Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Address at Soldiers' Field, Chicago, Illinois.

October 28, 1944

The American people are now engaged in the greatest war of all history—and we are also engaged in a political campaign.

We are fighting this war and we are holding this election both for the same essential reason: because we have faith in democracy.

And there is no force and there is no combination of forces powerful enough to shake that faith.

As you know, I have had some experience in war—and I have also had a certain amount of previous experience in political campaigning.

But I must confess to you that this is the strangest campaign I have ever seen.

I have listened to the various Republican orators who are urging the people to throw the present Administration out and put them in. And what do they say?

Well, they say in effect, just this:

"Those incompetent blunderers and bunglers in Washington have passed a lot of excellent laws about social security and labor and farm relief and soil conservation- and many others- and we promise that if elected we will not change any of them."

And they go on to say, "Those same quarrelsome, tired old men- they have built the greatest military machine the world has ever known, which is fighting its way to victory, and," they say, "if you elect us, we promise not to change any of that, either."

"Therefore," say these Republican orators, "it is time for a change."

They also say in effect, "Those inefficient and worn-out crackpots have really begun to lay the foundations of a lasting world peace. If you elect us, we will not change any of that, either." "But," they whisper, "we'll do it in such a way that we won't lose the support even of Gerald Nye or Gerald Smith- and this is very important—we won't lose the support of any isolationist campaign contributor. Why, we will be able to satisfy even the Chicago Tribune."

Tonight I want to talk simply to you about the future of America—about this land of ours, this land of unlimited opportunity. I shall give the Republican campaign orators some more opportunities to say—"me too."

Today, everything we do is devoted to the most important job before us—winning the war and bringing our men and women home as quickly as possible.

We have astonished the whole world and confounded our enemies with our stupendous war production, with the overwhelming courage and skill of our fighting men—with the bridge of ships carrying our munitions and men through the seven seas -with our gigantic fleet which has pounded the enemy all over the Pacific and has just driven through for another touchdown.

Yes, the American people are prepared to meet the problems of peace in the same bold way that they have met the problems of war.

For the American people are resolved that when our men and women return home from this war, they shall come back to the best possible place on the face of the earth- they shall come back to a place where all persons, regardless of race, and color, or creed or place of birth, can live in peace and honor and human dignity- free to speak, free to pray as they wish—free from want- and free from fear.

Last January, in my message to the Congress on the State of the Union, I outlined an Economic Bill of Rights on which "a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all."

And I repeat it now:

"The right of a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;"The right of every family to a decent home;

"The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

"The right to adequate protection from the economic-fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

"The right to a good education."

Now, what do those rights mean? They "spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being."

Some people—I need not name them- have sneered at these ideals as well as at the ideals of the Atlantic Charter, the ideals of the Four Freedoms. They have said that they were the dreams of starry-eyed New Dealers—that it is silly to talk of them because we cannot attain these ideals tomorrow or the next day.

The American people have greater faith than that. I know that they agree with these objectives—that they demand them -that they are determined to get them- and that they are going to get them.

The American people have a good habit—the habit of going right ahead and accomplishing the impossible.

We know that, and other people know it. Today, there are those that know it best of all: the Nazis and the Japs.

Now, this Economic Bill of Rights is the recognition of the simple fact that, in America, the future of the worker, the future of the farmer lies in the well-being of private enterprise; and that the future of private enterprise lies in the well-being of the worker and the farmer. It goes both ways.

And the well-being of the Nation as a whole is synonymous with the well-being of each and every one of its citizens.

Now I have the possibly old-fashioned theory that when you have problems to solve, when you have objectives to achieve, you cannot get very far by just talking about them.

We have got to go out and do something!

To assure the full realization of the right to a useful and remunerative employment, an adequate program must, and if I have anything to do about it will, provide America with close to sixty million productive jobs.

I foresee an expansion of our peacetime productive capacity that will require new facilities, new plants, new equipment-capable of hiring millions of men.

I propose that the Government do its part in helping private enterprise to finance expansion of our private industrial plant through normal investment channels.

For example, business, large and small, must be encouraged by the Government to expand its plants, to replace its obsolete or worn-out equipment with new equipment. And to that end, the rate of depreciation on these new plants and facilities for tax purposes should be accelerated. That means more jobs for the worker, increased profits for the businessman, and a lower cost to the consumer.

