Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

November 04, 1944

This is not my first visit to Boston. I shall not review all my previous visits. I should have to go on talking for several days to do that—and radio time costs a lot of money.

But I want to recall one visit, back in October, 1928, when I came here to urge you to vote for a great American named Al Smith.

And you did vote for that eternally "Happy Warrior."

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts—and your good neighbor, Rhode Island- both went Democratic in 1928—four years before the rest of the Nation did.

This year—and I am making no predictions, I just have a little hope—this year we would like to welcome into the family Maine and Vermont.

And while I am speaking of that campaign of 1928, let me remind you that, having nominated Al Smith for the second time for the Presidency, I was then running at his request for the Governorship of New York. And people were then—even then -saying that my health would not permit me to discharge the duties of public office.

Well, you know, I think that it is by now a pretty well established fact that I managed to survive my four years as Governor of New York. And at the end of that time I went elsewhere.

In this connection, in 1928—that first year that I ran for Governor—Al Smith remarked publicly that the Governor of New York does not have to be an acrobat. And not many months before his untimely death, he remarked to me in my office in Washington, "It is perfectly evident that you don't have to be an acrobat to be President either."

When I talked here in Boston in 1928, I talked about racial and religious intolerance, which was then—as unfortunately it still is, to some extent—"a menace to the liberties of America."

And all the bigots in those days were gunning for Al Smith.

Religious intolerance, social intolerance, and political intolerance have no place in our American life.

Here in New England you have been fighting bigotry and intolerance for centuries. I reminded a genealogical society—I think they are called "ancestor worshippers"—I said to them that they knew that all of our people all over the country—except the pure-blooded Indians- are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, including even those who came over here on the Mayflower.

Today, in this war, our fine boys are fighting magnificently all over the world and among those boys are the Murphys and the Kellys, the Smiths and the Joneses, the Cohens, the Carusos, the Kowalskis, the Schultzes, the Olsens, the Swobodas, and—right in with all the rest of them- the Cabots and the Lowells.

All of these people, and others like them, are the life-blood of America. They are the hope of the world.

It is our duty to them to make sure that, big as this country is, there is no room in it for racial or religious intolerance—and that there is no room for snobbery.

Our young men and our young women are fighting not only for their existence, their homes, and their families. They also are fighting for a country and a world where men and women of all races, colors, and creeds can live, and work, and speak and worship—in peace, and freedom and security.

If we can shorten this war by one month—even by one minute —we shall have saved the lives of some of our young men and women. We must not let our comforts or conveniences, our politics or our prejudices, stand in the way of our determination to drive—to drive relentlessly and unflinchingly—over the hard road to final victory.

You and I- all of us who are war workers- must stay on the job!

Although victory over the Nazis and the Japanese is certain and inevitable—and I for one have never had one moment's doubt of our ultimate victory—the war is still far from over. There is tough, hard, bloody fighting ahead.

We got into this war because we were attacked by the Japanese—and because they and their Axis partners, Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, declared war on us.

I am sure that any real American- any real, red-blooded American- would have chosen, as this Government did, to fight when our own soil was made the object of a sneak attack. As for myself, under the same circumstances, I would choose to do the same thing- again and again and again.

When our enemies flung the gauge of battle at us, we elected to fight them in the American way, which meant that we went after them- and we started punching—and we are still punching. And we have driven our enemies into their own corner.

One of the tyrants, Mussolini, has been knocked out for the count. And the others are getting groggier and groggier every day.

We are made happy by the fact that the Italian people—our long-time friends—are started once again along the paths of freedom and peace.

I think that history will say that we were better prepared for this war than for any previous war in all our history.

On the day of Pearl Harbor, for example—the day before the declaration of war—we had more than two million men in our armed forces.

Our war production, started a year and a half before that, was rolling toward the gigantic volume of output that has been achieved.

Our Navy was building—indeed, it had been building ever since 1933. And we know why it went down. It started to build up again—when I first used P.W.A. funds to start a naval building program—that included our first modern carriers. One of those carriers, by the way, that you have read of, authorized ten years ago, was the Enterprise—a name well known throughout New England, the original Enterprise being the hero of the War of 1812—but this new Enterprise, a grand and gallant ship, has also covered herself with glory all through this war, and was in there fighting last week in the great victory in Philippine waters.

