Franklin D. Roosevelt

Radio Address on Registration Day.

October 16, 1940

On this day more than sixteen million young Americans are reviving the three-hundred-year-old American custom of the muster. They are obeying that first duty of free citizenship by which, from the earliest colonial times, every able-bodied citizen was subject to the call for service in the national defense.

It is a day of deep and purposeful meaning in the lives of all of us. For on this day we Americans proclaim the vitality of our history, the singleness of our will and the unity of our nation.

We prepare to keep the peace in this New World which free men have built for free men to live in. The United States, a nation of one hundred and thirty million people, has today only about five hundred thousand—half a million officers and men in Army and National Guard. Other nations, smaller in population, have four and five and six million trained men in their armies. Our present program will train eight hundred thousand additional men this coming year and somewhat less than one million men each year thereafter. It is a program obviously of defensive preparation and of defensive preparation only.

Calmly, without fear and without hysteria, but with clear determination, we are building guns and planes and tanks and ships—and all the other tools which modern defense requires. We are mobilizing our citizenship, for we are calling on men and women and property and money to join in making our defense effective. Today's registration for training and service is the keystone in the arch of our national defense.

In the days when our forefathers laid the foundation of our democracy, every American family had to have its gun and know how to use it. Today we live under threats, threats of aggression from abroad, which call again for the same readiness, the same vigilance. Ours must once again be the spirit of those who were prepared to defend as they built, to defend as they worked, to defend as they worshipped.

The duty of this day has been imposed upon us from without. Those who have dared to threaten the whole world with war-those who have created the name and deed of total war—have imposed upon us and upon all free peoples the necessity of preparation for total defense.

But this day not only imposes a duty; it provides also an opportunity-an opportunity for united action in the cause of liberty-an opportunity for the continuing creation on this continent of a country where the people alone shall be master, where the people shall be truly free.

To the sixteen million young men who register today, I say that democracy is your cause—the cause of youth.

Democracy is the one form of society which guarantees to every new generation of men the right to imagine and to attempt to bring to pass a better world. Under the despotisms the imagination of a better world and its achievement are alike forbidden.

Your act today affirms not only your loyalty to your country, but your will to build your future for yourselves.

We of today, with God's help, can bequeath to Americans of tomorrow a nation in which the ways of liberty and justice will survive and be secure. Such a nation must be devoted to the cause of peace. And it is for that cause that America arms itself.

It is to that cause—the cause of peace—that we Americans today devote our national will and our national spirit and our national strength.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address on Registration Day. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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