The 1950s were a time of great time of American prosperity; the country had just won World War II and was riding on postwar hype. However, this was overshadowed by conflicts with the communist Soviet Union during the cold war. The world was fearful of the differing viewpoints of the two world powers, and the possibility of total war between democratic and communistic governments. This fear was intensified by the sheer destruction that could be caused by a new weapon used during World War II, the atomic bomb. This technology was in the hands of both the Soviet Union and the United States, and total war between these two countries could lead to global annihilation. To address this issue, Dwight D. Eisenhower was invited to speak in front of the United Nations General Assembly in his speech "Atoms for Peace." Eisenhower's use of language effectively conveys to his audience the severity of the situation and firmly establishes America's stance on this issue.
The world was on edge about the conflicting viewpoints of the United States and the Soviet Union. In his speech Eisenhower had to defend the United States on its nuclear program while calming the world about the possibilities of atomic fallout. He does this effectively with his use of language in several situations. Even though many of the countries at the United Nations did not have atomic arms, Eisenhower unites the assembly by stating, "if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all; and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all." Through this statement he establishes that the world should have hope in the face of danger. Later in his speech Eisenhower also addresses that this technology will not always be held by a select few nations and expresses a point, "First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others, possibly all others." This also brings the issue of atomic weapons to all of the nations through establishing that this technology may be obtained by all and the possibility of what to do with this is shared by all. In figure 1, the vast number of people Eisenhower addresses is shown and the difficulty he would have had to unite the entire assembly, divided by language and culture, to the issue of atomic warfare.
Figure 1 “Dwight D. Eisenhower: Atoms for Peace.” Photograph. 8 Dec. 1953 American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.
Although Eisenhower seeks to unify the world, he does not shy away from the United States' stance on Atomic war and defines what the nation will do to address this issue. Throughout his speech Eisenhower states the power that the United States has and the will not to use it, although the United States will to defend itself. This is exemplified when Eisenhower states, "the retaliation capabilities of the Unites States are so great that such an aggressor's land would be laid waste, all this, while fact, is not the true expression of the purpose and the hope of the United States." This use of language shows the firm, resolute view of the United States without making the United States seem like a nation bent on warfare. In addition to stating the strength of the United States he also introduces the possibility of all the nations with atomic power to use some of that power to develop an agency devoted to the use of atomic power for peaceful methods. The strong language used throughout the speech shows the desire for a peaceful solution but also the United States firm stance on atomic warfare and the defense of the United States policies thus far.
The importance of this issue has not dwindled as several countries are developing nuclear weapons and world's stockpile of nuclear weapons still increases. However, through this speech the International Atomic Energy Agency was created, which has regulated and promoted peaceful use of atomic energy. Eisenhower's speech was effective in defending American policies and to establish a peaceful use for atomic energy rather than for war.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. "Atoms for Peace." United Nations General Assembly. 8 Dec. 1953.
American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.