In 1933, when my Administration took office, vast numbers of our industrial workers were unemployed, our plants and our businesses were idle, our monetary and banking system was in ruins—our economic resources were running to waste.

But by 1940—before Pearl Harbor—we had increased our employment by ten million workers. We had converted a corporate loss of five and one-half billion dollars in 1932, to a corporate profit (after taxes) of nearly five billion dollars in 1940.

Obviously, to increase jobs after this war, we shall have to in- crease demand for our industrial and agricultural production not only here at home, but abroad also.

I am sure that every man and woman in this vast gathering here tonight will agree with me in my conviction that never again must we in the United States attempt to isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity.

I am convinced that, with Congressional approval, the foreign trade of the United States can be trebled after the war—providing millions of more jobs.

Such cooperative measures provide the soundest economic foundation for a lasting peace. And, after this war, we do not intend to settle for anything less than a lasting peace.

When we think of the America of tomorrow, we think of many things.

One of them is the American home—in our cities, in our villages, on our farms. Millions of our people have never had homes worthy of American standards—well built homes, with electricity and plumbing, air and sunlight.

The demand for homes and our capacity to build them call for a program of well over a million homes a year for at least ten years. Private industry can build and finance the vast majority of these homes. Government can and will assist and encourage private industry to do this, as it has for many years. For those very low income groups that cannot possibly afford decent homes, the Federal Government should continue to assist local housing authorities in meeting that need.

In the future America that we are talking about, we think of new highways, new parkways. We think of thousands of new airports to service the new commercial and private air travel which is bound to come after the war. We think of new planes, large and small, new cheap automobiles with low maintenance and operation costs. We think of new hospitals and new health clinics. We think of a new merchant marine for our expanded world trade.

My friends, think of these vast possibilities for industrial expansion—and you will foresee opportunities for more millions of jobs.

And with all that, our Economic Bill of Rights—like the sacred Bill of Rights of our Constitution itself—must be applied to all our citizens, irrespective of race, or creed or color.

Three years ago, back in 1941, I appointed a Fair Employment Practice Committee to prevent discrimination in war industry and Government employment. The work of that Committee and the results obtained more than justify its creation.

I believe that the Congress of the United States should by law make the Committee permanent.

America must remain the land of high wages and efficient production. Every full-time job in America must provide enough for a decent living. And that goes for jobs in mines, offices, factories, stores, and canneries—everywhere where men and women are employed.

During the war we have been compelled to limit wage and salary increases for one great objective—to prevent runaway inflation. You all know how successfully we have held the line by the way your cost of living has been kept down for the necessities of life.

However, at the end of the war there will be more goods available, and it is only common sense to see to it that the working man is paid enough, and that the farmers earn enough, to buy these goods and keep our factories running. It is a simple fact, likewise, that a greatly increased production of food and fiber on the farms can be consumed by the people who work in industry only if those people who work in industry have enough money to buy food and clothing. If industrial wages go down, I can assure you that farm prices will go down too. After the war, we shall of course remove the control of wages and leave their determination to free collective bargaining between trade unions and employers.

And we of the cities, in this war, must remember that the American farmer has been called upon to do far and away the biggest food production job in all our history.

The American farmer has met that challenge triumphantly.

Despite all manner of wartime difficulties—shortage of farm labor and of new farm machinery- the American farmer has achieved a total of food production which is one of the great wonders of the world.

The American farmer is a great producer; and he must have the means also to be a great consumer. For more farm income means more jobs everywhere in the Nation.

Let us look back for a moment to 1932, a year of unhappy memories. All of us remember the spreading tide of farm foreclosures; we remember four-cent hogs, twenty-cent wheat, five-cent cotton.

I am going to give you, very simply, some figures of recovery —and I am sure you will pardon me if I quote them correctly. For as I remarked at Fort Wayne this afternoon, it is my habit to quote figures correctly, even when I was Governor of the State of New York, many years ago.

In those days of 1932, the American farmers' net income was only two and a quarter billion dollars.

In 1940 —a year before we were attacked- farm income in the United States was more than doubled. It was up to five and a half billion dollars.

