Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks at a Luncheon in Dallas, Texas.

June 12, 1936

It has been a wonderful day. I always regret the fact that I seem to be getting off a train and getting on a train, not having time to stay and visit, as we used to say back home. The little, short glimpse that I got today of the Exposition thrilled me, and I wish I could have seen all of the buildings and, incidentally, the Midway as well.

I spoke this morning about getting to know the people. I got that idea from another President of the United States away back about the year 1905. A young lady that I was engaged to, also a member of the family, and I were stopping in the White House, and the then President Roosevelt—this was after supper—was visibly perturbed and was stamping up and down in front of the fireplace in the Oval Room upstairs. The various members of the family did not know what was the matter with T. R., and finally somebody said, "What is the trouble tonight? .... Oh," he said,"you know that bill for the creation of a large number of national parks? I am not going to be able to get it through this session because there are a lot of people up there that cannot think beyond the borders of their own States." And then he clenched his fist and said, "Sometimes I wish I could be President and Congress too."

Well, I suppose if the truth were told, he is not the only President that has had that idea.

And somebody said, "What would you do if you could be President and Congress too for just a few minutes?" He said, "I would pass a law or a Constitutional Amendment"—and T. R. was always a little bit vague about the difference between laws and constitutional revisions- "I would pass something making it obligatory for every member of the House, candidate for the House, candidate for the Senate" (Hatton [Sumners] and Morris [Sheppard], you remember this), "to file a certificate before they can be elected, certifying that they had visited in every State of the Union." And he said, "That same thing should apply to every high public official in Washington."

Well, the more I study Government, State Government for a good many years and national Government also for a good many years, the sounder I think that general theory is— perhaps not just that kind of practice of it.

When I think back, even to the days when I was a boy, one of the first things that I can remember was the weeklies of the period, the headlines of the papers, telling about the opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma. I can remember the first time that I crossed the continent. And when I see today the enormous changes that have taken place in my lifetime—and I am not an octogenarian yet—I am amazed by the fact that this country, in its expansion, has acquired a greater unity with every passing year. When people from the Southwest came East thirty or forty years ago they were regarded as strange people. They did not talk the same language. Their problems were different. And yet today, as you and I well know, you can go into any city, North, East, South or West, and you will find the same kind of people with largely the same kind of problems in their lives and in their businesses.

For a country of this size, three thousand miles one way and nearly two thousand the other, the fact of our unity is one of the things that amazes foreigners more than any other thing. Of course, in Washington, I see a great many people who come there from Europe. They are men in public life, newspaper editors,· economists, business men, and so forth, and the first question that I always put to them is, "How long have you been here?" And they will say, perhaps, "A week."

"Where have you been?"

"New York City."

"Where are you going?"

"Back home again."

And then I say, "I suppose you are going to write a book about America when you get back."

Lack of information about the United States on the part of our European friends is one of the most amazing things in the history of the present world. I do not suppose it is any exaggeration to say that in the small towns in the United States, especially since the World War and since the papers have fallen into the custom of printing a great deal of foreign news, the average American citizen knows more about world affairs and is more interested in world affairs than the people in the big towns and small towns of any other Nation in the world.

We have become not only Nation-minded, but we have become world-minded. That is one reason why we are trying to work so hard in the cause of peace.

I am, of course, and a great many other people are, worried about the dangers that beset the world. Things are not going so well on the European Continent and on the Asiatic Continent as they are going in the American Hemisphere. That has been the reason why I have tried to keep the feet of this country on the ground, hoping that by our example- our example of unity, our example of world unselfishness, our example of trying to build up trade between all the Nations—we might have some effect on the rest of the world that is thinking too much of armaments and war. And the response in this country has been magnificent.

As I have said, we seem to understand very well what the problems of the world are. We have, perhaps, a kind of sympathy for their problems. We want to help them all that we can; but they have understood very well in these latter years that that help is going to be confined to moral help, and that we are not going to get tangled up with their troubles in the days to come.

You gentlemen who are running this wonderful Exposition here in Dallas are performing a real service for the whole country in helping the people to know their country. I congratulate you on a real accomplishment.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks at a Luncheon in Dallas, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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