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We live in a moment when both military and civilian “servants” act as masters of us all. President Eisenhower saw this threat clearly 60 years ago but was ignored by both left and right and by both major political parties. According to the presidential archives, Eisenhower conceived his farewell address as a short speech, about 10 minutes long. When he delivered it on television, on Jan. 17, 1961, it took 15 minutes. In 1960, 87% of American households had a television set, so this was experienced as a live address in people’s living rooms. The whole address is worth reading and watching. Sadly, even in the first years after President Eisenhower’s remarks, his memorable phrase “military-industrial complex” swallowed up attention to the other equal danger of which he warned: a civilian technical elite intertwined with government.
Here is President Eisenhower’s farewell address, as delivered. The transcript to the press did not capture Eisenhower’s changes, so I added in his handwritten changes, using italics, and struck through any words he struck through. Square brackets set off my brief remarks and the core of the speech, where the two great threats are identified and explained. The underlined words are original to Eisenhower’s reading copy. The documents are available online at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.