Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address to the Governing Board of the Pan American Union.

April 14, 1937

Gentlemen of the Governing Board:

We of the Americas have cause for rejoicing today. We meet to celebrate Pan American Day under the happiest of auspices. All of the nations of the Western Hemisphere are enjoying the boon of peace, and with it, the orderly pursuit of the arts and sciences upon which rest the happiness and security of nations, no less than of individuals. Four years ago it was my privilege to meet with you in the celebration of Pan American Day and now, as then, I bring to you and through you to the governments and peoples of your respective countries the cordial and fraternal greetings of the people of the United States.

We have every reason to congratulate ourselves on the situation today as compared with that in 1933. At that time we were in the throes of a devastating economic depression. In our international relations we were confronted by the unfortunate spectacle of two of our sister nations engaged in bitter warfare; and two other states on the verge of war. We were living in a period dominated by the destructive forces of suspicion and fear.

It is, therefore, with a feeling of profound satisfaction that we may today contemplate the great gains in our national economies, as well as in the international relations between the nations of the American Continents during this four-year period.

The war which was raging has happily been terminated; the controversy which almost led to war has also fortunately been solved. The nations of America mutually recognize their interdependence. They know today that the welfare and prosperity of each is largely dependent upon the welfare and prosperity of all. By pursuing a policy of reciprocal concessions, in which the Government of the United States is happy to have had a part, the nations of America have made important contributions to the healthy flow of trade and improved economic conditions.

The. progress of the last four years culminated in the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace at Buenos Aires, at which significant and far-reaching conclusions were reached. As you are aware, it was my personal privilege to attend the opening session and to meet many of the leaders of American thought and action. The deepest impression which I carried away was the potency of the unity of the Americas in developing democratic institutions in the New World and by example in helping the cause of world peace.

One of the outstanding lessons of the Conference was the clear perception on the part of the delegates of the close relation existing between international security and the normal development of democratic institutions. Democracy cannot thrive in an atmosphere of international insecurity. Such insecurity breeds militarism, regimentation and the denial of freedom of speech, of peaceful assemblage and of religion. Such insecurity challenges the ideals of democracy based on the free choice of government by the people themselves. And as the logical development we of the Americas believe that the continued maintenance and improvement of democracy constitute the most important guarantee of international peace.

Moreover, the delegates to the Buenos Aires Conference well understood that peace is something more significant than the mere absence of conflict. A durable peace, one that will resist the onslaught of untoward or temporary circumstance, is something far more positive and constructive. It demands a policy based on positive international cooperation, on mutual confidence, and on united effort in the solution of problems of common concern. In the conventions and resolutions promoting intellectual cooperation and advancing mutual comprehension the Conference gave to the world an example which is destined to have far-reaching influence.

During the past four years we have traveled far—farther, I believe, than many of us four years ago thought possible. I am certain I interpret correctly your sentiments and those of your Governments and your peoples, when I say that we are determined to move forward toward the goal already in sight. On this day, dedicated to the twenty-one republics constituting the Pan American Union, let us pledge ourselves to giving practical effect to the conclusions reached at Buenos Aires, and let us dedicate ourselves anew to the strengthening of the bonds that unite us in the great American family of nations.

I express to you, on behalf of the Government and the people of the United States, a deep sense of obligation and gratitude for the unswerving devotion which your respective Governments and peoples have given to the cause which we all have so much at heart—the maintenance of peace on our continent. In this beautiful building, dedicated to the cause of peace, it is most fitting that we assemble today to reaffirm our faith in the high destiny of the Americas.

May I add one word? As they say, this is of[ the record. I have been thinking that it was just four years ago that I first came back here to the Pan American Union. There are a few of you people here now who were there then. At that time I made some remarks which, perhaps, led to hopes. Those remarks were followed up later on by action. Many statements and many speeches had been made before that by American statesmen which were not followed up by action.

If you will remember, I think it was in August, 1933, that we had the first opportunity to put into practice what we had preached. At that time there was the unfortunate trouble in Cuba; and I did something then that was perhaps a forerunner, a prophecy, of what was to come later on at Buenos Aires. I asked the Ambassadors and the Ministers of all the American Republics to come to my office. On that occasion I told the Ambassadors and Ministers, sitting around my desk, that the United States was not going to intervene in Cuba, that we all wanted to help Cuba, and that therefore any action that was to be taken in helping Cuba ought to be the action of all the Americas. . . .

Out of that first meeting, have come the very remarkable, the amazing results that culminated last autumn in Buenos Aires. That is why, to all of you personally, you old friends of mine who have been here for some time and you new friends of mine who have come more recently, I want to extend this word of personal greeting. I am glad we know each other, and have the kind of confidence in each other that is going to lead to a continuance of these past sessions.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Governing Board of the Pan American Union. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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