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Sermon on the Mounting


The President's Inaugural Address was phrased in the usual "evangelical" fashion, as the Manchester Guardian put it. But his idealism was for once aimed, and not merely sprayed over the surface, and this is most encouraging. Most exciting was his elaboration of American obligations, based not only upon fear but upon a concept of positive international justice.

In outlining this concept, the President has enunciated a number of unusually sound criteria for American international action--for example, he emphasized that America must not be self-righteous, must not attempt to form "any artificial imitation" of American institutions on other peoples. Even more striking was his greeting to the peoples of Russia, in which he wished them a happy softening of purpose in the most moral of possible terms.

Unfortunately, the speech will probably mean little in practice. Because the President expects only unity, not conformity, does not mean that Red China will be admitted to the United Nations. The President's censure of self-rightiousness probably will not prevent John Foster Dulles from demanding special privileges in NATO. The moral approval of sharing burdens will not make the burdens much easier to share economically.

The immediate practical effect, however, is irrelevant. What is important is that the President has revealed not only good intentions, but awareness of what and how things must be done for America to appear more than a commercial bargainer in clerical robes. Equally important, the speech may convince many Americans that the beliefs (idealistic enough) which they have held as individuals for some time may appear before the world as something wholly American. Certainly, as an Eisenhower credo, it is the best yet.

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