Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks to the Roosevelt Home Club, Hyde Park, New York.

August 30, 1941

You know, I don't know whether I like being called a landlord. I say this though, that if I have to be landlord, and if he has to 'be tenant, I would rather have Moses [Smith] as a tenant than any man I have ever known. But just think of it—he has not cut down the trees; he has not burned up the house; and the fields are in better condition than the day he came, And, incidentally, what is very, very important, from my point of view, all the time that Moses has been here, he has never given me a headache.

I am awfully glad to see you all again, and it occurs to me that this is not the twelfth anniversary of the Club, so much as it is the third meeting of ours since this world has been convulsed with all kinds of dangers, and they are not over yet. And it is very possible that they may be even more serious at this moment than they were at the end of August, and the beginning of September, 1939.

And yet, here we are in this scene that is essentially a scene of peace, living almost normal lives. A scene that I suppose could be duplicated, not the Home Club part of it, but the fact of the gathering, the fact of the general picture of the countryside, could probably be duplicated in 20,000 communities in the United States, on a million farms, with good roads going past them, just like this somewhat over-burdened road out there. In other words, it is a natural, normal American scene of peace, and in a community we are mighty proud of, but always with the thought that there are tens of thousands of other communities, that the people living in them are equally proud of, where in any of the communities—including our own—if we think back fifty years—I can do that—some of you can too—we look back and think of the changes that have occurred through peaceful processes in that half-century.

Think of the improvements, not merely the physical improvements, but the whole of the standard of life, the way it has improved in this past fifty years. Go back and think about things right in this town fifty years ago.

Coming over here, I stopped one minute to look at a very delightful little stone gatehouse for the new Library, with Mr. John McShain, who is giving it to the Library, and we were looking at stone walls. And it reminded me—I told him of the fact -when I was a boy, we were able to get plenty of people to re-lay a stone wall for a dollar a rod. You older people can remember that. And a man working pretty hard, not eight hours but ten hours a day, could lay one rod for one dollar, in one day. And I remember Henry Myers came down—a lot of you remember him- came down and complained to my father that for masons it had gotten to such a pass that he had to pay them two dollars a day.

Think of the condition of the roads in this country. I don't mean that our efficient Superintendent of Highways is referred to, but I mean fifty years ago. Well, there were certain periods of the year where it was almost worth your life to go out driving behind a pair of horses. Think of the old lamps in the houses. Think of all of the other things which are dead and gone nowadays. Compare the life that everybody lived fifty years ago with what it is today. Well, there are a great many physical objects. We are very proud of them. Some of them are quite new. Right up here to the north is a new high school. We are all mighty proud of it. A little way south is a new grade school, and in the village another grade school. There are still some people that think that the one-room, one-teacher, little individual schoolhouse gives the best education in the world. Well, it did once, when there wasn't any other kind. But I think all of us are happy in the fact that in our town today we have as good equipment for the education of our children as is possible to get anywhere in the United States.

So we have a great deal to be thankful for, including the fact that this is still a peaceful gathering—the third time in succession.

I think all of us pray that next year that- as Moses said—we may have to move into the field to get enough room—that we will still be able to say that.

Yet, as you know, it isn't all in our keeping. It isn't all our decision. This morning I got a letter—going to read it to you in a minute or two—it's evidence of what very observing eyes have seen around this world of ours.

Now I would like very, very much to tell you a great many things, such as the development of the airplane program, and the tank program, and the shipping program; to tell you about all of the details of our problems in the far waters of the Pacific; to tell you all kinds of details about those very wonderful days—tremendously interesting days—that I spent with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill. I would like to tell you all about those things.

But, here's my trouble: My hands are tied. The reason why my hands are tied is this: It's the press. This group of old and very good friends of mine, writing for papers, taking stills, grinding out movies, travel with me all the time, day and night. And the reason that I went up to that distant spot in the Atlantic was to give them a rest.

