Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks at the Dedication of Woodrow Wilson's Birthplace, Staunton, Virginia.

May 04, 1941

We are meeting here today to dedicate a new shrine of freedom. By this action we are bearing true witness to the faith that is in us—a simple faith in the freedom of democracy in the world.

It is the kind of faith for which we have fought before- for the existence of which we are ever ready to fight again.

I can think of no more fitting place in all the land for Americans to pledge anew their faith in the democratic way of life than at the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson. In this quiet Presbyterian manse first saw the light of day one whose whole active life was dedicated to the cause of freedom, to the conquest of fear, and to the liberation of the eternal spirit of man from every thralldom imposed by fear.

Woodrow Wilson was fortunate in his birthplace. He was favored in his parentage and his environment. I like the old phrase that this was a home of plain living and high thinking and wherever the family moved in the migrations incident to the religious calling of the father, they carried with them ideals which put faith in spiritual values above every material consideration.

In the tragic conflict which the world witnesses today and which threatens everything that we have most loved as a free people, we see more clearly than ever before the unyielding strength of things of the spirit. All of recorded history bears witness that the human race has made true advancement only as it has appreciated spiritual values. Those unhappy peoples who have placed their sole reliance on the sword have inevitably perished by the sword in the end.

No, physical strength can never permanently withstand the impact of spiritual force.

And Woodrow Wilson's whole career was a triumph of the spiritual over the sordid forces of brute strength. Under his leadership this country made, as we know, very great spiritual progress.

Of Woodrow Wilson this can be said, that in a time when world councils were dominated by material considerations of greed and of gain and of revenge he beheld the vision splendid. That selfish men could not share his vision of a world emancipated from the shackles of force and the arbitrament of the sword in no wise detracts from its splendor. Rather does the indifference of hostile contemporaries enhance the beauty of the vision which he sought to rebuild.

He will be held in everlasting remembrance by those who knew him and those who came after him, as a statesman who, when other men sought revenge and material gain, strove to bring nearer the day which should see the emancipation of conscience from power and the substitution of freedom for force in the government of the world.

It is good for America that this house in which Woodrow Wilson was born will be preserved for us and for many future generations. In this Valley of Virginia it will remind America that his ideals of freedom were wide enough to support democracy in all the world. He taught—and let's never forget it—he taught that democracy could not survive in isolation. We applaud his judgment and we applaud his faith.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks at the Dedication of Woodrow Wilson's Birthplace, Staunton, Virginia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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