Words That Men Live By
Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1952)
CHICAGO, Ill., July 23, 1952 - Speaking with the forceful conviction that has increasingly marked her public life since widowhood, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt tonight declared that, despite the weakness of the United Nations, it must be supported because “the UN is the only machinery for the furtherance of peace that exists today.”
Herself a delegate of this government to the United Nations, Mrs. Roosevelt spoke before the Democratic National Convention. Her words were addressed both to those within her late husband’s political party who doubt the validity of the UN and to critics outside who consider it a political liability for Communist propaganda.
Mrs. Roosevelt recognized this criticism and met it in her usual forthright manner of speech. She cited the “torment and anguish” that has resulted from our heavy involvement in the Korean War, but she maintained that the United States had no choice but to take a stand, alongside other democratic members of the UN, against the expansion of communism by armed force. She quoted one famous ace in the Korean War as having stated the case quite clearly when he said in a public interview, “I fought in Korea so I would not have no fight on Main Street in Wichita.”
This speech by Mrs. Roosevelt was considered an outstanding example of her public expression in the individual role which she has been permitted by the circumstances of widowhood to assume, and of the personal force of her own character – however controversial some of her remarks may be – as it has been exhibited since Mr. Roosevelt’s death.
Now 67 years old, she has increased the tempo of her travels and writings, rather than diminished them. Her energy is so obvious that she could easily afford in the course of tonight’s address to refer laughingly to “the old lady speaking to you now.”
This and other speeches by Mrs. Roosevelt have been universally hailed as contributions to public thought about the long future of the UN, even by critics who take directly the opposite stand.
You are very kind to me and I am glad to have been asked to talk to you about the United Nations, about its past, about what it is doing today and more important, about its future.Printable version
I remember well, even though it seems a long time ago, for the first time a statement and the reasons way, when the war ended, we must make another try to create another world organization to help us keep the peace of the world. This talk took place in my husband’s study in the White House one evening during the bitter days of the war when victory was not yet in sight.
My husband, discussing what would happen after the war, turned to a friend and said in effect “When this war is over and we have won it, as we will, we must apply the hard lessons learned in the war and in the failure of the League of Nations to the task of building a society of nations dedicated to enduring peace. There will be sacrifices and discouragement’s but we must not fail for we may never have another chance.”
There have been sacrifices and discouragement’s, triumphs and set-backs. The United Nations is attempting to convert this last chance, carrying mankind’s best hope, into an effective instrument that will enable our children and our children’s children to maintain peace in their time. The path upon which we have set our course is not an easy one. The trail is often difficult to find. We must make our maps as we go along but we travel in good company with men and women of good-will in the free countries of the world.
Without the United Nations our country would walk alone, ruled by fear, instead of confidence and hope. To weaken or hamstring the United Nations now, through lack of faith and lack of vision, would be to condemn ourselves to endless struggle for survival in a jungle world.
In examining what the UN has done, and what it is striving to do, it must be remembered that peace, like freedom, is elusive, hard to come by, harder to keep. It cannot be put into a purse or a hip pocket and buttoned there to stay. To achieve peace we must recognize the historic truth that we can no longer live apart from the rest of the world. We must also recognize the fact that peace, like freedom, is not won once and for all. It is fought for daily, in many small acts, and is the result of many individual efforts.
These are days of shrinking horizons, a “neighborhood of nations though unhappily all of us are not as yet good neighbors.”
We should remember that the UN is not a cure-all. It is only an instrument capable of effective action when its members have a will to make it work. It cannot be any better than the individual nations are. You often ask what can I, as an individual, do to help the US, to help in the struggle for a peaceful world.
I answer – Make your own country the best possible country for all its citizens to live in and it will become a valuable member of the Neighborhood of Nations. This can only be done with home, community, representatives.
The UN is the machinery through which peace may be achieved and it is the responsibility of 60 nations and their delegations to make that machinery work. Yet you and I may carry the greatest responsibility because our national strength has given us opportunities for leadership among the nations of the free world.
