Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Undelivered Address

"Oh yes, they will agree, war is horrible. War is hell.

And yet, in the pale anemic minds, there is a kind of worship of this same horror of war...

Now, you and I don’t stand in such awe and adoration. We don’t think war deserves it."

April 12, 1945. America had faced economic depression and all-encompassing war. Franklin Roosevelt was in the midst of his fourth term as president and was to give a speech in honor of Jefferson Day the following morning. He was posing for a painting in Warm Springs, Georgia, when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away.

Jon & I saw this speech at the FDR museum a few weeks ago. Struck by it, I came home and promptly Googled it... what I found was several versions of it, but not this one. I called the museum about the inconsistency. Apparently no one knows what version was the last, but they do know that the one that follows had his handwritten notes on it, so it was definitely a draft he was considering.

This blog is not a political one. I have ventured more into that arena in the past couple weeks than I usually do. And I post this not as a political statement, but as a realistic one. War is hell.

As a Christian- and a realist- I know that "the end to the beginnings of all wars" will not happen until Christ returns. I am fully aware of that. Yet, I applaud the sentiment in this speech. I, too, think that war gets romanticized, glorified. I personally believe there is a line between supporting the troops and glorifying war- and that line gets all too often blurred.

For now, I will let the speech speak for itself.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Undelivered Address:

My friends:

Knowing that you are gathered tonight in cities, in towns, from one end of the country to the other, to give expression of your loyalty, I wish that I had the power, just for an evening, of being a thousand places at once.

I, too, feel the old need of a homecoming, the old urge to show up among the folks, and to take pride with you in the fact that we are Democrats.

I have spoken to my doctor about my inability to be in more than one spot at a time, but he tells me the condition is chronic. There is nothing he can do about it.

But, I am with you in heart. And in these times of trial, this greatest of all tests of men and the leaders of men, of nations, and the community of nations – up to this decisive hour, I know that you have stood, and you stand now, most loyally side by side with me.

Let me tell you that I am strengthened by that knowledge. Let me assure you that my hand is the steadier for the work that is to be done, that I move more firmly into the task, knowing that you – millions and millions of you – are joined with me in the resolve to make this work endure.

The work, my friends, is peace. More than an end of the war – an end to the beginnings of all wars. Yes, an end, forever, to this impractical, unrealistic settlement of the differences between governments by the mass killing of people.

Even as I speak these words, I can hear, in my mind’s ear, an old, old chorus. You have heard it, too. You will hear more of it as we go forward with the work at hand.

It is the chorus of the defeatists, the cynics, the perfectionists – all the world’s sad aggregation of timid souls who tell us, for one reason or another, it can’t be done.

They have been afraid to come along with us as we approached this task of destiny. And they will shrink, they will pull back and try to pull us back with them, as we get further into it.

Oh yes, they will agree, war is horrible. War is hell.

And yet, in the pale anemic minds, there is a kind of worship of this same horror of war. They tell us there can be no end to it. They endow it with immortality. They certify it to us as the ultimate fate of mankind on earth.

Now, you and I don’t stand in such awe and adoration. We don’t think war deserves it.

You and I are not willing to concede that we were put here on earth for no better purpose. And from here on, the wars that would come if we let them would leave precious few of us to argue to the contrary!

You and I call war stupidity – not plain stupidity, but enormous, brutal stupidity, a crime that makes no more sense to its perpetrator than it does to its victims.

Well, today that cult of the faint-hearted, the credo of those cringing adorers of a criminal precedent, is on its way out. And in a span of time as far back as history goes, there is something new under the sun.

To me there is not greater hope for humanity, there is no better sign in the world of our time, than the fact that this abject worship of war has become – for the first time – a minority belief. We have struck boldly forward in the inner world of our thinking, in the world that we project for our kind, and we have discovered that the world is not flat.

True, if there are new corporals who will want to become rulers of the earth, we can not legislate wild fancies out of their minds. If there are other impractical dreamers who must indulge themselves in their private nightmares – the pipe dream that war is inevitable – we cannot pass laws abridging the freedom to dream.

But we can and we will stop these murderous hallucinations from reaching us. We can and we will keep them confined to the dream-world of would-be conquerors and of the defeatists who are their accessories before the fact. We can stop them from wrecking the lives of sane, sound, peace-loving, practical humanity. This we can do. And this we will do.

I say “we,” for I know that I am only one in many millions who share this belief and are so resolved. We have had it proved abundantly to us in America that our people, whether Democrats or Republicans, want to strike boldly against the threat of war. They have demanded a sane, practical end to it. And they have their feet on the ground.

To this I can add – for I have seen it just as abundantly in my recent travels – that the other peoples of the world will be with us every step of the way. The thin-blooded timid souls who are now in a minority in our country are also a minority in the world.

I remember saying, once upon a time in the long, long ago when I was a freshman in college that all men had to fear was fear itself. We were in fear and economic collapse. We have struck back boldly against that fear. And we overcame it.

Today, as we move against terrible scourge, and as we go forward towards the greatest contribution that any generation of human beings can make in this world – the contribution of lasting peace, I ask you to keep your faith.

I measure the sound, solid achievements that can be made at this time by the straight-edge of your own confidence and your resolve. And to you, and to all Americans who dedicate themselves with us to the making of an abiding peace, I say:

The only limit of our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.


Ellen said...

Sara, This is a great speach I am very glad you looked into this and posted it. I think anyone, For or Against war can benefit from these words. Thank you for sharing

Nancy in Los Angeles said...

Thank you for putting this online. We, too, were inspired by it when it was given to us at Warm Springs a week ago. This version has strong words about the tired, weak, acceptance of war that the others, perhaps more official, don't, and whether or not FDR got to say it aloud, we can sure use it now.