Franklin D. Roosevelt

Message to the Special Convocation of the University of Oxford.

June 19, 1941

All the world can be enriched by a new symbol which supports truth and the search for truth.

In days like these, therefore, we rejoice that this Special Convocation, in breaking all historic precedent, does so in the great cause of preserving the free learning and the civil liberties which have grown stone upon stone in our lands through the centuries. That is why I am proud to be permitted to have a part.

It is right that this unfettered search for truth "is universal and knows no restriction of place or race or creed." There have been other symbols throughout the years and in the present. The American Ambassador in Britain gave recognition to this recently when he said:

"Only this week in London in the early morning hours of the Sabbath Day, enemy bombs destroyed the House of Commons room of the Parliament and smashed the altar of Westminster Abbey. These two hits seemed to me to symbolize the objectives of the dictator and the pagan. Across the street from the wreckage of these two great historic buildings of State and Church, Saint-Gaudens' statue of Abraham Lincoln was still standing. As I looked at the bowed figure of the Great Emancipator and thought of his life, I could not help but remember that he loved God, that he had defined and represented democratic government, and that he hated slavery.

"And as an American I was proud that he was there in all that wreckage as a friend and sentinel of gallant days that have gone by, and a reminder that in this great battle for freedom he waited quietly for support for those things for which he lived and died."

We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to maintain freedom.

We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to the Special Convocation of the University of Oxford. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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