Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Rollins College, Florida, on Receiving an Honorary Degree

March 23, 1936

President Holt, ladies and gentlemen:

I do not need to tell you that I am personally deeply honored in becoming an alumnus of Rollins College, not alone because of my deep interest in the work that is being so splendidly carried on here, but also because of the long-time personal friendship between your President and myself.

And there are two other reasons why I shall never forget the distinction that has been conferred on me by the President of the greatest institution of learning in the State of Florida. They are two reasons that have a lighter touch. It is the first time that I have had the privilege of seeing my better half in cap and gown. And, finally, I have attained a life-long ambition: At last my literary qualities have been recognized. They have been recognized not because I have published books—and here my friends of the press are going to wiggle and squirm—I am sure it is because in the older days I used to be editor-in-chief of my college paper.

But to come back to Rollins. It is because of the varied culture, the tireless industry and the independent thinking of Doctor Holt that his old friends everywhere in this country were not at all surprised when he substituted new ideas in education for old ideas.

These changes fearlessly inaugurated at Rollins are bearing fruit. They are being watched by educators and literary people all over. The very fact that in some respects they break away from some of the old academic moorings ought not to startle us. In education, as in politics, and in economics and social relationships, we hold fast to the old ideals, and all we change is our method of approach to the attainment of those ideals. I have often thought that stagnation always follows standing still. Continued growth is the only evidence that we have of life.

Yet growth and progress invariably and inevitably are opposed —opposed at every step, opposed bitterly and falsely and blindly. About a week ago I saw a very remarkable film, a picture of the life of Louis Pasteur; and in that film the great English chemist, Lister, said to Pasteur when Pasteur was being denounced as a charlatan and an impostor: "My dear Pasteur, every great benefit to the human race in every field of its activity has been bitterly fought in every stage leading up to its final acceptance."

And if that is true of the sciences, it is true of everything else that enters into our lives— true of agriculture, true of living conditions, true of labor, true of business and industry, and true of politics.

What has taken place at Rollins illustrates what I speak of as new approaches to old problems. If you abolish lectures and recitations and substitute the conference plan of study, you do not abandon the old ideals of culture. An amazing increase in the very number of things which an educated man must know today calls not only for more facts, but calls also for what might be called the third dimension in education—the tying together of all of the subjects and all of the facts into the relationship of their whole with modern life.

Just as you and I, and, indeed, the Faculty and the students in any college throughout the land, reach conclusions individually and collectively, so do the masses of our people individually and collectively approach governmental problems. All of us are greatly influenced by environment, by the people we see every day, by what we might call group association. If we analyze what a group is, we find that the family group is the oldest, the smallest, and yet through all the years of change the most important. And there are other groups to which almost every man and woman is tied, connected in some way. They are connected with some form of association—the church, the social circle, the club, the lodge, the labor organization, the neighboring farmers, the political party. Even business and commerce are almost wholly made up of groups.

The fact of this group existence and resulting group thinking brings forward one of the great problems of orderly Government functioning.

It is the problem of Government to harmonize the interests of these groups which are often divergent and opposing, to harmonize them in order to guarantee security and good for as many of their individual members as may be possible. The science of politics, indeed, may properly be said to be in large part the science of the adjustment of conflicting group interests.

In the community, local government must adjust small groups for community good. In States larger groups must be coordinated for the greater good of all the people within the State. In the Federal Government the problem is to adjust still greater groups in the interests of the largest group of all—a hundred and twentyfive million people in whom reposes the sovereignty of the United States of America. But it is well to remember that the individual citizen contributes most to the good of this largest group only when he or she thinks in terms of the largest group. Only if the spirit of that is carried out can democracy and the republican form of government permanently succeed.

Not long ago two nationally known gentlemen visited me, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I asked the opinion of each of them in regard to a suggested new tax to replace a former tax which had been declared unconstitutional. My friend of the morning replied, "I could not approve of that kind of tax. It would cost me many thousands of dollars." My friend of the afternoon said, "Why, a tax like that would, it is true, cost me many thousands of dollars, but I am inclined to think, Mr. President, that it is a fair tax, a tax equitable for the people of the Nation, the people as a whole, and, therefore, I would favor it."

There is the illustration! There is the illustration, and you can multiply it a thousandfold. If I were to write down the opinions of all who come to see me in every walk of life and from every part of the country, I could give you example after example teaching the same lesson—the individual who thinks of himself and the individual who thinks of the Nation.

The development of national understanding as opposed to purely individual or local group domination is growing by leaps and bounds throughout the country. It is the logical development of broader and better education. There is no question that, in every State of the Union, education has made greater strides in this generation than ever before in our history. It still has far to go. You and I are doing all we can to further this progress. And the other objective, the other reason perhaps, for a better understanding along national lines is the logical development of the extension, the moving forward of what I have sometimes called the policy of the good neighbor. The good neighbor is not just the man who lives next door to you. The objective includes the relationship not between you and him alone, but it includes the relationship between your family and his; it extends to all the people who live in the same block; it spreads to all the people who live in the same city and the same county and the same State; and most important of all for the future of our Nation, it must and shall extend to all your neighbors, to your fellow citizens in all the States and in all the regions that make up the Nation.

First of all, your duty and mine is to the Nation. If we perform that duty well—you and I- the policy of the good neighbor will in the long run assert itself so strongly, so victoriously, that it will spread to other peoples and other lands throughout the world. The ideal is there—developed to a greater or less extent among the masses of the people in every Nation. We cannot see it in Some places, but, under the surface, the ideal is there. We of the 'Western Hemisphere are working together to prove the practical value of this great ideal of peace and justice among men and among Nations.

May the good work go on.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Rollins College, Florida, on Receiving an Honorary Degree Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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