Standing in this presence, mindful of the solemnity of this
occasion, feeling the emotions which no one may know until he senses
the great weight of responsibility for himself, I must utter my
belief in the divine inspiration of the founding fathers. Surely
there must have been God's intent in the making of this new-world
Republic. Ours is an organic law which had but one ambiguity, and we
saw that effaced in a baptism of sacrifice and blood, with union
maintained, the Nation supreme, and its concord inspiring. We have
seen the world rivet its hopeful gaze on the great truths on which
the founders wrought. We have seen civil, human, and religious
liberty verified and glorified. In the beginning the Old World
scoffed at our experiment; today our foundations of political and
social belief stand unshaken, a precious inheritance to ourselves,
an inspiring example of freedom and civilization to all mankind. Let
us express renewed and strengthened devotion, in grateful reverence
for the immortal beginning, and
utter our confidence in the supreme fulfillment.
The recorded progress of our Republic, materially and spiritually,
in itself proves the wisdom of the inherited policy of
noninvolvement in Old World affairs. Confident of our ability to
work out our own destiny, and jealously guarding our right to do so,
we seek no part in directing the destinies of the Old World. We do
not mean to be entangled. We will accept no responsibility except as
our own conscience and judgment, in each instance, may determine.
Our eyes never will be blind to a developing menace, our ears never
deaf to the call of civilization. We recognize the new order in the
world, with the closer contacts which progress has wrought. We sense
the call of the human heart for fellowship, fraternity, and
cooperation. We crave friendship and harbor no hate. But America,
our America, the America builded on the foundation laid by the
inspired fathers, can be a party to no permanent military alliance.
It can enter into no political commitments, nor assume any economic
obligations which will subject our decisions to any other than our
I am sure our own people will not misunderstand, nor will the world
misconstrue. We have no thought to impede the paths to closer
relationship. We wish to promote understanding. We want to do our
part in making offensive warfare so hateful that Governments and
peoples who resort to it must prove the righteousness of their cause
or stand as outlaws before the bar of civilization.
We are ready to associate ourselves with the nations of the world,
great and small, for conference, for counsel; to seek the expressed
views of world opinion; to recommend a way to approximate
disarmament and relieve the crushing burdens of military and naval
establishments. We elect to participate in suggesting plans for
mediation, conciliation, and arbitration, and would gladly join in
that expressed conscience of progress, which seeks to clarify and
write the laws of international relationship, and establish a world
court for the disposition of such justiciable questions as nations
are agreed to submit thereto. In expressing aspirations, in seeking
practical plans, in translating humanity's new concept of
righteousness and justice and its hatred of war into recommended
action we are ready most heartily to unite, but every commitment
must be made in the exercise of our national sovereignty. Since
freedom impelled, and independence inspired, and nationality
exalted, a world supergovernment is contrary to everything we
cherish and can have no sanction by our Republic. This is not
selfishness, it is sanctity. It is not aloofness, it is security. It
is not suspicion of others, it is patriotic adherence to the things
which made us what we are.
Today, better than ever before, we know the aspirations of
humankind, and share them. We have come to a new realization of our
place in the world and a new appraisal of our Nation by the world.
The unselfishness of these United States is a thing proven; our
devotion to peace for ourselves and for the world is well
established; our concern for preserved civilization has had its
impassioned and heroic expression. There was no American failure to
resist the attempted reversion of civilization; there will be no
failure today or tomorrow.
The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct
interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular
will of America. In a deliberate questioning of a suggested change
of national policy, where internationality was to supersede
nationality, we turned to a referendum, to the American people.
There was ample discussion, and there is a public mandate in
America is ready to encourage, eager to initiate, anxious to
participate in any seemly program likely to lessen the probability
of war, and promote that brotherhood of mankind which must be God's
highest conception of human relationship. Because we cherish ideals
of justice and peace, because we appraise international comity and
helpful relationship no less highly than any people of the world, we
aspire to a high place in the moral leadership of civilization, and
we hold a maintained America, the proven Republic, the unshaken
temple of representative democracy, to be not only an inspiration
and example, but the highest agency of strengthening good will and
promoting accord on both continents.
Mankind needs a world-wide benediction of understanding. It is
needed among individuals, among peoples, among governments, and it
will inaugurate an era of good feeling to make the birth of a new
order. In such understanding men will strive confidently for the
promotion of their better relationships and nations will promote the
comities so essential to peace.
We must understand that ties of trade bind nations in closest
intimacy, and none may receive except as he gives. We have not
strengthened ours in accordance with our resources or our genius,
notably on our own continent, where a galaxy of Republics reflects
the glory of new-world democracy, but in the new order of finance
and trade we mean to promote enlarged activities and seek expanded
Perhaps we can make no more helpful contribution by example than
prove a Republic's capacity to emerge from the wreckage of war.
