Franklin D. Roosevelt

Radio Address for the Mobilization for Human Needs. White House, Washington, D.C.

October 09, 1939

Chairman Taft, Community Chest Workers, friends of human needs:

Tonight my appeal is to the compassionate heart of the American people.

As we look out upon a world, unhappily torn by war with all of its attendant horrors of death and destruction, we must remember that no matter how broad our sympathies, our charity begins at home. I like the ringing challenge in that militant designation: Mobilization for Human Needs. It is a call for each and every one of us to enlist in the nationwide campaign to extend a helping hand to all suffering privation or want within our borders.

We must work, each of us in his own neighborhood, to support the local community chests.

These community chests, with their special responsibility to bring cheer and comfort to individuals and families who have been made desolate by want and poverty, constitute, in a very special way, our home front—and our home front must be defended at all hazards. Let us, as we sit in our homes tonight, give thought to some of our less fortunate fellow Americans who live in homes less cheerful than ours, homes often on the border line of poverty, misery and privation. And let us not forget that it is just as important to keep the lamp of hope burning in our more humble homes as it is to maintain the elaborate establishments in which abundance and even luxury are the rule.

It is the survival of the old spirit that the home must be guaranteed. For the family still remains the basis of society as we know it, and it must be preserved as an institution if our democracy is to be perpetuated. If we lose the home we are in grave risk of undermining all those other elements of stability and strength which contribute to the well-being of our national life.

Best of all, our work as good neighbors through our community chests does not overlap either Federal or local Government relief work. It is well for us all to keep in mind and to emphasize again and again that the proper function of the Community Chest is to extend local or community relief.

Under the Federal Security Agency, which was set up only a few months ago, certain services have been organized for certain needs of the men, women and children of the United States. There is also provision for work relief through the Work Projects Administration, familiar to all of us as the W.P.A.

This is not the time nor the place to go into details concerning the functions of these various Federal agencies. I have referred to them because we must bear in mind constantly that the Mobilization for Human Needs, which we are starting in all parts of the country, has a separate and distinct field of service.

I desire, therefore, once more to repeat that direct relief and work relief are separate and distinct means of attacking separate and distinct problems. Direct relief is aimed at many problems of human misfortune—in short, the adjustment of maladjusted families, the tiding over of temporary crises in family life and the support of character building organizations. That is the mission of the Community Chest. On the other hand, work relief, as authorized by the Congress, attacks the problem of getting jobs for able-bodied persons who can give useful work in return for what they receive. It is aimed at the adjustment of maladjusted society.

I am reiterating all this because to my mind we must let nothing obscure our vision of the field which is the natural sphere of the community chests. To repeat, the community chests are a vital sector in our home front. And I am sure the Mobilization for Human Needs accepts for every community the national policy of relief as outlined by the Congress while devoting all of its energies to the local problems which are its primary responsibility.

The challenge is to relieve individual distress no matter where it is found. One hundred per cent support of the community chest will greatly diminish want and suffering in every community in the land. To bring about that happy consummation, I appeal to the heart and the soul, I appeal to the conscience and I appeal to every generous impulse of the American people.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address for the Mobilization for Human Needs. White House, Washington, D.C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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