Franklin D. Roosevelt

Campaign Address at Cleveland, Ohio

November 02, 1940

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

In making this, my final national address of the campaign, I express once more my deep regret that I could not carry out my wish to go to other States in the great Middle West, in the South and across the Mississippi River. It has been solely in the interest of peace and the maintenance of peace that your great Secretary of State and I have felt that we should both remain within easy distance of the National Capital in these trying days.

Tonight in Cleveland, I am happy, through this great audience of my old friends, to give this message to America.

For the past seven years I have had the high honor and the grave responsibility of leadership of the American people. In those seven years, the American people have marched forward, out of a wilderness of depression and despair.

They have marched forward right up to the very threshold of the future—a future which holds the fulfillment of our hopes for real freedom, real prosperity, real peace.

I want that march to continue for four more years. And for that purpose, I am asking your vote of confidence.

There are certain forces within our own national community, composed of men who call themselves American but who would destroy America. They are the forces of dictatorship in our land-on one hand, the Communists, and on the other, the Girdlers.

It is their constant purpose in this as in other lands to weaken democracy, to destroy the free man's faith in his own cause.

In this election all the representatives of those forces, without exception, are voting against the New Deal.

You and I are proud of that opposition. It is positive proof that what we have built and strengthened in the past seven years is democracy!

This generation of Americans is living in a tremendous moment of history.

The surge of events abroad has made some few doubters among us ask: Is this the end of a story that has been told? Is the book of democracy now to be closed and placed away upon the dusty shelves of time?

My answer is this: All we have known of the glories of democracy-its freedom, its efficiency as a mode of living, its ability to meet the aspirations of the common man— all these are merely an introduction to the greater story of a more glorious future.

We Americans of today—all of us—we are characters in this living book of democracy.

But we are also its author. It falls upon us now to say whether the chapters that are to come will tell a story of retreat or a story of continued advance.
I believe that the American people will say: "Forward!"

We look at the old world of Europe today. It is an ugly world, poisoned by hatred and greed and fear. We can see what has been the inevitable consequence of that poison—war.

We look at the country in which we live. It is a great country, built by. generations of peaceable, friendly men and women who had in their hearts faith that the good life can be attained by those who will work for it.

We know that we are determined to defend our country—and with our neighbors to defend this Hemisphere. We are strong in our defense. Every hour and every day we grow stronger.

Our foreign policy is shaped to express the determination of our Government and the will of our people in our dealings with other nations. Those dealings, in the past few years, have been more difficult, more complex than ever before.

There is nothing secret about our foreign policy. It is not a secret from the American people-and it is not a secret from any Government anywhere in the world. I have stated it many times before, not only in words but in action. Let me restate it like this:

The first purpose of our foreign policy is to keep our country out of war. At the same time, we seek to keep foreign conceptions of Government out of the United States.

That is why we make ourselves strong; that is why we muster all the reserves of our national strength.

The second purpose of this policy is to keep war as far away as possible from the shores of the entire Western Hemisphere. Our policy is to promote such friendly relations with the Latin-American Republics and with Canada, that the great powers of Europe and Asia will know that they cannot divide the peoples of this hemisphere one from another. And if you go from the North Pole to the South Pole, you will know that it is a policy of practical success.

Finally, our policy is to give all possible material aid to the nations which still resist aggression, across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

And let me make it perfectly clear that we intend to commit none of the fatal errors of appeasement.

We in this Nation of many States have found the way by which men of many racial origins may live together in peace.

If the human race as a whole is to survive, the world must find the way by which men and nations can live together in peace. We cannot accept the doctrine that war must be forever a part of man's destiny.

We do know what would be the foreign policy of those who are doubters about our democracy;

We do not know what would be the foreign policy of those who are obviously trying to sit on both sides of the fence at the same time. Ours is the foreign policy of an Administration which has undying faith in the strength of our democracy today, full confidence in the vitality of our democracy in the future, and a consistent record in the cause of peace.

Our strength is measured not only in terms of the might of our armaments. It is measured not only in terms of the horsepower of our machines.

The true measure of our strength lies deeply imbedded in the social and economic justice of the system in which we live.