While the world's embittered travail did not leave us devastated
lands nor desolated cities, left no gaping wounds, no breast with
hate, it did involve us in the delirium of expenditure, in expanded
currency and credits, in unbalanced industry, in unspeakable waste,
and disturbed relationships. While it uncovered our portion of
hateful selfishness at home, it also revealed the heart of America
as sound and fearless, and beating in confidence unfailing.
Amid it all we have riveted the gaze of all civilization to the
unselfishness and the righteousness of representative democracy,
where our freedom never has made offensive warfare, never has sought
territorial aggrandizement through force, never has turned to the
arbitrament of arms until reason has been exhausted. When the
Governments of the earth shall have established a freedom like our
own and shall have sanctioned the pursuit of peace as we have
practiced it, I believe the last sorrow and the final sacrifice of
international warfare will have been written.
Let me speak to the maimed and wounded soldiers who are present
today, and through them convey to their comrades the gratitude of
the Republic for their sacrifices in its defense. A generous country
will never forget the services you rendered, and you may hope for a
policy under Government that will relieve any maimed successors from
taking your places on another such occasion as this.
Our supreme task is the resumption of our onward, normal way.
Reconstruction, readjustment, restoration all these must follow. I
would like to hasten them. If it will lighten the spirit and add to
the resolution with which we take up the task, let me repeat for our
Nation, we shall give no people just cause to make war upon us; we
hold no national prejudices; we entertain no spirit of revenge; we
do not hate; we do not covet; we dream of no conquest, nor boast of
If, despite this attitude, war is again forced upon us, I earnestly
hope a way may be found which will unify our individual and
collective strength and consecrate all America, materially and
spiritually, body and soul, to national defense. I can vision the
ideal republic, where every man and woman is called under the flag
for assignment to duty for whatever service, military or civic, the
individual is best fitted; where we may call to universal service
every plant, agency, or facility, all in the sublime sacrifice for
country, and not one penny of war profit shall inure to the benefit
of private individual, corporation, or combination, but all above
the normal shall flow into the defense chest of the Nation. There is
something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals
of representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship
turns its activities to private gain amid defensive war while
another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national
Out of such universal service will come a new unity of spirit and
purpose, a new confidence and consecration, which would make our
defense impregnable, our triumph assured. Then we should have little
or no disorganization of our economic, industrial, and commercial
systems at home, no staggering war debts, no swollen fortunes to
flout the sacrifices of our soldiers, no excuse for sedition, no
pitiable slackerism, no outrage of treason. Envy and jealousy would
have no soil for their menacing development, and revolution would be
without the passion which engenders it.
A regret for the mistakes of yesterday must not, however, blind us
to the tasks of today. War never left such an aftermath. There has
been staggering loss of life and measureless wastage of materials.
Nations are still groping for return to stable ways. Discouraging
indebtedness confronts us like all the war-torn nations, and these
obligations must be provided for. No civilization can survive
We can reduce the abnormal expenditures, and we will. We can strike
at war taxation, and we must. We must face the grim necessity, with
full knowledge that the task is to be solved, and we must proceed
with a full realization that no statute enacted by man can repeal
the inexorable laws of nature. Our most dangerous tendency is to
expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too
little. We contemplate the immediate task of putting our public
household in order. We need a rigid and yet sane economy, combined
with fiscal justice, and it must be attended by individual prudence
and thrift, which are so essential to this trying hour and
reassuring for the future.
The business world reflects the disturbance of war's reaction.
Herein flows the lifeblood of material existence. The economic
mechanism is intricate and its parts interdependent, and has
suffered the shocks and jars incident to abnormal demands, credit
inflations, and price upheavals. The normal balances have been
impaired, the channels of distribution have been clogged, the
relations of labor and management have been strained. We must seek
the readjustment with care and courage. Our people must give and
take. Prices must reflect the receding fever of war activities.
Perhaps we never shall know the old levels of wages again, because
war invariably readjusts compensations, and the necessaries of life
will show their inseparable relationship, but we must strive for
normalcy to reach stability. All the penalties will not be light,
nor evenly distributed. There is no way of making them so. There is
no instant step from disorder to order. We must face a condition of
grim reality, charge off our losses and start afresh. It is the
oldest lesson of civilization. I would like government to do all it
can to mitigate; then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest,
in concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved. No altered
system will work a miracle. Any wild experiment will only add to the
confusion. Our best assurance lies in efficient administration of
our proven system.
The forward course of the business cycle is unmistakable. Peoples
are turning from destruction to production. Industry has sensed the
changed order and our own people are turning to resume their normal,
onward way. The call is for productive America to go on. I know that
Congress and the Administration will favor every wise Government
policy to aid the resumption and encourage continued progress.
I speak for administrative efficiency, for lightened tax burdens,
for sound commercial practices, for adequate credit facilities, for
sympathetic concern for all agricultural problems, for the omission
of unnecessary interference of Government with business, for an end
to Government's experiment in business, and for more efficient
business in Government administration. With all of this must attend
a mindfulness of the human side of all activities, so that social,
industrial, and economic justice will be squared with the purposes
of a righteous people.