But—in addition to our physical preparedness—we had something far more important- spiritual preparedness.

The American people were ready for it. On the day of Pearl Harbor they rose up as one man with a mighty shout—a shout heard 'round the world—the shout of "Let's go!"

And we went!

Everywhere I go I find that the American citizen is doing some hard thinking these days about what sort of government he wants during the next four years.

The memory of our people is not short. The years from 1929 to 1933 are thoroughly and grimly remembered by millions of our citizens- by workers who lost their jobs and their homes, by farmers who lost their crops and their farms, by families who lost their savings.

Since those dark days early in 1933, many fortifications have been built to protect the people of this country—just as we promised that there would be.

What kind of fortifications? Well, fortifications, for example, which have provided protection for your bank deposits and your investments—your standard of living—your right to organize unions and to bargain collectively with your employers.

Your fortifications protect your soil and rivers and trees-your heritage of natural resources. They provide you with protection against the hazards of unemployment and old age—they protect you against inflation and runaway prices.

These fortifications are now manned by zealous defenders-and these defenders are not Communists, and these defenders are not fossils.

Can the citizens of the Nation now afford to turn over these bulwarks to the men who raised every possible obstacle to their original construction?

Does the average American believe that those who fought tooth and nail against progressive legislation during the past twelve years can be trusted to cherish and preserve that legislation?

Can it be that those who financed the bitter opposition to the New Deal through all these years have made an about-face and are now willing and able to fight for the objectives of the New Deal?

We have all heard Republican orators in this campaign call this Administration everything under the sun, and they promise that they, if elected—and oh, my friends, what a big "if" that is—they promise that if elected they would institute the biggest house-cleaning in history. It sort of brings to my mind that that is just the thing that the "outs" always say.

What a job that would be, that house-cleaning! It would mean, among other things, sweeping out with my Administration the most efficient and most patriotic Republicans that could be found in the whole country.

But—despite these campaign promises of wholesale housecleaning—have you heard one word of specific criticism of any of the progressive laws that this Administration has proposed and enacted?

Have you heard any talk of sweeping out any of these laws or sweeping out any of the agencies that administer them?

Oh, no, on that subject the Republican politicians are very uncharacteristically silent.

This Administration has made mistakes. That I freely assert. Assert. And I hope my friends of the press will not change that to admit.

But, my friends, I think it is a pretty good batting average. .Our mistakes have been honestly made during sincere efforts to help the great mass of citizens. Never have we made the inexcusable mistake—we know some who have—of substituting talk for action when farms were being foreclosed, homes were being sold at auction, and people were standing in breadlines.

I thank God that it cannot be charged that at any time, under any circumstances, have we made the mistake of forgetting our sacred obligation to the American people.

And, I might add, never will we make that kind of mistake.

Is it conceivable to you that this Administration with its record of very deep concern for human welfare could ever be guilty of neglect of the welfare of our fighting men?

When your sons, and my sons, come home from the battle fronts—and they are coming home just as quickly as they are no longer needed for the essential job of this war—we are going to see that they have work—honest, self-respecting jobs.

We are going to see to it that those of them seeking farms get a real chance to settle on land of their own.

We are going to see to it that those who hope to establish businesses have a legitimate and fair opportunity to do so.

The American people are quite competent to judge a political party that works both sides of a street—a party that has one candidate making campaign promises of all kinds of added government expenditures in the West, while a running mate of his demands less government expenditures in the East.

You know—just as an aside, and I think I can speak freely to my old friends here in Boston—this is really a funny campaign.

I think I heard some campaign orator say that Secretary Hull and the rest of us had done such a fine job with the Good Neighbor policy and our plans for world peace—that it is time for a change.

I believe I heard some campaign orator say that the "incompetent" Administration had developed a program that was so good for the farmers and the businessmen and the workers of the Nation—that it is time for a change.

I think I heard some campaign orator- you can identify him —say that we have so thoroughly shifted the control over the banks from Wall Street and State Street to Washington, D. C. that it is time for a change.

And I am quite sure that I have heard somebody say that this "chaotic" Administration has done such an amazing job of war production- that it is time for a change.

I think I even heard somebody say that these "tired, quarrelsome" old men—are waging such a victorious war- that it is time for a change.

Well—if it is time for a change- the way to get it in this democracy is by means of votes. Whether I win or lose, I want to see a turnout next Tuesday of the biggest vote in all American history.