For you can build ships and tanks and planes and guns galore; but they will not be enough. You must place behind them an invincible faith in the institutions which they have been built to defend.

The dictators have devised a new system—or, rather, a modern, streamlined version of a very ancient system.

But Americans will have none of that. They will never submit to domination or influence by Naziism or Communism. They will hesitate to support those of whom they are not absolutely sure.

For Americans are determined to retain for themselves the right of free speech, free religion, free assembly and the right which lies at the basis of all of them—the right to choose the officers of their own Government in free elections.

We intend to keep our freedom—to defend it from attacks from without and against corruption from within. We shall defend it against the forces of dictatorship, whatever disguises and false faces they may wear.
But we have learned that freedom in itself is not enough.

Freedom of speech is of no use to a man who has nothing to say.

Freedom of worship is of no use to a man who has lost his God.

Democracy, to be dynamic, must provide for its citizens opportunity as well as freedom.

We of this generation have seen a rebirth of dynamic democracy in America in these past few years.

The American people have faced with courage the most severe problems of all of our modern history.

The start toward a solution of these problems had to be made seven years ago by providing the bare necessities of life—food and shelter and clothing. The American people insisted that those obligations were a concern of Government; they denied that the only solution was the poorhouse.

Your Government assumed its proper function as the working representative of the average men and women of America. And the reforms in our social structure that we have achieved these permanent reforms are your achievement.

The New Deal has been the creation of you, the American people.

You provided work for free men and women in America who could find no work.

Idle men were given the opportunity on roads to be built, homes to be erected, rivers to be harnessed, power to be made for farm and home and industry.

You used the powers of Government to stop the depletion of the top soil of America, to stop decline in farm prices, to stop foreclosures of homes and farms.

You wrote into the law the right of working men and women to bargain collectively, and you set up the machinery to enforce that right.

You turned to the problems of youth and age. You took your children out of the factory and shop and outlawed the right of anyone to exploit the labor of those children; and you gave to those children the chance to prepare in body and spirit the molding of an even fuller and brighter day for themselves. For the youth of the land you provided chances for jobs and for education. And for old age itself you provided security and rest.

You made safe the banks which held your savings. You stopped, once and for all, gambling with other people's money-money changing in the temple.

You advanced to other objectives. You gained them, you consolidated them and advanced again.

The task which this generation had to do has been begun. The forward march of democracy is under way. Its advance must not and will not stop.

During those years while our democracy moved forward, your Government has worked with you and for you. Your Government has at times been checked. But always, with the aid and the counsel of all the people, we have resumed our march.

Now we are asked to stop in our tracks. We are asked to turn about, to march back into the wilderness from which we came.

Of course we will not turn backward. We will not turn back because we are the inheritors of a tradition of pioneering, exploring, experimenting and adventuring. We will not be scared into retreating by threats from the doubters of democracy.

Neither will we be bribed by extravagant promises of fabulous wealth.

Those who offer such promises try to delude us with a mirage on the far horizon—a mirage of an island of dreams, with palaces and palms and plums.

And it is a curious fact of nature that a mirage is always upside down, above the horizon.

But then, the mirage—upside down or right-side up—isn't there at all.
Now you see it—and now you don't.

Of course we shall continue to strengthen all these dynamic reforms in our social and economic life; to keep the processes of democracy side by side with the necessities and possibilities of modern industrial production.

Of course we shall continue to make available the good things of life created by the genius of science and technology- to use them, however, not for the enjoyment of the few but for the welfare of all.
For there lies the road to democracy that is strong.

Of course we intend to preserve and build up the land of this country—its soil, its forests and its rivers—all the resources with which God has endowed the people of the United States.

Of course we intend to continue to build up the bodies and the minds of the men, women and children of the Nation—through democratic education and a democratic program for health.
For there lies the road to democracy that is strong.

Of course we intend to continue our efforts to protect our system of private enterprise and private property, but to protect it from monopoly of financial control on the one hand and from Communistic wrecking on the other.

Of course we shall continue our efforts to prevent economic dictatorship as well as political dictatorship.

Of course we intend to continue to build up the morale of this country, not as blind obedience to some leader, but as the expression of confidence in the deeply ethical principles upon which this Nation and its democracy were founded.
For there lies the road to democracy that is strong.