The UN is the only machinery through which peace that exists today. There is a small articulate minority in this country which advocates changing our national symbol which is the eagle to that of the ostrich and withdrawing from the UN. This minority reminds me of a story of a shortsighted and selfish man who put green goggles on his cow and fed her sawdust. The cow became sick and died. I warn you against the shortsighted and selfish men who are trying to distort the vision of the American people. We must have eagle eyes. These men who lack vision are poor in hope. They turn their backs on the future and live I the past. They seek to weaken and destroy this world organization through their attacks on the UN. They are expressing a selfish, destructive approach which leads not to peace but to chaos and might eventually lead to World War Three….
This brings us to the action taken by the UN which has brought sorrow into many American homes. The Communist attack on Korea and the brilliant fight put up by our armies is a matter of history. When the attack occurred we had two choices. We could meet it or let aggression triumph by default and thereby invite further piecemeal conquests all over the Globe. This inevitably would have led to World War Three just as the appeasement of Munich and the seizure of Czechoslovakia led to World War Two, the most destructive war in history.
Great sacrifices have been made in Korea by our soldiers, and at home by mothers, wives and sweethearts in support of this UN action. To a more limited extent the same sacrfices have been made by other member nations. There is torment and anguished waiting in many homes this very night but at the same time there must be gratitude that our land has been preserved from attack and for all of us there must be pride in the proof of the staunchness and heroism of American men.
We pray for a just and lasting peace in Korea for the sake of the people of that land and for our own men and those soldiers of the United Nations fighting with them. We cannot hurry this peace until the Communists agree to honest terms. If you ask the reason why our men are in Korea I think it was perhaps best summed up by an American flying Ace, Major James Jabara, who upon returning to his home in Wichita, Kansas, in an interview was asked what his feelings were while fighting in Korea. Major Jabara said, “I fought in Korea so I would not have to fight on Main Street in Wichita.”
Korea was not only the first successful application of collective security on the part of the UN to stop aggression, without provoking general war, but it has stimulated a free world to build up its defenses. It has not been as quick in the achievements of results as it would have been if the UN had been fully organized to put down any aggression. It has been impossible to organize that machinery as yet because two nations, the US and the USSR haven’t been able to come to an agreement as to how this collective security within the UN may be organized. We think the fault lies with the USSR because she will not see that without a planned method of disarmament and control of all weapons, adequately verified through inspection, we and many other nations in the world cannot feel safe, but at least through the UN we can go on with negotiations and pray for a pure heart and clean hands which may eventually bring us the confidence even of the Soviet Union and lead us to the desired results.
In the UN we meet with the Communists and it is fortunate this meeting place exists. We know we can not relax our vigilance or stop our efforts to control the spread of communism. Their attacks on us in the UN have one great value – they keep us from forgetting our shortcomings or to become apathetic in our efforts to improve our democracy.
The UN has helped to keep the peace in many areas of the world, notably in Iran and Greece and Palestine and Indonesia, and Pakistan and India. These disputes might have spread into a general war and torn the free world apart and opened the way for Communist expansion and another world war.
While the UN came into being under the present Administration and President Truman has been steadfast in his support of the organization, the UN would not be in existence today if it were not for strong bi-partisan support in the very beginning.
….I beg you to keep an open mind, never to forget the interests of your own country but to remember your own country may be able to make a contribution which is valuable in the area of human rights and freedoms in joining with other nations not merely in a declaration but in covenants.
I returned not long ago from parts of the world where our attitude on human rights and freedoms affects greatly our leadership.
Some of you will probably be thinking that once upon a time the old lady speaking to you now, did a tremendous amount of traveling around the United States. In fact, you may remember a cartoon showing two men down in a cool mine, one man saying to the other: “Gosh, here comes Eleanor. Now what is she doing – traveling around the world just making more trouble?”
In World War Two when I visited so many hospitals in the Pacific I was glad I had traveled so much through my own country and could say to a lonely boy far form home: “You come from Lubbock, Texas?” The boy’s face would light up. “Yes ma’am. I remember when you were there.” I can only hope that in the future there may be some little unexpected values which will come out of these latest travels too.
I hope all our travels may serve the great common hope that through the United Nations peace may come to the world….