And I am hoping to see fifty million American voters go to the polls.

We could not find a better way to tell our boys overseas that the country they are fighting for is still going strong.

Just the other day you people here in Boston witnessed an amazing demonstration of talking out of both sides of the mouth.

Speaking here in Boston, a Republican candidate said—and pardon me if I quote him correctly—that happens to be an old habit of mine—he said that, quote, "the Communists are seizing control of the New Deal, through which they aim to control the Government of the United States." Unquote.

However, on that very same day, that very same candidate had spoken in Worcester, and he said that with Republican victory in November, quote, "we can end one-man government, and we can forever remove the threat of monarchy in the United States."

Now, really—which is it—Communism or monarchy?

I do not think that we could have both in this country, even if we wanted either, which we do not.

No, we want neither Communism nor monarchy. We want to live under our Constitution which has served pretty well for a hundred and fifty-five years. And, if this were a banquet hall instead of a ball park, I would propose a toast that we will continue to live under this Constitution for another hundred and fifty-five years.

I must confess that often in this campaign, I have been tempted to speak my mind with sharper vigor and greater indignation.

Everybody knows that I was reluctant to run for the Presidency again this year. But since this campaign developed, I tell you frankly that I have become most anxious to win- and I say that for the reason that never before in my lifetime has a campaign been filled with such misrepresentation, distortion, and falsehood. Never since 1928 have there been so many attempts to stimulate in America racial or religious intolerance.

When any politician or any political candidate stands up and says, solemnly, that there is danger that the Government of the United States—your Government—could be sold out to the Communists- then I say that that candidate reveals- and I'll be polite—a shocking lack of trust in America.

He reveals a shocking lack of faith in democracy—in the spiritual strength of our people.

If there was ever a time in which that spiritual strength of our people was put to the test, that time was in the terrible depression from 1929 to 1933.

Our people, in those days, might have turned to alien ideologies—like Communism or Fascism.

But—our democratic faith was too sturdy. What the American people demanded in 1933 was not less democracy but more democracy, and that's what they got.

The American people proved in the black days of depression—as they have proved again in this war—that there is no chink in the armor of democracy.

On this subject—and on all subjects—I say to you, my friends, what I said when first you conferred upon me the exalted honor of the Presidency:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

And today I can add a corollary to that. I do not think that you will ever cast the majority of your votes for fearful men.

We face the enormous, the complex problems of building with our allies a strong world structure of peace.

In doing that historic job, we shall be standing before a mighty bar of judgment—the judgment of all of those who have fought and died in this war—the judgment of generations yet unborn -the very judgment of God.

I believe that we Americans will want the peace to be built by men who have shown foresight rather than hindsight.

Peace, no less than war, must offer a spirit of comradeship, a spirit of achievement, a spirit of unselfishness, and indomitable will to victory.

We in this country have waged war against the wilderness-against the mountains and the rivers—against droughts and storms. We have waged war against ignorance- against oppression—against intolerance.

We have waged war against poverty- against disease.

We fought the Revolutionary War for the principle that all men are created equal—and in those days we pledged "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

This war, which we are now fighting, has been an interruption in the story of our forward progress; but it has also opened a new chapter- a chapter which it is now for us the living to begin.

At the end of this war this country will have the greatest material power of any Nation in the world.

It will be a clean, shining America- richer than any other in skilled workers, in engineers, and farmers, and businessmen, and scientists.

It will be an America in which there is a genuine partnership between the farmer and the worker and the businessman—in which there are abundant jobs and an expanding economy of peace.

All around us we see an unfinished world—a world of awakened peoples struggling to set themselves on the path of civilization- people struggling everywhere to achieve a higher cultural and material standard of living.

I say we must wage the coming battle for America and for civilization on a scale worthy of the way that we have unitedly waged the battles against tyranny and reaction, and wage it through all the difficulties and the disappointments that may ever clog the wheels of progress.

And I say that we must wage it in association with the United Nations with whom we have stood and fought—with that association ever growing.

I say that we must wage a peace to attract the highest hearts, 'the most competent hands and brains.

That, my friends, is the conception I have of the meaning of total victory.

And that conception is founded on faith—faith in the unlimited destiny—the unconquerable spirit of the United States of America.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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