Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address to a Postmasters Convention. Washington, D.C.

October 11, 1939

Mr. Postmaster General, Postmasters, Postmistresses and Friends of the Postal Service:

It is a privilege and a pleasure to greet you at the White House this afternoon.

To you, and through you, to all the postmasters of the Nation I want to express my heartfelt appreciation of all that you and they are doing to maintain our great postal system as the efficient institution that it has become under the able direction of our Postmaster General, your friend and mine. Today we may all share in the pride which by every right and token ought to thrill Jim Farley's kindly heart. He is doing a grand job and each one of you is contributing to it.

I am glad you are here in such goodly numbers because you represent, literally, the Nation's biggest business. The vast extent of the enterprise of which you are a part can best be measured if we pause to sum up the work.

The collection and dispatch of letters is only one aspect of your work. Our postal service, be it remembered, also comprises our largest savings bank, our largest express business, our largest system for the transmission of money, as well as the largest agency available to the people for the investment of their savings in government bonds.

The temptation would be strong, if I had the time, to examine the fascinating and romantic story of the postal service; not only the background of its marvelous development in our own country but its first beginnings back in the dawn of man's history.

We do not know when the first postal service came into being, but we do know that some twenty-five centuries ago Herodotus stated an ideal which is still exemplified by Jim Farley's cohorts, it was: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

It matters not what the means of transportation of the mails may be—whether the mules and camels of the Old Testament which Job said made his days "swifter than a post"—or those modern annihilators of distance, the train, the automobile and the airplane.

The mission of the postal service was admirably stated many years ago when two famous educators collaborated in interpreting the work which you are doing. Because I think all of you will carry home a clearer conception of your duties as postmasters if you accept their interpretation, I give you the words of Charles W. Eliot who was President of Harvard and President Woodrow Wilson, who had been President of Princeton, which you will find inscribed on the facade of our own central Post Office here in Washington:

One said, "Messenger of sympathy and love- servant of parted friends—consoler of the lonely—bond of the scattered family-enlarger of the common life."

The other said, "Carrier of news and knowledge—instrument of trade and industry—promoter of mutual acquaintance, of peace and good will among men and nations."

And so, my friends, let me say that I am very happy to see all of you here today and to have this opportunity to say hello, even though I cannot have the privilege or the time to shake you all by the hand. I hope your stay in Washington is a pleasant one and that you will carry back home bright memories of this successful convention which has brought you here.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to a Postmasters Convention. Washington, D.C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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