Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

August 29, 1944

Q. Mr. President, Chairman Doughton of the House Ways and Means Committee said today on the floor that there was a good deal of unnecessary excitement about the postwar unemployment problem, that we can meet that problem when it arises. Do you feel that generally reflects Administration policy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would have to have the whole thing before I can comment. But I can say this about it, because he may have said other things too, which might not be fair for me to make any comment on just that one thing. What I felt all along is that, in a sense, the word reemployment is the wrong emphasis to put on the whole subject. Just the same way, the word reconversion involves the wrong emphasis. Well, I know quite a number of people who are in the armed forces, and a number of people who are not in the armed forces, who don't really understand what reconversion means. It isn't a simple word. There's a much simpler way of putting it: that what we require is employment, not talking about not wanting unemployment. I say we do want employment. It's just a fine distinction of emphasis. Now, that's the simplest English to put it in. We do not want to have problems of unemployment. There are a lot of things that we are paying a great deal of attention to—jobs. Jobs—that's even simpler than employment. It's a good old Anglo-Saxon word, which I like. . . .

Then, next thing I have, I was seriously in doubt. Steve [Early] almost had a fit that I would make another nonpolitical speech. (Laughter) And I thought of making a .speech on a subject that is very close to my heart, because I will make a little money on it—you see how close to my heart it is—this is a dissertation to the public on the planting and the raising and the selling of Christmas trees. I really thought of making a radio speech on that, and then having somebody say that it was on a political subject and demanding equal time on the air. (Laughter)

That would create another controversy, and probably people would want to see my books to prove that I do make money raising Christmas trees; there would be an investigation to prove that I do take a lot of time.

I have some very, very carefully kept books on the subject of Christmas trees—a thing called a check-book. And I pay for the labor of planting these little trees at the age of four years and about six inches high, and I pay a man about once every two years to go through and keep the briars out of them; and then I pay several people—some of them schoolboys- to go in and cut them off.

And then the next entry is on the other side of the checkbook. Along comes a department store or chain store with a truck, and they themselves load these little trees—this is ten years after the planting— into the truck. They take them down to New York, and sell the trees—at a profit. They get a good profit. And then they send me a check for the little trees, which is recorded in the stub of the check-book on the other side.

I think there probably should be an investigating committee. I will be glad to show them my check-book. No particular secret in it. I thought trees a very good topic for a political talk. And then we would have another discussion, as to whether it was political or wasn't political, so you might say joy would be had by all.

But I am going to make a political speech. You might just as well know about it. (Laughter) I don't think it will be very political. Of course, it will seem so. It won't be. But it will have a tinge, and just because it will have a tinge, I don't see why it shouldn't be called a political speech.

And the time on the air will be paid for by the Democratic National Committee. Dan Tobin [President of the Teamsters' Union], on the 23rd of September, is having a group at a hotel in Washington for supper, and because it will undoubtedly leak through the press or the radio within a day or so, I might just as well say it now.

It won't be very political, but we will call it my first political address of the campaign. And you will all be frightfully disappointed. The evening of the 23rd at, I think, the Statler Hotel in Washington. It's the meeting of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America. So the cat's out of the bag. (Laughter) . . .

Q. Mr. President, if we might go to the Dumbarton Oaks statement this morning, you said that you saw the statement last night. There were two statements issued, one a joint statement in behalf of all three delegates, the other a separate statement in the name of Mr. Stettinius.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I couldn't tell you about that particular detail, because what I saw was all in one. They probably decided to separate them, but they were both in one document.

Q. Mr. President, there was one document on which the three chief delegates had agreed on the general outline for a world security organization which resembled very much your draft of June 15. Would you care to comment on the differences between the two?

THE PRESIDENT: My draft of June 15? My goodness, was it that far ahead? What was my draft?

Q. Mr. Stettinius this morning said it was June 15.

Q. Your summary of the international security plan.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh. To tell you the honest truth, I had forgotten I had done it. Don't say I am claiming authorship, because I haven't compared them. I have had an idea, not since June but way back for a year and a half, on certain general principles. It would be different from the League of Nations, I thought a great deal more workable than the League of Nations, calling for two bodies. On one, membership would be for every Nation—large and small—a little Nation to have just as good a vote as a big Nation. Second, there would be a much smaller working body, talking about terms—I called it council, and that would be aimed primarily at averting a future war, that would be the main function. Then third, there would be some system of a court, or courts, for the judicial determination of disputes between Nations.

