Eisenhower on Free Speech

Speaking at Dartmouth’s Commencement exercises in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower had this to say about openness to ideas you disagree with:

Don’t join the book-burners.

Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It’s almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.

And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they’re accessible to others is unquestioned, or it’s not America.

Some of today’s Dartmouth faculty should follow his advice.

A recording of the speech, in MP3 format, is available on the Class of 1953 website.