And this year—in 1944—it will be approximately thirteen and one-half billion dollars.

I take it that the American farmer does not want to go back to a Government owned by the moguls of 1929—and let us bear it constantly in mind that those same moguls still control the destinies of the Republican Party.

We must continue this Administration's policy of conserving the enormous gifts with which an abundant Providence has blessed our country- our soil, our forests, and our water.

For example, the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority is closely related to our national farm policy—our farm program, and we look forward toward similar developments which I have recommended in other places—the valley of the Missouri, the valley of the Arkansas, and the Columbia River Basin out on the far coast.

And incidentally—and as an aside—I cannot resist the temptation to point to the gigantic contribution to our war effort made by the power generated at T.V.A. and Bonneville and Grand Coulee.

But, do you remember when the building of these great public works was ridiculed as New Deal "boondoggling"? And we are planning—almost ready to put into effect—developments at Grand Coulee, which will provide irrigation for many tens of thousands of acres, providing fertile land for settlement—I hope—by many of our returning soldiers and sailors.

More "boondoggling"

This Administration has put into the law of the land the farmers' long dream of parity prices.

We propose, too, that the Government will cooperate when the weather will not- by a genuine crop insurance program.

This Administration has adopted—and will continue—the policy of giving to as many farmers as possible the chance of owning their own farms.

That means something to those veterans who left their farms to fight for their country.

And after this war has ended, then will come the time when the returning servicemen can grow their own apples on their own farms instead of having to sell apples on the street corners.

I believe in free enterprise—and always have.

I believe in the profit system—and always have.

I believe that private enterprise can give full employment to our people.

If anyone feels that my faith in our ability to provide sixty million peacetime jobs is fantastic, let him remember that some people said the same thing about my demand in 1940 for fifty thousand airplanes.

I believe in exceptional rewards for innovation, skill, and risk-taking by business.

We shall lift production and price control as soon as they are no longer needed—encouraging private business to produce more of the things to which we are accustomed and also thousands of new things, in ever-increasing volume, under conditions of free and open competition.

This Administration has been mindful from its earliest days, and will continue to be mindful, of the problems of small business as well as large.

Small business played a magnificent part in producing thousands of items needed for our armed forces. When the war broke out it was mobilized into war production. Money was loaned to them for machinery. Over one million contracts and subcontracts have been distributed among sixty thousand of the smaller plants of our Nation.

We shall make sure that small business is given every facility to buy Government-owned plants, equipment, and inventories. The special credit and capital requirements of small business are going to be met.

And small business will continue to be protected from selfish, cold-blooded monopolies and cartels. Beware of that profound enemy of the free enterprise system who pays lip-service to free competition- but also labels every anti-trust prosecution as a "persecution." You know, it depends a good deal on whose baby has the measles.

This war has demonstrated that when the American businessman and the American worker and the American farmer work together, they form an unbeatable team.

We know that- you and I- our allies know that- and so do our enemies.

That winning team must keep together after the war, and it will win many more historic victories of peace for our country, for the cause of security, and for decent standards of living here and throughout the world.

We owe it to our fighting men, we owe it to their families we owe it to all of our people who have given so much in this war—we owe it to our children- to keep that winning team together.

The future of America, like its past, must be made by deeds—not words.

America has always been a land of action-a land of adventurous pioneering- a land of growing and building.

America must always be such a land.

The creed of our democracy is that liberty is acquired, liberty is kept by men and women who are strong, self-reliant, and possessed of such wisdom as God gives to mankind- men and women who are just, men and women who are understanding, and generous to others—men and women who are capable of disciplining themselves.

For they are the rulers, and they must rule themselves.

I believe in our democratic faith. I believe in the future of our country which has given eternal strength and vitality to that faith.

Here in Chicago you know a lot about that vitality.

And as I say good night to you, I say it in a spirit of faith—a spirit of hope—a spirit of confidence.

We are not going to turn the clock back!

We are going forward, my friends—forward with the fighting millions of our fellow countrymen.

We are going forward together.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Soldiers' Field, Chicago, Illinois. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210444

Filed Under

Categories

Location

Illinois

Simple Search of Our Archives