And they went up, while people said I disappeared. Well, I suppose that's the newspaper way of saying it. It happens to be true; I did. They went up to a hotel in Swampscott, where there was good golf and boating, and everything else, expecting to get a holiday. And then some enterprising person in England discovered that the Prime Minister had gone; and furthermore discovered that their Chief of Staff had gone; and that the Chief of their Air Corps had gone; and the Chief Sea Lord of the Admiralty had gone; and somebody must have had real imagination—real intelligence. They put those four fellows together, and they figured out that they had all gone! Disappeared! Well, they made a great to-do about it. Why should all these particular four people disappear like that? So they put something about it. in the paper, and sent it in to Washington; and some terribly enterprising newspaper editors around the country began sending telegrams to the boys of mine up in Swampscott. "Where's the President?" "Well," they said, "he's on a boat." And then they sent another telegram back, "Very, very important, check and find the boat." Well, they couldn't. I was three hundred and twenty miles at sea at that moment. And then some enterprising newspaperman in Washington found that my Chief of Staff was gone, and the Chief of Naval Operations, and General Arnold of Aviation. They had gone too. And, by Jove, that shows the value and the brilliance of a free press. They not only put two and two together, but they put two more, and two more, until they added it up to eight.

And the poor fellows at Swampscott were being bombarded day and night with telegrams from Washington, "What about it?" They couldn't find me on the golf course; they couldn't find me any place near there; but they were kept up all day and all night, trying to find me—in Swampscott.

So this week, I knew they had been working awfully hard they hadn't really had any holiday, and I told them yesterday down in Washington that there wouldn't be any news on Saturday afternoon from what I would say to the Home Club. So you see how my hands are tied. I want to tell you all about the program; I want to tell you about Japan; I want to tell you about the meeting with Churchill; and I can't do it.

So I am hoping they will have time enough this afternoon to go down to Poughkeepsie and write the story and get back in time to have a picnic over there at the Val Kill Cottage, and that is why I am going to help them. I am going to help them to fill in the story that they have to send over the wire, by giving them something that is all prepared for them.

I think it will interest you, incidentally. It is the letter I was telling you about. It happens to be from a woman, a woman who is an exceedingly good observer and, because of the occupation of her husband, has been all over the world, in different posts -the kind of a life that in the last fifteen or twenty years has allowed her to observe things in Europe and Asia and Africa and South America.

And she got back here the other day—her children are in this country, of school age—and her husband is still in foreign parts, very much on the job. And when she got back she sent me this letter. I think it explains a little bit what is going on from the point of view of a person who has seen it with her own eyes—not somebody like the fellow that Moses said bought the farm next door, but somebody who has seen things in this world at firsthand; who knows geography and knows other countries. And sometimes, you know, the judgment of people who see with their own eyes, and have the largest number of sources of information—sometimes their judgment happens to be better than the judgment of people who don't have the same opportunity.

She writes:

"I am at this summer resort with my children whom I have not seen for many months. It is terrifying, coming from Europe, to realize that many of these people in their unruffled existence seem to have no idea of what hangs over their heads today. They put themselves in a posture where they cannot squawk about what they don't want to see. They go about their 'daily dozens' "

—which is a good phrase, applying not only to physical gymnastics, but I think mental gymnastics as well

—"ignoring the threatening heel of human beings who want to destroy the freedom—the normal life—to which they have been accustomed.

"They cannot see that the Hitlers of the world are waging war by exploiting social unrest, exploiting decent human progress by the use of armed power for their own aggrandizement.

"Having seen with my own eyes the cruel and ruthless sweep of the dictator armies through Europe in the first year of the war; having contact with the expansion of that sweep to Africa and Asia during the second year of the war—and especially because personal, practical experience proves the point—I know that world domination, including of necessity the Americas, is the definite planned purpose of the dictators.

"Finally, I want to say to you that in Europe or Africa or Asia there is not a Nation of those who have suffered abuse whose people are not aware of what America stands for. They believe in America despite all the propaganda that is fed to them. They know they will never be exploited by America. They pray daily that America will save itself by helping greatly to defeat Hitlerism. They pray for this because it seems to them that that is the only way in which peoples everywhere can attain peace and live in peace."

I suppose that's the thought that we all have. John Mack expressed it; Moses Smith expressed it. We all feel it down deep in our hearts that we want to keep America so that in all the years to come, long after we have gone, long after there isn't any Home Club any more, somebody in this township- perhaps on this lawn- will be able to hold a party like this, just as we are doing it today, just as we hope we will all come back next year, and do it again.

On such occasions we have had some "visiting fireman" with us. Last year it was Frank Walker, and I think on that occasion I announced his appointment as Postmaster General of the United States.

Well, Harry Hopkins- Harry is a resident at Hyde Park. I don't have to introduce him. I am still trying to sell him a farm.

But we have got a very distinguished visitor with us. I might almost call him the Prime Minister of a part of America, a part of the United States. Mr. Munoz Marin is the President of the Senate of Puerto Rico.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks to the Roosevelt Home Club, Hyde Park, New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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