Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Radio Address to the Herald-Tribune Forum.

October 26, 1938

Mrs. Reid, ladies and gentlemen of the forum:

No one who lived through the grave hours of last month can doubt the longing of most of the peoples of the world for an enduring peace. Our business now is to utilize the desire for peace to build principles which are the only basis of permanent peace.

It is becoming increasingly clear that peace by fear has no higher or more enduring quality than peace by the sword.

There can be no peace if the reign of law is to be replaced by a recurrent sanctification of sheer force.

There can be no peace if national policy adopts as a deliberate instrument the threat of war.

There can be no peace if national policy adopts as a deliberate instrument the dispersion all over the world of millions of helpless and persecuted wanderers with no place to lay their heads.

There can be no peace if humble men and women are not free to think their own thoughts, to express their own feelings, to worship God.

There can be no peace if economic resources that ought to be devoted to social and economic reconstruction are to be diverted to an intensified competition in armaments which will merely heighten the suspicions and fears and threaten the economic prosperity of each and every nation.

At no time in modern history has the responsibility which rests upon governments been more obvious or more profound.

I speak for a United States which has no interest in war. We covet nothing save good relations with our neighbors; and we recognize that the world today has become our neighbor.

But in the principle of the good neighbor certain fundamental reciprocal obligations are involved. There must be a deliberate and conscious will that such political changes as changing needs require shall be made peacefully.

That means a due regard for the sanctity of treaties. It means deliberate avoidance of policies which arouse fear and distress. It means the self-restraint to refuse strident ambitions which are sure to breed insecurity and intolerance and thereby weaken the prospect of that economic and moral recovery the world so sadly needs.

You cannot organize civilization around the core of militarism and at the same time expect reason to control human destinies.

For more than twelve years, the United States has been steadily seeking disarmament.

Yet we have consistently pointed out that neither we, nor any nation, will accept disarmament while neighbor nations arm to the teeth. If there is not general disarmament, we ourselves must continue to arm. It is a step we do not like to take, and do not wish to take. But, until there is general abandonment of weapons capable of aggression, ordinary rules of national prudence and common sense require that we be prepared.

We still insist that an armament race among nations is absurd unless new territories or new controls are coveted. We are entitled, I think, to greater reassurance than can be given by words: the kind of proof which can be given, for example, by actual discussions, leading to actual disarmament. Not otherwise can we be relieved of the necessity of increasing our own military and naval establishments. For while we refuse to accept as a permanent necessity the idea of force, and reject it as an ideal of life, we must be prepared to meet with success any application of force against us.

We in the United States do not seek to impose on any other people either our way of life or our internal form of government. But we are determined to maintain and protect that way of life and that form of government for ourselves. And we are determined to use every endeavor in order that the Western Hemisphere may work out its own interrelated salvation in the light of its own interrelated experience.

And we affirm our faith that, whatever choice of way of life a people makes, that choice must not threaten the world with the disaster of war. The impact of such a disaster cannot be confined. It releases a flood-tide of evil emotions fatal to civilized living. That statement applies not to the Western Hemisphere alone but to the whole of Europe and Asia and Africa and the islands of the seas.

In all that I have said to you I have reaffirmed the faith of the American people in democracy. The way of democracy is free discussion—as exemplified by the objectives of the Forum to which I am speaking. Free discussion is most greatly useful when it is restrained and relates to facts. It is not useful to suggest either to the American people or to the peoples of other nations that the American Government, its policies, its practices and its servants are actuated by motives of dishonor or corruption. To do so is, of necessity, an attack on the American system of constitutional representative government itself.

Let us work with greater unity for peace among the nations of the world, for restraint, for negotiations and for community of effort. Let us work for the Same ideals within our own borders in our relations with each other, so that we may, if the test ever comes, have that unity of will with which alone a democracy can successfully meet its enemies.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address to the Herald-Tribune Forum. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209287

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