Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Address to the Academy Awards Dinner.

February 27, 1941

I AM HAPPY to greet the motion picture industry of America, whose representatives are gathered from far and near for the Annual Awards Dinner of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In these days of anxiety and world peril our hearts and minds and all of our energies are directed toward one objective. That objective is the strengthening of our national defense. Every day that passes we realize that more and more things in our lives must be evaluated in just such proportion as they contribute to the national defense.

The American motion picture as a national and international force is a phenomenon of our own generation. Within living memory we have seen it born and grow up into full maturity. We have seen the American motion picture become foremost in all the world. We have seen it reflect our civilization throughout the rest of the world—the aims and the aspirations and the ideals of a free people and of freedom itself.

That is the real reason that some Governments do not want our American films exhibited in their countries. Dictators--those who enforce the totalitarian form of government--think it a dangerous thing for their unfortunate peoples to know that in our democracy officers of the Government are the servants, and never the masters of the people.

In all that I have said on that all-important subject through many months past I have emphasized that in the assault on the democratic form of government that imperils world civilization today, our problem of national defense has become one of helping to defend the entire Western Hemisphere--all three of the Americas--North, Central, and South. We can no longer consider our own problem of defense as a separate interest. It involves the defense of all the democracies of all the Americas—and therefore, in fact, it involves the future of democracy wherever it is imperiled by force or terror.

An all-important factor in hemispheric defense, in defense of democracies today, is the Lend-Lease Bill, whose early enactment by the Congress we confidently anticipate. It is a pleasure here and now to acknowledge the great service which the newsreels have performed in acquainting the public with all of the implications of this measure as it makes its way through the various legislative stages.

Acceptance of the task of cooperating with all the Americas in defending the entire Western Hemisphere, implicit in our plans for national defense, is a natural outgrowth of our own good neighbor policy in our relations with the other American Republics. Happily for democracy, the Americas stand forth today as a notable example of international solidarity in a world in which freedom and human liberty are threatened with extinction.

We have been seeking to affirm our faith in the Western world through a wider exchange of culture, and of education, and of thought and free expression among the various Nations of this hemisphere. Your industry has utilized, and is utilizing, its vast resources of talent and facilities in a sincere effort to help the people of this hemisphere to come to know each other better.

In carrying on this program of advancing the spirit of inter-American solidarity and continental defense, our Government has established machinery to coordinate our growing commercial and cultural relations with the other American Republics. Our Government has invited you to do your share of the job of interpreting the people of the Western Hemisphere to one another. And all of us in all the twenty-one American Republics and in Canada are grateful that your response is so immediate and so wholehearted.

I do not minimize the importance of the motion picture industry as the most popular medium of mass entertainment. But tonight I want to place the chief emphasis on the service you can render in promoting solidarity among all the peoples of the Americas.

For all of this and for your splendid cooperation with all who are directing the expansion of our defense forces, I am glad to thank you. In the weeks and the months that lie ahead we in Washington know that we shall have your continued aid and support.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Academy Awards Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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