Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Radio Address on the 1935 Mobilization for Human Needs.

October 24, 1935

It is a high privilege once more to appeal to the men, women and children of America for support of another year's Mobilization for Human Needs. I can properly congratulate and thank the country for their splendid response to the appeal for the care of the needy in the years of deep depression from which we are happily and rapidly emerging.

Since I spoke to you at this time last year, in behalf of this great national undertaking, much good has been accomplished, both through private charity of all kinds and through generous assistance by Federal, State and local Government authorities.

During the past year the Congress and the Administration have been making provisions for the employment of approximately three and a half million unemployed persons in bona fide jobs, and the coming month will see the great majority of these people at work in the several States.

The Congress has also enacted, and I have signed, the great Social Security Act which establishes for the future the framework for unemployment insurance, for old-age assistance and for aid to dependent children. The full force and effect of the Social Security law cannot, of course, become operative until several years have elapsed, nor will this law in any sense replace the proper and legitimate fields now covered by private contributions to private charities.

I can, however, bring you good news this evening. The results of the September employment survey have just come to me from the Secretary of Labor. During the month of September, 350,000 men and women were returned to private employment in the reporting industries of the Nation, and the money in the weekly pay envelopes of these industries was $12,000,000 greater than their weekly pay envelopes in the previous month of August. This means that the workers in these reporting industries had $12,000,000 more each week to spend for the necessities of life. Furthermore, these latest and continued gains mean that nearly 5,000,000 men and women have found employment in the reporting private industries since the low point of the depression in March, 1933, and during this same period there has been an increase of over $104,000,000 per week in the payrolls of these industries.

The September gain is the largest for any single month in the past year and a half. It brings back employment in these industries to the level of November, 1930, and it brings the payrolls back to the level of May, 1931.

Recently I expressed the hope that private industry would strain every nerve to increase their payrolls, increase the number of those whom they employed, and thus take from the Federal Government and their local governments a great share of the burden of relief. The figures which I have cited lead me to a greater confidence that private industry is living up to my hope. We seem to be taking up the slack.

Even those industries which were long backward in showing signs of recovery are putting their best foot forward. The so-called heavy industries, for example, show encouraging signs of improvement. Employment in this so-called durable goods group is now 62 percent higher than it was in the spring of 1933; their weekly payrolls are 139 percent greater; and this represents a net increase in employment of 1,185,000 men and women, and a rise of over $40,000,000 in weekly payrolls.

I cite all of these figures because they relate to that kind of employment for which the Government has definite statistics. They do not apply to the many other forms of employment of which there is no adequate record. The small retail businesses and the farms of the Nation are not included in the totals of employment and of weekly wages which I have cited, but in their case also it is common knowledge that many thousands of additional men and women have been provided with work.

In direct proportion as the Nation as a whole more greatly receives, so is the Nation in a position more greatly to give.

Why, you may ask, if the distress and the unemployment are less, should the giving be greater. The answer is twofold: first of all, it is, I know, your hope and mine that the necessities of Government relief furnished by funds received by taxation should decrease as rapidly as human needs will allow.

But the other reason is of deeper significance, of greater importance. There are, as you and I know, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who require the kind of assistance which private charity and not Government should give. There still remains, and will long remain, a sadly distressed segment of our population, destitute and unprovided for, in the communities of the United States. These are the ones whose plight you, as a good neighbor, go out this week to call to the attention of their more fortunate fellows. It is with them that our private, social agencies are primarily concerned. We know that medical care still needs to be extended to thousands who have not the means to pay for it. We know that great numbers of children still suffer from malnutrition. We know that families separated by economic circumstance must be reunited and given opportunities to move forward. We know that the hospitals, clinics and day nurseries need and deserve our help; that homes for the aged, for the blind, for the incurable, must carry on their splendid work; that the agencies that build and help the youth of our community must and should expand their splendid work.

But we do want to emphasize that word "work." Neither private charity nor Government relief wants to continue to help people who can but will not work. There is only one legitimate excuse for unwillingness to work and that is bad health or advanced age.

It is the duty of private charity and of State and local government agencies to take care of those who for these sound reasons are unable to work, and, as I have so often said, it is the duty of the Federal Government to assist in this type of relief only when private and local means come to the end of their tether.

The slogan of the 1935 Mobilization for Human Needs is "Be a Good Neighbor," and the practical way of being a good neighbor in this year of grace is for each and every one of us to support the splendid private agencies whose work has been so successful in the past. If each and every one of us answers—by practical giving—the sound appeal made for the continuance and growth of local welfare, we shall become the best possible neighbors in our own neighborhoods.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address on the 1935 Mobilization for Human Needs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives