Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address to the Chiefs of the Diplomatic Missions from Other American Republics.

October 12, 1944

TODAY is the birthday of the new world. The peoples of the American Republics are joining in paying tribute to the courage and vision of Christopher Columbus, whose name we honor and whose adventurous spirit we perpetuate.

The survival of that spirit is more important than ever, at this time when we are fighting a world war, and when we are building the solid, durable foundations for future world peace.

The little fleet with which Columbus first crossed the ocean took ten weeks for the voyage. And the crews of those three ships totaled approximately ninety men.

Today—every day—many times that number of men and many tons of cargo are carried across the ocean by air—they go across in a few hours. And by sea transport, an entire division of some fifteen thousand men can be sent across the Atlantic in one ship in one week.

When we remember the rapid development of aviation since the last war, we can look ahead to the coming years and know that all the airways across all the seas are going to be constant lines of communication and commerce.

Thus the margin between the Old World and the New World—as we have been used to calling the hemispheres- becomes constantly narrower. This means that if we do not now take effective measures to prevent another world war and if there were to be a third world war, the lands of the Western Hemisphere would be as vulnerable to attack from Europe and Asia as were the Island of Crete and the Philippine Islands five years ago.

It is a significant fact that today in Italy—the homeland of Columbus- forces from many parts of the hemisphere and from many distant parts of the civilized world are fighting for freedom against the German and the Japanese threat of mediaeval tyranny.

Serving in the Allied armies in Italy are men from forty eight United States, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Republic of France. But, we must remember—this is the first anniversary in which we can say it—there are also strong, well-trained, well-equipped forces from Brazil; there are units from Puerto Rico; there are Greeks, and there are Poles who have distinguished themselves in bitter fighting at Cassino and Ancona and Rimini; there are gallant men from Canada, and Ireland, and New Zealand, and South Africa, and India; there are combat teams composed of Americans of Japanese ancestry who came from Hawaii—all providing an effective answer to the false Nazi claims of "Nordic superiority."

And there are also Italians themselves fighting bravely for the liberation of their country. They are fighting in the Allied armies, and they are fighting in the underground forces behind the German lines.

If the spirit of Columbus hovers over his native land today, we can be sure that he rejoices in the varied nature of the Allied forces. For he was one of the truly great internationalists of his day.

During the past century, millions of Italians have come to the Western Hemisphere seeking freedom and opportunity. In Italy there is hardly a town or a village that does not contain families who have blood ties with the New World. This is one of the many reasons why the forces of liberation have been welcomed so cordially by the Italian people after twenty-two years of Fascism.

The Fascists and the Nazis sought to deceive and to divide the American Republics. They tried not only through propaganda from across the seas, but also through agents and spies and fifth columnists, operating all over the Western Hemisphere. But we know that they failed. The American Republics were not deceived by their protestations of peace and friendship; and they were not intimidated by their threats.

The people of the United States will never forget how the other American Republics, acting in accord with their pledges of solidarity, rallied to our common defense when the continent was violated by Axis treachery in an attack on this country. At that time Axis armies were still unchecked, and even the stark threat of an invasion from Dakar hung over their heads.

We have maintained the solidarity of the Governments of all the American Republics—except one. And the people of all the Republics, I think without exception, will have the opportunity to share in the achievement of the common victory.

The bonds that unite the American Republics into a community of good neighbors must remain strong. We have not labored long and faithfully to build in this New World a system of international security and cooperation—merely to let it be dissipated in any period of postwar indifference. Within the framework of this new world organization that we have heard so much of lately— this world organization of the United Nations, which the Governments and people of the American Republics are helping to establish, the inter-American system can and must play a strong and vital role.

Secretary Hull has told me of the conversations he has had with representatives of our sister Republics concerning the formation of a world security organization. We have received important and valuable expressions of opinions and views from many of these Governments. And I know that Secretary Hull, and Under Secretary Stettinius who led the United States delegation at Dumbarton Oaks, are looking forward to further exchanges of views with our Good Neighbors before the meeting of the general conference to establish the world organization. We must press forward to bring into existence this organization to maintain peace and security. There is no time to lose. And this time I think it is going to work.

It is our objective to establish the solid foundations of the peace organization without further delay, and without even waiting for the end of hostilities. There must, of course, be time for discussion by all the peace-loving Nations- large and small. We know that substantial progress has already been made, and it must be continued as rapidly as possible.

Like the Constitution of the United States, and of many other Republics, the Charter of the United Nations must not be static and inflexible, but must be adaptable to the changing conditions of progress—social and economic and political- all over the world.

So, in approaching the great problems of the future- the future which we shall share in common with all the free peoples of this earth—we shall do well to remember that we are the inheritors of the tradition of Christopher Columbus, the Navigator who ventured across uncharted seas.

I remember that when Columbus was about to set forth in the summer of 1492, he put in the beginning of his log-book the following words: "Above all, it is very important that I forget sleep, and that I labor much at navigation, because it is necessary."

We shall require—all of us—the same determination, the same devotion, as we steer our course through the great age of exploration, the age of discovery that lies before us.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Chiefs of the Diplomatic Missions from Other American Republics. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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