Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at the Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, Texas.

June 12, 1936

Governor Allred, my Friends of Texas:

I have come here today to bear the tribute of the Nation to you on your hundredth birthday, for you are one hundred years young!

I am here also because I conceive it to be one of the duties and the privileges of the Presidency of the United States to visit, from time to time, every part of the Union.

Many years ago when I was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, I had visited, as I recall, only about twenty States, but during the next few years I had the fortunate opportunity of going into all the others.

Seeing things at first hand is a mighty good habit. I have been fortunate indeed, for as a result of personal contacts with every part of the United States during many years past, I have tried honestly to visualize the problems of every part of the land in their relationships to the problems of every other part, and in their relationships to the unity of the whole.

This great Centennial Exposition is not for Texas alone; it is for the people of all the other forty-seven States as well. I hope and I believe that they will take full advantage of it.

During these past three years, with the return of confidence and the great increase in prosperity, the excellent custom of getting acquainted with the United States has asserted itself. We see a great tide of travel by rail, by plane, by ship and by automobile. We Americans are indeed seeing things at first hand. May the habit spread.

Coincident with this return of better days, we have witnessed three great Expositions—the Century of Progress in Chicago, so popular that it was kept open for a second year; the California International Exposition in San Diego, which is open again this summer in its second successful year; and now the third is this fine Exposition commemorating the Centenary of the Independence of Texas. May you good people have all the fine luck that you so well deserve!

You down here live in the biggest State in the Union. But it is not mere acres that count in this world; it is, rather, the character of the people who dwell upon them. You, the people of Texas, have been tried by fire in these hundred years. You have come through. You have commenced a war for independence. You have apparently been defeated; and then you have won out. You have gone through the difficult days of the War between the States and the trials of Reconstruction. You have had to fight against oppressors from within and oppressors from without.

More than a generation ago your farmers were among the first to rebel against exploitation. In those years it was exploitation by the railroads. In that period of monopoly, of combinations, of overcapitalization, of high rates and poor service and discrimination against the small shipper, you in Texas established a landmark in the regulation of public utilities for the good of their users.

Later, when industrial development came to Texas, you were confronted, as other people have been before and since, by corporations that got out of hand. Here again you called into play the old Texas spirit of freedom for the individual, and out of it came your anti-trust laws, preceded by only one other State in all the Union.

It is, as I recall my history, a fact that during that period there were many prophets of evil who foretold the ruin of Texas by the enactment of legislation to curb these abuses. Yet it is a matter of record that several years later an authoritative survey had this to say of your State: "No part of the Union is more prosperous, no other State has so systematically pursued a policy of corporation regulation, and no other State is so free from the domination of special interests."

Why did the people of Texas do this more than a generation ago? They believed in democracy in government, but they discovered that democracy in government could not exist unless, at the same time, there was democracy in opportunity.

You found that certain forms of monopoly—the combinations of public utilities and other businesses which sought their own ends—were undemocratic because they were bearing down heavily on their smaller competitors, and on the people they served. Because of this they were taking away opportunity.

Today we have restored democracy in government.

We are in the process of restoring democracy in opportunity.

In our national life, public and private, the very nature of free government demands that there must be a line of defense held by the yeomanry of business and industry and agriculture. I do not mean the generalissimos, but the small men, the average men in business and industry and agriculture—those who have an ownership in their business and a responsibility which give them stability. Any elemental policy, economic or political, which tends to eliminate these dependable defenders of democratic institutions, and to concentrate control in the hands of a few small, powerful groups, is directly opposed to the stability of government and to democratic government itself.

Most of us believe, furthermore, if the tendency in the dozen years following the World War had been permitted to continue, that the inevitable consequence would have been the destruction of the base of our form of government. For its splendid structure there would have been substituted as a natural result, an autocratic form of government.

I have spoken of the prophets of evil who plagued your great reforms in Texas. They were blood brothers of some who seek to operate on a national scale. After you in Texas had done so much to restore democracy in opportunity, you found as we in other States found, that the evils we had sought to eradicate had merely jumped over the boundary into some other State. The old abuses of the railroads were finally curbed only after teeth were put into the Interstate Commerce Law and nationwide regulation was made effective. Banking reforms were tried in many States, but here again reform became effective only when the Federal Government was enabled to operate throughout the Union, first by the Federal Reserve Act, and finally by means of the splendid legislation of the past three years. Individual States attempted courageously to regulate the sale of fly-by-night securities and attempted courageously to regulate the exchanges, but you and I know that from the point of view of the Nation as a whole, the effective curbing of abuses was made possible only when the Congress of the United States took a hand by passing the Securities Act and the Stock Exchange Act.

So it goes with the constructive reform of many other abuses which, in the past, have limited or prevented democracy in opportunity. The more progressive of the States may do their share, but unless the action of the States is substantially uniform and simultaneous, the effectiveness of reform is nullified, crippled by the chiselers, who, like many other evil-doers, are, alas, still with us.

The net result of monopoly, the net result of economic and financial control in the hands of the few, has in the past meant and means today, in large measure, the ownership of labor as a commodity. If labor is to be a commodity in the United States, in the final analysis it means that we shall become a Nation of boardinghouses, instead of a Nation of homes. If our people ever submit to that, they will have said "good-bye" to their historic freedom. Men do not fight for boarding-houses. Men do fight and will fight for homes.

I have spoken of the interest which all the country should take in this great Exposition. I mean this as a symbol for the concern which every locality should have in every other locality in every other State. The prosperity which has come to Texas through the products of its farms and ranches, the products of its mines, the products of its oil fields, and the products of its factories, has been made possible chiefly because other parts of the Nation were in possession of the buying power, the consuming power, to use what you have produced. On the other side of the picture, thousands of factories and thousands of farms in the North and in the East and in other parts of the land have been enabled more greatly and more widely to sell their wares, because of the prosperity of you, the people of Texas. I have spoken not once but a dozen times of the necessity of interdependence of each State on every other State. It is a lesson which cannot be driven home or preached too often.

I have taken, great happiness in these past three years in the lessening of sectionalism which is apparent on every hand. More and more we have been thinking nationally. That in itself is good, but it would not have been good if at the same time we had not come to understand more deeply that that national good-neighbor policy must extend also to those neighbors who lie outside of our national borders. You in this great State of Texas, whose boundaries extend for hundreds of miles along those of our sister Republic of Mexico, can well understand what the good-neighbor policy means throughout the Americas. We—all Americans, North Americans, Central Americans and South Americans-seek to banish war in this hemisphere; we seek to extend those practices of good-will and closer friendship upon which peace itself is based.

And so, my friends, I wish you once more every happiness and all the good luck in the world.

I salute the Empire of Texas.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at the Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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