My Fellow Americans — here in Washington, in your homes across the nation and abroad — and in our country’s service around the world:
This evening’s ceremony, here at the White House, is one of many thousands in America’s traditional celebration of the birth, almost 2,000 years ago, of the Prince of Peace.
For us, this Christmas is truly a season of good will — and our first peaceful one since 1949. Our national and individual blessings are manifold. Our hopes are bright even though the world still stands divided in two antagonistic parts.
More precisely than in any other way, prayer places freedom and communism in opposition, one to the other. The communist can find no reserve of strength in prayer because his doctrine of materialism and statism denies the dignity of man and consequently the existence of God. But in America, George Washington long ago rejected exclusive dependence upon mere materialistic values. In the bitter and critical winter at Valley Forge, when the cause of liberty was so near defeat, his recourse was sincere and earnest prayer. From it, he received new hope and new strength of purpose, out of which grew the freedom in which we celebrate this Christmas season.
As religious faith is the foundation of free government, so is prayer an indispensable part of that faith.
Tonight, richly endowed in the good things of the earth, in the fellowship of our neighbors and the love of our families, would it not be fitting for each of us to speak in prayer to the Father of all men and women on this earth, of whatever nation, and of every race and creed — to ask that He help us — and teach us — and strengthen us — and receive our thanks.
Should we not pray that he help us? Help us to remember that the founders of this, our country, came first to these shores in search of freedom — freedom of man to walk in dignity; to live without fear; beyond the yoke of tyranny; ever to progress. Help us to cherish freedom, for each of us and for all nations.
Might we not pray that he teach us? Teach us to shun the counsel of defeat and of despair of self-pride and self-deceit. Teach us, and teach our leaders, to seek to understand the problems and the needs of all our people. Teach us how those problems may reach solution in wisdom and how best those needs may be met. But teach us, also, that where there may be special problems, there can be no special rights; and though there may be special needs, there can be no special privileges. Teach us to require of all those who seek to lead us, these things: integrity of purpose, the upright mind, selfless sacrifice and the courage of the just. Teach us trust and hope and self-dependence. Teach us the security of faith.
And may we pray that he strengthen us. Strengthen us in understanding ourselves and others — in our homes, in our country and in our world. Strengthen our concern for brotherhood. Strengthen our conviction that whatever we, as Americans, would bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America. Strengthen our efforts to forge abroad those links of friendship, which must one day encircle the world if its people are to survive and live in peace.
Lastly, should we not pray that he receive our thanks? For certainly we are grateful for all the good we find about us, for the opportunity given us to use our strength and our faith to meet the problems of this hour. And on this Christmas Eve, all hearts in America are filled with special thanks to God that the blood of those we love no longer spills on battlefields abroad. May he receive the thanks of each of us for this, his greatest bounty — and our supplication that peace on earth may live with us, always.