Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks at Tupelo, Miss.

November 18, 1934

Senator Harrison, Governor Conner, Mr. Mayor, my friends:

I shall not make a speech to you today because we are assembled on this glorious Sunday morning more as neighbors than as anything else.

I have had a very wonderful three days; and everywhere that I have gone, the good people have come as neighbors to talk with me, and they have not come by the thousands—they have come literally by the acres.

This is the first time in my life that I have had the privilege of seeing this section of the State of Mississippi. Many, many years ago, when Pat Harrison and I were almost boys, I became acquainted with his stamping ground down on the Gulf. Today I am especially glad to come into the northern part of the State.

Two years ago, in 1932, during the campaign, and again in January, 1933, I came through Kentucky—through the Tennessee Valley—and what I saw on those trips, what I saw of human beings, made the tears come to my eyes. The great outstanding thing to me for these past three days has been the change in the looks on people's faces. It has not been only a physical thing. It has not been the contrast between what was actually a scarcity of raiment or a lack of food two years ago and better clothing and more food today. Rather it is a something in people's faces. I think you understand what I mean. There was not much hope in those days. People were wondering what was going to come to this country. And yet today I see not only hope, but I see determination and a knowledge that all is well with the country, and that we are Coming back.

I suppose that you good people know a great deal more of the efforts that we have been making in regard to the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority than I do, because you have seen its application in your own counties and your towns and your own homes; and, therefore, it would be like carrying coals to Newcastle for me to tell you about what has been done.

But perhaps in referring to it I can use you as a text—a text that may be useful to many other parts of the Nation; because people's eyes are upon you and because what you are doing here is going to be copied in every State of the Union before we get through.

We recognize that there will be a certain amount of—what shall I say?—rugged opposition to this development, but I think we recognize also that the opposition is fading as the weeks and months go by—fading in the light of practical experience.

I cite certain figures for the benefit of the gentlemen of the press, who have come hither from many climes. I am told that from March of this year, when you started using T.V.A. power, the consumption of power for residential purposes has risen from 41,000 kilowatts to 89,000 kilowatts—an increase of—26 percent. I understand that from the financial point of view, in spite of various fairy tales that have been spread in other parts of the country, your power system is still paying taxes to the municipality. That is worth remembering. Furthermore, I understand that, as a whole, it is a remarkable business success.

I talk about those figures first, for it has been so often wrongly alleged that this yardstick which we are using could not be applied to private businesses, because a Government yardstick receives so many favors, because it is absolved from paying this and paying that and paying the other thing. Well, we are proving in this Tennessee Valley that by using good business methods we can instruct a good many business men in the country.

And there is another side of it. I have forgotten the exact figures and I cannot find them in this voluminous report at this moment, but the number of new refrigerators that have been ,put in, for example, means something besides just plain dollars and cents. It means a greater human happiness. The introduction of electric cookstoves and all the other dozens of things which, when I was in the Navy, we used to call "gadgets," is improving human life. They are things not especially new so far as invention is concerned, but more and more are they considered necessities in our American life in every part of the country.

And I have been interested this morning in seeing these new homesteads—not just the buildings, not just the land that they are on, not just the excellent landscaping of the trees among which those homes have been set, but rather the opportunities that those homes are giving to families to improve their standard of living.

And finally, my friends, there is one significant thing about all that you are doing here in Tupelo, that others are doing in Corinth, in Athens and Norris, and the various other places where accomplishment can be seen today—aye, the most important thing of all I think is that it is being done by the communities themselves. This is not coming from Washington. It is coming from you. You are not being Federalized. We still believe in the community; and things are going to advance in this country exactly in proportion to the community effort. This is not regimentation; it is community rugged individualism. It means no longer the kind of rugged individualism that allows an individual to do this, that or the other thing that will hurt his neighbors. He is forbidden to do that from now on. But he is going to be encouraged in every known way from the national capital and the State capital and the county seat to use his individualism in cooperation with his neighbors' individualism so that he and his neighbors together may improve their lot in life.

Yes, I have been thrilled by these three days, thrilled not only in the knowledge of practical accomplishment but thrilled also in the deep-seated belief that the people of this Nation understand what we are trying to do, are cooperating with us and have made up their minds that we are going to do it.

And so, in saying "Good-bye" to you for a short time—because I am coming back—I ask all of you, throughout the length and breadth of the Tennessee Valley and those areas which form an economic portion of that Valley, to remember that the responsibility for success lies very largely with you, and that the eyes of the Nation are upon you. I, for one, am confident that you are going to give to the Nation an example which will be a benefit not only to yourselves, but to the whole one hundred and thirty millions of Americans in every part of the land.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks at Tupelo, Miss. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives