberations and decisions during these somber years have already realized part of those hopes.

The great test and the great accomplishments still lie ahead. In the confident expectation of those accomplishments, I would use the office, which for the time being I hold, to assure you that the government of the United States will remain steadfast in its support of this body. This we shall do in the conviction that you will provide a great share of the wisdom, of the courage, and the faith which can bring to this world lasting peace for all nations, and happiness and well-being for all men.

Clearly, it would not be fitting for me to take this occasion to present to you a unilateral American report on Bermuda. Nevertheless, I assure you that in our deliberations on that lovely island, we sought to invoke those same great concepts of universal peace and human dignity, which are so cleanly etched in your charter. Neither would it be a measure of this great opportunity, merely to recite, however hopefully, pious platitudes. I, therefore, decided that this occasion warranted my saying to you some of the things that have been on the minds and the hearts of my legislative and executive associates, and on mine for a great many months.

Thoughts I had originally planned to say primarily to the American People. I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all. Equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all. Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal, designed to ease, even by the smallest measure, the tensions of today's world, what more appropriate audience could there be than the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations? I feel impelled to speak today in a language that, in a sense, is new.

One, which I, who have spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use. That new language is the language of atomic warfare. The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace that every citizen of the world should have some comprehension, at least in comparative terms, of the extent of this development, of the utmost significance to every one of us.

Clearly, if the peoples of the world are to conduct an intelligent search for peace, they must be armed with the significant facts of today's existence. My recital of atomic danger and power is necessarily stated in United States terms. For these are the only incontrovertible facts that I know. I need hardly point out to this assembly, however, that this subject is global, not merely national in character. On July 16th, 1945, the United States set off the world's first atomic explosion.