Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address before a Joint Session of the National Congress and the Supreme Court of Brazil at Rio de Janeiro.

November 27, 1936

Your Excellency and Gentlemen of the Congress and of the Supreme Court of Brazil:

In early half a century ago a little boy was walking with his father and mother in a park of a city in Southern France. Toward them came a distinguished-looking elderly couple—Dom Pedro II and his Empress. That occasion was my first introduction to Brazil. In the years that have passed since that day—years measured by the splendid history of the Republic of Brazil—I have had the pleasure of meeting many of your statesmen and of becoming increasingly familiar with the problems which mutually affect our two Nations.

My visit to Rio de Janeiro today is therefore the realization of a growing desire to see Brazil with my own eyes. Every student has been told of the majestic beauty in which your great city is cradled. But Rio is unique in that the reality far exceeds our expectations. A visit—even of a single day— is one of the outstanding experiences of my life.

The loveliness of nature would have been enough to bring me here—but my visit has another purpose. I was unwilling to come so far abroad without tendering my respects to the Government of Brazil, that sister Nation with which for more than a century we have maintained a tradition of good understanding, mutual regard, and cooperation, which is rare in history.

I have had the honor of greeting your great President; and this personal friendship between the Chief Executives of our two Nations seems to me not only of practical benefit but also of profound significance.

You, gentlemen of the Congress, now afford me the courtesy of this agreeable opportunity of meeting in person the legislative branch of your Government and of exchanging thoughts directly with its members.

I could not but be deeply sensible of the unique honor offered by the presence in this chamber of your Supreme Court, a tribunal whose high traditions are known throughout the juridical world.

Thus, the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the Government of Brazil have united in this demonstration of friendship toward the Nation which I have the honor to represent.

Let me now return thanks for this renewed proof of that brotherhood which has ever united Brazil and the United States —a fraternity not limited to the relations between our Governments but a fraternity which I have reason to know is made evident in every group in both countries whenever and wherever they meet. The fine record of our relations is the best answer to those pessimists who scoff at the idea of true friendship between Nations. In the present state of the world it is heartening that the two largest countries in this Hemisphere have been able, by the exercise of good-will, good temper, and good sense, to conduct the whole course of their relations without clash or conflict or ill feeling.

Not only that. The confidence in each other's aims and motives enables us to work together for the common good. We have a record of which we can be proud—a record of joint endeavor in the cause of peace in this New World. My country has derived strength and confidence from the farsighted, irreproachable attitude of Brazil in its devotion to arbitration, conciliation, and other methods for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Your first concern, like ours, is peace, for we know that war destroys not only human lives and human happiness but destroys as well the ideals of individual liberty and of the democratic form of representative government, which is the goal of all the American Republics.

I think I can say that if in the generations to come we can live without war, democratic government throughout the Americas will prove its complete ability to raise the standards of life for those millions who cry for opportunity today. The motto of war is: "Let the strong survive; let the weak die." The motto of peace is: "Let the strong help the weak to survive."

There is room for all of us, without treading on one another's toes. There are resources of nature adequate for our present and our future. We are happily free from ancient antagonisms which have brought so much misery to other parts of the world.

There are, it is true, conflicts of interest between the American States, but they cannot be called serious or difficult of solution when compared with the deeply rooted hates of other continents. There is no American conflict—and I weigh my words when I say this—there is no American conflict that cannot be settled by orderly and peaceful means. And it is in our common interest imperative that they be settled always by agreement and not by bloodshed.

We serve not ourselves alone. The friendly Nations of the Americas can render no greater service to civilization itself than by maintaining both domestic and international peace and by freeing themselves forever from conflict.

We are about to gather in a great American Conference called by President Justo in furtherance of the good-neighbor policy in which we all share. In this Conference we have the opportunity to banish war from the New World and dedicate it to peace. It is unthinkable to me that in this time of world-wide apprehension we should fail to seize the opportunity to meet what is a heavy responsibility. This is no time to hesitate. We must be guided by a serene and generous view of our common needs.

World horizons may be dark, but the time is auspicious for our task in America. The rest of the world presents a grim picture of armed camps and threats of conflict. But on our own continent armed clashes which in recent years have divided American countries have been happily brought to an end. It is gratifying to be able to pay well-deserved tribute to the very outstanding part played by your able and distinguished Foreign Minister Macedo Soares in the mediatory efforts of the representatives of six American Republics. And the Leticia question was settled here in Rio through the patient assistance and masterly diplomacy of Dr. Afranio Mello Franco.

The progress we have made must not be allowed to serve as a pretext for resting on our laurels; it should, on the contrary, stimulate us to new and increased effort. It is not enough that peace prevails from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the Atlantic to the Pacific; it is essential that this condition be made permanent, that we provide effectively against the recurrence of the horrors of war, and assure peace to ourselves and our posterity.

All instrumentalities for the maintenance of peace must be consolidated and reinforced. We cannot countenance aggression, from wheresoever it may come. The people of each and every one of the American Republics—and, I am confident, the people of the Dominion of Canada as well—wish to lead their own lives free from desire for conquest and free from fear of conquest; free at the same time to expand their cultural and intellectual relationships and to take counsel together to encourage the peaceful progress of modern civilization.

Our aims will best be served by agreements which bring peace, security, and friendship among us and all our neighbors. Solidarity among the American States in the cause of peace constitutes no threat to other regions or races. The honorable adherence to solemn agreements among us will harm no other continent. On the contrary, the more firmly peace is established in this Hemisphere, the more closely we live up to the spirit as well as the letter of our agreements, the better it will be for all the rest of the world. Let us present a record which our Hemisphere may give to the world as convincing proof that peace lies always at hand when Nations, serene in their sovereign security, meet their current problems with understanding and good-will.

All of us have learned that no real, no lasting, prosperity can exist where it is secured at the expense of our neighbors; that among Nations, as in our domestic relations, the principle of interdependence is paramount. No Nation can live entirely to itself.

Each one of us has learned the glories of independence. Let each one of us learn the glories of interdependence. Economically we supply each other's needs; intellectually we maintain a constant, a growing exchange of culture, of science, and of thought; spiritually the life of each can well enrich the life of all.

We are showing in international relations what we have long known in private relations—that good neighbors make a good community.

In that knowledge we meet today as neighbors. We can discard the dangerous language of rivalry; we can put aside the empty phrases of "diplomatic triumphs" or "shrewd bargains." We can forget all thought of domination, of selfish coalitions, or of balances of power. Those false gods have no place among American neighbors.

Happily the relations between Brazil and the United States have transcended those lesser conceptions. Secure in unbroken respect and friendship, we meet with full respect, each for the other, with every hope that our mutual regard may prove useful to others as well.

There has never been a time when this confidence between Brazil and the United States was more precious or more needed.

I know from my enlightening conversation with President Vargas that we are entering the coming Conference deeply mindful of our responsibilities and the need to work in fullest understanding with all of the Republics of this Hemisphere. If we are guided by wisdom, such comprehension will banish conflict from this part of the world.

We are entitled to hope that we may thus contribute to the universal ideal that Nations throughout the entire world, laying weapons aside, may at last fulfill the greatest ambition which any Nation, large or small, can have—that of contributing steadily and, above all, generously to the advance of well-being, culture, and civilization throughout the changing years.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address before a Joint Session of the National Congress and the Supreme Court of Brazil at Rio de Janeiro. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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