Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at the American Red Cross Convention. Washington, D.C.

April 25, 1939

Chairman Davis, Senior and Junior Delegates to the Red Cross Convention:

It gives me the greatest of pleasure to greet here, at the White House, this splendid American Red Cross assemblage, and to give assurance that no enterprise is nearer to my heart than the work carried on in behalf of all humanity by this superb organization.

As you know, I have had the honor of being the President of the Red Cross since 1933—but my interest in the work dates back to my active participation in the Red Cross in the trying days of the World War.

Chairman Davis has spoken of the relationship that the President of the United States bears to this organization. You may have guessed that in my relationship to a great many other organizations of the Government I am inclined to judge the efficiency of each of them by the amount of trouble that it gives to me; and, the more I hear of them and from them, the more I know that there is trouble. So, for the last six years I can say that my absence from the Red Cross meetings, my seeming inattention to Red Cross affairs, proves beyond doubt the constant efficiency of the Red Cross.

Although ours is a semi-governmental agency, it does draw support from the people as a whole. Designated by Congress as the official, volunteer humanitarian organization of the nation, with specific powers and responsibilities, the Red Cross operates with independence and impartiality. It is universal in its appeal to our citizens, because everyone is welcome in its membership; and it is impartial in conferring its benefits.

When there is disaster, every agency of the United States Government is directed to cooperate with the Red Cross. Government resources and man power play an important part in aiding and restoring physical damage in communities struck by calamities. But they can never replace the humanitarian handling of the problems of the individual which is the work of the Red Cross itself.

I am especially proud of the improvement that has come during the past few years under our late Chairman Admiral Grayson and our new Chairman, my old friend, Mr. Norman Davis. I refer particularly to the coordination and cooperation which has been worked out in times of disaster among the many agencies of the United States Government and the American Red Cross today.

In floods, in fires and in hurricanes, the system of pooling our resources has been brought to a very high state of efficiency.

In time of local or regional disaster, all agencies—those of the Federal Government, of State Governments and of county and municipal Governments—know exactly what to do and when to do it. They are organized for instantaneous action. And, as you know, that action proceeds smoothly and without duplication of effort under the direction of the American Red Cross itself. And I remember, when we first tried this out in the great Ohio flood, soon after I came to Washington, I took a rather keen pleasure in putting the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Operations of the Navy under the Red Cross.

Furthermore, after the emergency of human suffering is cared for, other Government agencies step in with the systems of the Red Cross to carry on the work of rehabilitation—physical work and financial aid.

I hope the people of the country realize the splendid efficiency of these joint efforts. There is no lost motion, there is no waste of emergency or relief funds—and I think that no country in all the world has reached the standards which the United States has achieved in this respect in the past few years.

The strength of our splendid organization is in its appeal to the tenderest sympathies of our people. It embraces in its membership all races and creeds and it knows no politics. There is nothing narrow or sectional about it. All of our people find unity in one great objective, the relief of human suffering.

Happily, too, the Red Cross appeals both to the older people and to our young people. Through the Junior Red Cross, nine million boys and girls are being brought up in the tradition of service to others. The foundation being laid for these boys and girls in the Junior Red Cross, which has for its motto "I serve," may well be an important factor in the future welfare of our nation.

In its fifty-eight years of existence, the American Red Cross has also been exceptionally generous and active in extending a helping hand to our distressed neighbors. Within the past twelve months, not only have our resources of money and our resources of volunteer help been strained to the utmost in meeting disaster relief needs, such as the New England hurricane where great loss of life and property was suffered—but in generous contributions to distressed civilians in China, in Spain, in aiding the refugees in France, and in Chile where earthquakes took an appalling toll of life and left thousands of injured to be cared for.

The spirit of the Red Cross does not wane. In a world disturbed by war and fear of war, the unselfish devotion of the Red Cross to the welfare of others stands out in striking contrast to inhumane acts which have shocked our conscience in so many instances.

Yes, the task before us is enormous. Our work, by reason of its very nature, is never done. Our work never can be done while human misery exists.

That work must go bravely on. You are carrying out, and you are improving on, a great tradition.

We shall not fail because we know that all of America has been with us, is with us, and is going to be with us in the days to come.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at the American Red Cross Convention. Washington, D.C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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