Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Montevideo, Uruguay.

December 03, 1936

Your Excellency President Terra, and Senora de Terra:

It is a privilege today to be the guest of the Government of the Republic of Uruguay, and it is a great personal pleasure to which I have looked forward for many years. Here three years ago, in this beautiful city of Montevideo, there was born a new era of friendship and confidence among the Americas. No one is entitled to more credit for this new day than Your Excellency, for you labored unceasingly and generously both as host and as statesman for the success of that conference.

I believe that when history comes to be written, the origin of the new American era will be placed here in the memorable year 1933. Truly, it is an inspiration for the average citizen of all our Republics that that conference is giving back its fruits in terms of achievement for the people of the world. During the past week I have become certain of this because I have seen in the faces of the men, women, and children in Rio de Janeiro, in Buenos Aires, and, today, in Montevideo a joyful expression of hope and faith which can and will inspire us, their chosen representatives, to even greater activity in the common cause.

You, Mr. President, have used a term in speaking of that great patriot, General Artigas, which can well be the inspiration of us all. You have spoken of his "serene and noble spirit of applied justice." It is because of this spirit which actuated the founding fathers of the American Republics that we their followers are inspired to maintain the democratic principles for which they fought.

I am particularly grateful for the kind words which you, Mr. President, have spoken concerning our policies in the United States of America. We fully join with you in the thought that the first battlefield of peace is that of securing well-being at home. It has been of special interest to me to know that you in the Republic of Uruguay have made such great advances in behalf of the well-being of your citizens.

In the days of General Artigas and of his friend President Monroe, human society had, of course, little conception of the economic and social problems which we face today. None of the fathers of any of our Republics had even heard of an eight-hour day, of minimum wages, of protection for women and children, of collective bargaining between employers and employees, of old-age security, of modern sanitation, of concrete highways, of railroads or steel buildings. The fathers had no thought of the telegraph, the radio, the automobile, or of travel by fast steamships and by air. They knew little of the problems of modern science, of modern finance.

And yet, you and I are very certain that if they were alive today the founders of our Governments would look with approval on what we are seeking to do to use the processes of democratic government in solving the new problems.

I recognize, as you do, that these new problems are common to all our Nations. I am glad that you have said that we have been compelled to abandon the comfortable attitude of statesmen of the old school. Every Nation in all the world has been compelled to recognize the fact of new conditions. It is of the utmost importance that the Nations of the New World have found it possible under vigorous leadership to find the answer within the spirit and the framework of constitutional government and democratic processes.

We have not completed our task. In accordance with the objectives and theory of democratic government, that task is a continuing one. We seek new remedies for new conditions; new conditions will continue to arise: sometimes the remedies succeed, and sometimes they must be altered or improved. But the net result is that we move forward. We learn, and ought to learn, much from each other—much that is good and some things which, from experience, we must avoid.

In the case of agriculture, for example, you are familiar with the fact that in the United States we did many things in the past which ran counter to the laws of nature and of sensible economics. .In many parts of my country we have used land in such a way as to diminish its productiveness, we have harmed our supply of water, and we have lost our topsoil. Today our Government seeks to work with our farming population in correcting these mistakes and in bringing back a greater prosperity and a more permanent use of the land. I cite this as an example, which you undoubtedly know of, to show the need among all our Republics of keeping in close touch with each other, for many of our problems are similar.

On this delightful visit to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay I have been impressed with the immediate need for better and quicker services of travel and communication between North and South America. I look forward to the day when, instead of the journey being long and unusual, visits between the Nations of South America and those of Central America and of North America will be so usual and simple that tens of thousands of our citizens will meet each other in friendly intercourse every year.

And may I add that I hope that we shall have a much greater familiarity with each other's language. It is a great regret of my life that while with some difficulty I can read a little Spanish I cannot yet converse in it. These visits which I am making on this voyage are so enjoyable in every way that I look forward to an opportunity to return in the future. When that day comes I hope that I shall be able to speak with all of you in your native tongue.

And may I also express the hope that it will be possible for you, Mr. President and Senora de Terra, to be the guests of Mrs. Roosevelt and myself in Washington while we are still in the White House. Nothing would give us and the people of the United States more pleasure.

It has touched me deeply that you have proposed a toast to Mrs. Roosevelt. She was deeply disappointed that she could not come with me, and she will be happy to know of your courtesy and of your thought of her.

I lift my glass to the good health and happiness of you and Senora de Terra, and to the continued prosperity, happiness, and progress of the people of the Republic of Uruguay.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Montevideo, Uruguay. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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