Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Radio Address for the Mobilization for Human Needs.

October 13, 1940

Chairman Adams, Community Chest Workers, friends of Human Needs:

The mobilization for Human Needs this year is more than ever an expression of our national community spirit. It is, as it always has been, a good cause, participated in by good Americans who represent all sections of our country, all walks of life, all shades of political opinion, all races and creeds.

But in this critical moment of our history, we must be more than ever conscious of the true meaning of the "community spirit" which it expresses. It is a spirit which comes from our community of interests, our community of faith in the democratic ideal, our community of devotion to God.

Wherever men and women of good will gather together to serve their community, there is America. It was true in the first little town meetings in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the good folk assembled to decide measures of defense against the Indians, and how to build their first school, and how to care for their aged and sick. It is still true in this great national drive, all the way across our continent, for the Community Chest Funds.

Even in the early days when our society centered in the village community, and when every neighbor knew all the neighbors, the care of the poor was in some measure a public undertaking. In colonial America money raised through taxation was often distributed by the churches among the poor. Later the county Government and the city council assumed a part of these duties. Then the State itself began taking care of some of the sick. And finally, in our own day, the national Government was obliged to assume a definite responsibility in giving work to able-bodied needy unemployed.

At one stage in our national history, the baskets of bread and meat carried by housewives to the houses down below the railroad tracks were adequate to temper the suffering of the victims of industrial depression. In those days a group of town business men, gathered on the sidewalk at the chief corner of Main Street, could devise some method so that Joe Smith and Tom Jones would be able to buy shoes for their children.

When, however, American industry went on a mass production basis, it became increasingly difficult for men to find employment on the assembly line; it created a problem in the unemployment of elderly men and middle-aged men too great to be solved by the good will of individual business men on a street corner.

When the World War caused the great plains to be plowed up for wheat, and the wheat fields turned into dust storms that drove 200,000 members of the Joad family to California, there was a problem of unemployment and suffering that could no longer be handled by baskets of bread and meat.

Through the industrial era there were created problems of old age, of mass unemployment, of occupational diseases, of industrial accidents, of child labor and sweatshops—too great to be solved by the individual or the family, or by friends or private charity.

These were problems which could be handled only by the joint and common endeavors of the Government of the United States, the Governments of our States, our counties, our towns, and of the organized charities and social service agencies run by private methods. Government authorities have always required the cooperation of men and women banded together in organizations such as those you represent, to bring the kindly touch of human sympathy to the tragedies of dislocated, broken families.

It is necessary for us to remember the very intimate and human side of these problems. Only in a limited measure can flexibility of administration temper the impersonal quality of general rules of law. Private charity is essential to personalize and humanize the task of relieving suffering. For general rules cannot cover the wide range of ever-varying human needs, because human needs are affected by a thousand matters which do not fit into pigeon-holes.

As long as there is illness in the world, as long as there is poverty, as long as families are stricken with personal misfortune, it will be necessary for the good-hearted men and women of America to mobilize for human needs.

This year as never before there is need for an intensification of our efforts. Events abroad have warned us not only of the need of planes and tanks, and ships and guns; they have also warned us of the need of grit and sacrifice, of daring and devotion, and all those intangible things which go to make up a nation's morale.

When we join together in serving our local community, we add strength to our national community, we help to fortify the structure of our whole Union. That form of fortification—that spiritual fortification is not to be dismissed lightly by those in other lands who believe that nations can live by force alone.

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough. The vigorous expression of our American community spirit is truly important.

The ancient injunction to love thy neighbor as thyself is still the force that animates our faith—a faith that we are determined shall live and conquer in a world poisoned by hatred and ravaged by war.

I ask for your enlistment in the Mobilization for Human Needs, for your whole-hearted devotion to the American community spirit. I ask you to prove your good faith in good works.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address for the Mobilization for Human Needs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209199

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