With the nation-wide induction of womanhood into our political life,
we may count upon her intuitions, her refinements, her intelligence,
and her influence to exalt the social order. We count upon her
exercise of the full privileges and the performance of the duties of
citizenship to speed the attainment of the highest state.
I wish for an America no less alert in guarding against dangers from
within than it is watchful against enemies from without. Our
fundamental law recognizes no class, no group, no section; there
must be none in legislation or administration. The supreme
inspiration is the common weal. Humanity hungers for international
peace, and we crave it with all mankind. My most reverent prayer for
America is for industrial peace, with its rewards, widely and
generally distributed, amid the inspirations of equal opportunity.
No one justly may deny the equality of opportunity which made us
what we are. We have mistaken unpreparedness to embrace it to be a
challenge of the reality, and due concern for making all citizens
fit for participation will give added strength of citizenship and
magnify our achievement.
If revolution insists upon overturning established order, let other
peoples make the tragic experiment. There is no place for it in
America. When World War threatened civilization we pledged our
resources and our lives to its preservation, and when revolution
threatens we unfurl the flag of law and order and renew our
consecration. Ours is a constitutional freedom where the popular
will is the law supreme and minorities are sacredly protected. Our
revisions, reformations, and evolutions reflect a deliberate
judgment and an orderly progress, and we mean to cure our ills, but
never destroy or permit destruction by force.
I had rather submit our industrial controversies to the conference
table in advance than to a settlement table after conflict and
suffering. The earth is thirsting for the cup of good will,
understanding is its fountain source. I would like to acclaim an era
of good feeling amid dependable prosperity and all the blessings
It has been proved again and again that we cannot, while throwing
our markets open to the world, maintain American standards of living
and opportunity, and hold our industrial eminence in such unequal
competition. There is a luring fallacy in the theory of banished
barriers of trade, but preserved American standards require our
higher production costs to be reflected in our tariffs on imports.
Today, as never before, when peoples are seeking trade restoration
and expansion, we must adjust our tariffs to the new order. We seek
participation in the world's exchanges, because therein lies our way
to widened influence and the triumphs of peace. We know full well we
cannot sell where we do not buy, and we cannot sell successfully
where we do not carry. Opportunity is calling not alone for the
restoration, but for a new era in production, transportation and
trade. We shall answer it best by meeting the demand of a surpassing
home market, by promoting self-reliance in production, and by
bidding enterprise, genius, and efficiency to carry our cargoes in
American bottoms to the marts of the world.
We would not have an America living within and for herself alone,
but we would have her self-reliant, independent, and ever nobler,
stronger, and richer. Believing in our higher standards, reared
through constitutional liberty and maintained opportunity, we invite
the world to the same heights. But pride in things wrought is no
reflex of a completed task. Common welfare is the goal of our
national endeavor. Wealth is not inimical to welfare; it ought to be
its friendliest agency. There never can be equality of rewards or
possessions so long as the human plan contains varied talents and
differing degrees of industry and thrift, but ours ought to be a
country free from the great blotches of distressed poverty. We ought
to find a way to guard against the perils and penalties of
unemployment. We want an America of homes, illumined with hope and
happiness, where mothers, freed from the necessity for long hours of
toil beyond their own doors, may preside as befits the hearthstone
of American citizenship. We want the cradle of American childhood
rocked under conditions so wholesome and so hopeful that no blight
may touch it in its development, and we want to provide that no
selfish interest, no material necessity, no lack of opportunity
shall prevent the gaining of that education so essential to best
There is no short cut to the making of these ideals into glad
realities. The world has witnessed again and again the futility and
the mischief of ill-considered remedies for social and economic
disorders. But we are mindful today as never before of the friction
of modern industrialism, and we must learn its causes and reduce its
evil consequences by sober and tested methods. Where genius has made
for great possibilities, justice and happiness must be reflected in
a greater common welfare.
Service is the supreme commitment of life. I would rejoice to
acclaim the era of the Golden Rule and crown it with the autocracy
of service. I pledge an administration wherein all the agencies of
Government are called to serve, and ever promote an understanding of
Government purely as an expression of the popular will.
One cannot stand in this presence and be unmindful of the tremendous
responsibility. The world upheaval has added heavily to our tasks.
But with the realization comes the surge of high resolve, and there
is reassurance in belief in the God-given destiny of our Republic.
If I felt that there is to be sole responsibility in the Executive
for the America of tomorrow I should shrink from the burden. But
here are a hundred millions, with common concern and shared
responsibility, answerable to God and country. The Republic summons
them to their duty, and I invite co-operation.
I accept my part with single-mindedness of purpose and humility of
spirit, and implore the favor and guidance of God in His Heaven.
With these I am unafraid, and confidently face the future.
I have taken the solemn oath of office on that passage of Holy Writ
wherein it is asked: "What doth the Lord require of thee but to do
justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" This I
plight to God and country.