Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Roosevelt Park, New York City

October 28, 1936

Governor Lehman, Mr. Mayor, my friends of the East Side:

There are some experiences in this life which give one new strength, new purpose to carry on. Today, at the Statue of Liberty, and before this great gathering, I obtain inspiration to go on · with the task that is mine. And I am very happy to see for the first time this park that was named after my dear mother, because I have not driven through here for two or three years. I can tell you very simply that I do not believe I have ever seen her made more happy in all her life than when this park was named after her. And it is something that I also shall always remember, and my children and my grandchildren in the years to come.

I have just come from the ceremonies at the Statue of Liberty. I suggested there that we should rededicate that Statue not to liberty alone but also to peace. I spoke there of the steady stream of human resources which the Old World poured on our shores and out of which our American civilization has been built.

Many of the people who came past the Statue of Liberty settled in this section of New York City. Here they wove into the pattern of American life some of the color, some of the richness of the cultures from which they came. Here they joined in that great process out of which we have welded our American citizenship. We gave them freedom. I am proud—America is proud—of what they have given to us.

They have never been—they are not now—half-hearted Americans. In Americanization classes and at night schools they have burned the midnight oil in order to be worthy of their new allegiance.

They were not satisfied merely to find here the realization of the material hopes which had guided them from their native land. They were not satisfied merely to build a material home for themselves and their families.

They were intent also upon building a place for themselves in the ideals of America. They sought an assurance of permanency in the new land for themselves and their children based upon active participation in its civilization and culture.

Those who have come here of late understand and appreciate our free institutions and our free opportunity, as well as those who have been here for many generations. The great majority of the new and the old do not confuse the word "liberty" with the word "license." They appreciate that the American standard of freedom does not include the right to do things which hurt their neighbors. All of us, old-comers and new-comers, agree that for the speculator to gamble with and lose the savings of the clients of his bank is just as contrary to American ideals of liberty as it is for the poor man to upset the peddler's cart and steal his wares. To our newer Americans America is a great discovery. They who have never been so free before rejoice in our freedom. Our liberty is warmed by the fire of their devotion.

I am inclined to think that in some cases the newer citizens have discharged their obligations to us better than we have discharged our obligations to them. For example, their coming helped to intensify the housing problem in many of our great cities. We have not yet worked out an adequate answer to that problem.

As a matter of fact, we have, for too long, neglected the housing problem for all our lower-income groups. We have spent large sums of money on parks, on highways, on bridges, on museums, and on other projects of civic betterment. For the most part that was money well spent. But we have not yet begun adequately to spend money in order to help the families in the overcrowded sections of our cities to live as American citizens have a right to live.

You and I will not be content until City, State and Federal Governments join with private capital in helping every American family to live that way.

We need action to get better city housing. Senator Wagner and I had hoped for a new law at the last session of the Congress. We who believe in better housing have not been defeated. I am confident that the next Congress will start us on our way with a sound housing policy. We shall certainly get it if on November 3d you vote. to send to Washington the kind of Government which I am confident you want—a Government which will continue to work for security of the home, for security of jobs, for security of savings, and for better homes in every part of the Nation.

My friends, let me thank you for this greeting that you have given me. It has been a wonderful day in my life, and I am going to end my speech now by cutting this cake.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Roosevelt Park, New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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