Well, I think we all want to put the future peace of the world and the settlement of disputes, working out all kinds of things, like food problems and financial problems and everything else, onto a non-partisan basis. Well, you all got that. I don't remember doing it, but anyway, back in June I had the same idea I had for a year and a half before, and a lot of other people have done it.

It's like back in 1933, when I sent a message to Congress about the Civilian Conservation Corps camps, and they authorized them. And we started the C.C.C. camps. Well, it was something I had been thinking about a great deal, and I had, as a result- after they got going, after everybody liked them—I didn't claim authorship of them, but I did send a message to Congress—I had, I suppose, seven or eight letters from people who said, "I wrote you in nineteen hundred and twenty-nine that we ought to have some kind of camps," or "I wrote you in 1930 and outlined the whole plan. Will you please give me credit for the idea."

Well, I suppose there were five hundred people that have brought the idea of C.C.C. camps to my mind. I merely happened to be in a position where I could properly recommend it to Congress.

Now, on this idea of the relationships between Nations after the war, credit should not go to any one person. People have been talking about it, and I have been talking about it on and off the stump since 1919. I was for the League of Nations. I did all I could to get it. I wasn't the author of it.

Now, on this plan that they are talking about at Dumbarton Oaks, nobody is the author of it. It's a general idea, and they are putting it down on paper in such form that all the Nations of the world can talk it over before they all express their views in a meeting. Nothing is hard and fast. This is the very first step.

And it is obvious they have got to have some kind of an organization-might be called judicial, that is the first step. When they get to that stage, they will take it before a judicial body. If that doesn't work, the next step is to have some kind of meeting place where they will talk it over. Call it the assembly, for want of a better term. I will take a better term if anybody will suggest it.

And if anybody starts to kick over the traces and violates the frontiers of a neighbor country, you have got to have quick action, got to have quick action by some small body, because the time in that case, when you start bombing somebody or invading them, you can't have a man—call him whatever you will—send out notices that there will be a meeting next month on this subject. Next month might be too late. You have got to have a small body that can act quickly for all the other Nations. There are various ways of talking about that. That is why this preliminary conference is being held at Dumbarton Oaks. They are not making final decisions, they are going to make recommendations to all the United Nations of the world.

Well, that's the common sense point of view of what the differences are about, including the political aspects.

Q. Well, Mr. President, you said it was your idea that this body should be different from the League of Nations and more workable. In what way is it going to be different?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, there again I think that you all have to get out the League of Nations and read the Covenant, and you would find that it was very, very different insofar as this body has gone.

The League of Nations had no means within the Covenant of taking up all kinds of questions like things we have discussed already: international food, for example. They had no financial organization for world finances. This one would. They had no method by which a council could enforce peace in the world. This one would. And so if I were to sit down and go over it, I could find fifty different reasons why the two things are different. . . .

Q. Another point in which there has been a great deal of interest in Washington is what mechanisms you might favor to translate decisions of the council into forceful sanctions on the part of the United States. Would there be reference to the American Congress, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think we have got nearly as far as that yet. I think, again, we are emphasizing the details, not the great object. We are very apt to forget the great object.

And a very good illustration is this. In 1920 I was addressing a very big meeting out of doors up in Michigan—an out of doors meeting, there must have been fifteen or twenty thousand people—and I got to talking about the League.

And some woman got up and said, "I can't be for the League of Nations, it legalizes white slavery." (Laughter)

I said, "Where?"

So she trotted out article something, which authorized the League to set up machinery—the objective was perfectly clear—to put down white slavery by international agreement. And she construed it, because it did not say "put down"—it used the word which meant to work together, to eliminate—I have forgotten what the word was, you can dig it out—but she assumed that it meant to regulate white slavery, and therefore to approve white slavery.

Well, I had a violent discussion with her, and we both left the meeting thoroughly angry.

Now that's what comes of bringing politics or partisanship, or- well, the old word I had used before: picayune—by the way, I found George Washington used that word(laughter) —of bringing carping discussions into the details of a thing like white slavery, or any other current thing.

Now, I don't know how they are going to word anything in regard to the elimination of war, but stepping on it before it grows up. We all know what we mean. I can't give you the details of it, but we are at one—almost—in this country, in wanting to end future wars by stepping on their necks before they grow up.

Now that's plain English. For details, go to a political rally ....

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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