51. Address by President Ford 1

[Omitted here is discussion of domestic policy.]

Now let me turn, if I might, to the international dimension of the present crisis. At no time in our peacetime history has the state of the Nation depended more heavily on the state of the world. And seldom, if ever, has the state of the world depended more heavily on the state of our Nation.

The economic distress is global. We will not solve it at home unless we help to remedy the profound economic dislocation abroad.2 World trade and monetary structure provides markets, energy, food, and vital raw materials—for all nations. This international system is now in jeopardy.

This Nation can be proud of significant achievements in recent years in solving problems and crises. The Berlin agreement, the SALT agreements, our new relationship with China, the unprecedented efforts in the Middle East are immensely encouraging. But the world is not free from crisis. In a world of 150 nations, where nuclear technology is proliferating and regional conflicts continue, international security cannot be taken for granted.

So, let there be no mistake about it: International cooperation is a vital factor of our lives today. This is not a moment for the American people to turn inward. More than ever before, our own well-being depends on America’s determination and America’s leadership in the whole wide world.

We are a great Nation—spiritually, politically, militarily, diplomatically, and economically. America’s commitment to international security has sustained the safety of allies and friends in many areas—in the Middle East, in Europe, and in Asia. Our turning away would unleash new instabilities, new dangers around the globe, which, in turn, would threaten our own security.

At the end of World War II, we turned a similar challenge into an historic opportunity and, I might add, an historic achievement. An old order was in disarray; political and economic institutions were shattered. In that period, this Nation and its partners built new institutions, [Page 266] new mechanisms of mutual support and cooperation. Today, as then, we face an historic opportunity. If we act imaginatively and boldly, as we acted then, this period will in retrospect be seen as one of the great creative moments of our Nation’s history.

The whole world is watching to see how we respond.

A resurgent American economy would do more to restore the confidence of the world in its own future than anything else we can do. The program that this Congress passes can demonstrate to the world that we have started to put our own house in order. If we can show that this Nation is able and willing to help other nations meet the common challenge, it can demonstrate that the United States will fulfill its responsibilities as a leader among nations.

Quite frankly, at stake is the future of industrialized democracies, which have perceived their destiny in common and sustained it in common for 30 years.

The developing nations are also at a turning point. The poorest nations see their hopes of feeding their hungry and developing their societies shattered by the economic crisis. The long-term economic future for the producers of raw materials also depends on cooperative solutions.

Our relations with the Communist countries are a basic factor of the world environment. We must seek to build a long-term basis for coexistence. We will stand by our principles. We will stand by our interests. We will act firmly when challenged. The kind of a world we want depends on a broad policy of creating mutual incentives for restraint and for cooperation.

As we move forward to meet our global challenges and opportunities, we must have the tools to do the job.

Our military forces are strong and ready. This military strength deters aggression against our allies, stabilizes our relations with former adversaries, and protects our homeland. Fully adequate conventional and strategic forces cost many, many billions, but these dollars are sound insurance for our safety and for a more peaceful world.

Military strength alone is not sufficient. Effective diplomacy is also essential in preventing conflict, in building world understanding. The Vladivostok negotiations with the Soviet Union represent a major step in moderating strategic arms competition. My recent discussions with the leaders of the Atlantic community, Japan, and South Korea have contributed to meeting the common challenge.

But we have serious problems before us that require cooperation between the President and the Congress. By the Constitution and tradition, the execution of foreign policy is the responsibility of the President.

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In recent years, under the stress of the Vietnam war, legislative restrictions on the President’s ability to execute foreign policy and military decisions have proliferated.3 As a Member of the Congress, I opposed some and I approved others. As President, I welcome the advice and cooperation of the House and the Senate.

But if our foreign policy is to be successful, we cannot rigidly restrict in legislation the ability of the President to act.4 The conduct of negotiations is ill-suited to such limitations. Legislative restrictions, intended for the best motives and purposes, can have the opposite result, as we have seen most recently in our trade relations with the Soviet Union.

For my part, I pledge this Administration will act in the closest consultation with the Congress as we face delicate situations and troubled times throughout the globe.

When I became President only 5 months ago, I promised the last Congress a policy of communication, conciliation, compromise, and cooperation. I renew that pledge to the new Members of this Congress.

[Omitted here are general concluding remarks.]

  1. Source: Public Papers: Ford, 1975, Book I, pp. 36–46. The President delivered his State of the Union address at 1:06 p.m. in the House Chamber at the Capitol. His remarks were broadcast live on nationwide radio and television networks.
  2. On January 13, Ford gave a televised address from the White House Lincoln Library, in which he briefed the public on his programs to address inflation and the energy crisis. The text is ibid., pp. 30–35.
  3. The Case-Zablocki Act of 1972 required the President to submit to Congress all international agreements within 60 days of their execution. The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973 over Nixon’s veto, more specifically mandated consultation between the executive and legislative branches prior to the commitment of U.S. forces into hostilities, prohibited the extension of troop commitments beyond 60 days without specific congressional authorization, and permitted Congress, via concurrent resolution, to direct the president to disengage U.S. troops in the absence of either a declaration of war or congressional authorization.
  4. During the President’s January 21 news conference, a reporter revisited this statement and inquired if Ford was making an oblique reference to the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act. Ford responded: “I don’t wish to get in any dispute with Members of Congress. I think that such restrictive amendments as the one that was imposed on the trade bill and the Eximbank legislation and the limitation that was imposed on several pieces of legislation involving the continuation of military aid to Turkey, those kinds of limitations, in my judgment, are harmful to a President in the execution and implementation of foreign policy.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1975, Book I, p. 69)