The progress of our country, as well as the defense of our country, requires national unity. We need the cooperation of every single American—our workers, the great organizers and technicians in our factories, our farmers, our professional men and women, our workers in industry, our mothers, our fathers, our youth—all the men and women who love America just a little bit more than they love themselves.

And if we can have the assistance of all these, we can promise that such a program can make this country prosperous and free and strong—to be a light of the world and a comfort to all people.
And all the forces of evil shall not prevail against it.

For so it is written in the Book, and so it is written in the moral law, and so it is written in the promise of a great era of world peace.

This Nation which is arming itself for defense has also the intelligence to save its human resources by giving them that confidence which comes from useful work.

This Nation which is creating a great navy has also found the strength to build houses and begin to clear the slums of its cities and its countryside.

This Nation which has become the industrial leader of the world has the humanity to know that the people of a free land need not suffer the disease of poverty and the dread of not being wanted.

It is the destiny of this American generation to point the road to the future for all the world to see. It is our prayer that all lovers of freedom may join us—the anguished common people of this earth for whom we seek to light the path.

I see an America where factory workers are not discarded after they reach their prime, where there is no endless chain of poverty from generation to generation, where impoverished farmers and farm hands do not become homeless wanderers, where monopoly does not make youth a beggar for a job.

I see an America whose rivers and valleys and lakes—hills and streams and plains—the mountains over our land and nature's wealth deep under the earth—are protected as the rightful heritage of all the people.

I see an America where small business really has a chance to flourish and grow.

I see an America of great cultural and educational opportunity for all its people.

I see an America where the income from the land shall be implemented and protected by a Government determined to guarantee to those who hoe it a fair share in the national income.

An America where the wheels of trade and private industry continue to turn to make the goods for America. Where no businessman can be stifled by the harsh hand of monopoly, and where the legitimate profits of legitimate business are the fair reward of every businessman—big and little—in all the Nation.
I see an America with peace in the ranks of labor.

An America where the workers are really free and—through their great unions undominated by any outside force, or by any dictator within—can take their proper place at the council table with the owners and managers of business. Where the dignity and security of the working man and woman are guaranteed by their own strength and fortified by the safeguards of law.

An America where those who have reached the evening of life shall live out their years in peace and security. Where pensions and insurance for these aged shall be given as a matter of right to those who through a long life of labor have served their families and their nation as well.

I see an America devoted to our freedom—unified by tolerance and by religious faith—a people consecrated to peace, a people confident in strength because their body and their spirit are secure and unafraid.

During these years while our democracy advanced on many fields of battle, I have had the great privilege of being your President. No personal ambition of any man could desire more than that.

It is a hard task. It is a task from which there is no escape day or night.

And through it all there have been two thoughts uppermost in my mind—to preserve peace in our land; and to make the forces of democracy work for the benefit of the common people of America.

Seven years ago I started with loyal helpers and with the trust and faith and support of millions of ordinary Americans.

The way was difficult— the path was dark, but we have moved steadily forward to the open fields and the glowing light that shines ahead.

The way of our lives seems clearer now, if we but follow the charts and the guides of our democratic faith.

There is a great storm raging now, a storm that makes things harder for the world. And that storm, which did not start in this land of ours, is the true reason that I would like to stick by these people of ours until we reach the clear, sure footing ahead.
We will make it—we will make it before the next term is over.
We will make it; and the world, we hope, will make it, too.

When that term is over there will be another President, and many more Presidents in the years to come, and I think that, in the years to come, that word "President" will be a word to cheer the hearts of common men and women everywhere.
Our future belongs to us Americans.
It is for us to design it; for us to build it.

In that building of it we shall prove that our faith is strong enough to survive the most fearsome storms that have ever swept over the earth.

In the days and months and years to come, we shall be making history—hewing out a new shape for the future. And we shall make very sure that that future of ours bears the likeness of liberty.

Always the heart and the soul of our country will be the heart and the soul of the common man—the men and the women who never have ceased to believe in democracy, who never have ceased to love their families, their homes and their country.

The spirit of the common man is the spirit of peace and good will. It is the spirit of God. And in His faith is the strength of all America.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Campaign Address at Cleveland, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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