“. . . The dangers that confront the future of mankind as a whole are
greater to the world and therefore to us than the dangers which confront
the people of the United States by and in themselves alone.”
Address on Armistice Day, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Va.,
November 11, 1935
Friends and fellow Americans:
The living memory of the World War is close to each and every one of us
today. Our thoughts return to great objectives of the past, even as the
minds of older men go back to their boyhood’s ideals.
We Americans were so placed in those days that we gained a perspective
of the great world conflict that was perhaps clearer than that of our
fellow men who were closer to the scene of battle. For most of the first
three years of the conflict we were not participants; but during the
final phase we ourselves engaged on many fronts.
For that reason perhaps we understood, as well as any, the cries that
went up-that the world conflict should be made a war to end wars. We
were not invaded, nor were we threatened with invasion then or later;
but the very distance of our view led us to perceive the dire results of
war through days of following peace.
The primary purpose of the United States of America is to avoid being
drawn into war. We seek also in every practicable way to promote peace
and to discourage war. Except for those few who have placed or who place
temporary, selfish gain ahead of national and world peace, the
overwhelming mass of American citizens are in hearty accord with these
basic policies of our Government, as they are also entirely sympathetic
with the efforts of other Nations to avoid and to end war.
That is why we too have striven with great consistency to approve steps
to remove the causes of war and to disapprove steps taken by others to
commit acts of aggression. We have either led or performed our full part
in every important attempt to limit and to reduce world armaments. We
have sought by definite act and solemn commitment to establish the
United States as a good neighbor among Nations. We are acting to
simplify definitions and facts by calling war “War” when armed invasion
and a resulting killing of human beings take place.
But though our course is consistent and clear, it is with disappointment
and sorrow that most Americans confess that the world’s gain thus far
has been small.
I would not be frank with you if I did not tell you that the dangers
that confront the future of mankind as a whole are greater to the
world and therefore to us than the dangers which confront the people of
the United States by and in themselves alone.
Jealousies between Nations continue; armaments increase; national
ambitions that disturb the world’s peace are thrust forward. Most
serious of all, international confidence in the sacredness of
international contracts is on the wane.
The memory of our hopes of 1917 and 1918 dies with the death of those of
us who took part. It is, therefore, your sacred obligation and mine, by
conscious, definite effort, to pass that memory on to succeeding
generations. A new generation, even in its cradle or still unborn, is
coming to the fore. The children in our schools, the young men and women
passing through our colleges into productive life have, unlike us, no
direct knowledge of the meaning of war. They are not immune to the
glamour of war, to the opportunities to escape from the drabness and
worry of hard times at home in the glory and heroism of the arms factory
and the battlefield. Fortunately, there is evidence on every hand that
the youth of America, as a whole, is not trapped by that delusion. They
know that elation and prosperity which may come from a new war must
lead-for those who survive it-to economic and social collapse more
sweeping than any we have experienced in the past. While, therefore, we
cannot and must not hide our concern for grave world dangers, and while,
at the same time, we cannot and must not build walls around ourselves
and hide our heads in the sand, we must go forward with all our strength
to stress and strive for international peace.
In this effort America must and will protect herself. Under no
circumstances will this policy of self-protection go to lengths beyond
self-protection. Aggression on the part of the United States is an
impossibility in so far as the present Administration of your Government
is concerned. Defense against aggression by others-adequate defense on
land, on sea and in air-is our accepted policy; and the measure of that
defense is and will be solely the amount necessary to safeguard us
against the armaments of others. The more greatly they decrease their
armaments, the more quickly and surely shall we decrease ours.
In many other fields, by word and by deed, we are giving example to the
world by removing or lowering barriers which impede friendly
intercourse. Our soldier and sailor dead call to us across the years to
make our lives effective in building constructively for peace. It is
fitting that on this Armistice Day, seventeen years later, I am
privileged to tell you that between us and a great neighbor another act
cementing our historic friendship has been agreed upon and is being
consummated. Between Canada and the United States exists a
neighborliness, a genuine friendship which for over a century has
dispelled every passing rift.
Our two peoples, each independent, are closely knit by ties of blood and
a common heritage; our standards of life are substantially the same; our
commerce and our economic conditions rest upon the same foundations.
Between two such peoples, if we would build constructively for peace and
progress, the flow of intercourse should be mutually beneficial and not
unduly hampered. Each has much to gain by material profit, by spiritual
profit, by increased employment through the means of enlarged trade, one
with the other.
I am, therefore, happy to be able to tell you almost in celebration of
this Armistice Day that the Canadian Prime Minister and I, after
thoughtful discussion of our national problems, have reached a definite
agreement which will eliminate disagreements and unreasonable
restrictions, and thus work to the advantage of both Canada and the
I hope that this good example will reach around the world some day, for
the power of good example is the strongest force in the world. It
surpasses preachments; it excels good resolutions; it is far better than
If we as a Nation, by our good example, can contribute to the peaceful
well-being of the fellowship of Nations, our course through the years
will not have been in vain.
We who survive have profited by the good example of our fellow Americans
who gave their lives in war. On these surrounding hills of Virginia they
rest-thousands upon thousands-in the last bivouac of the dead. Below us,
across the river, we see a great capital of a great Nation.
The past and the present unite in prayer that America will ever seek the
ways of peace, and by her example at home and abroad speed the return of
good-will among men.
Development of United States Foreign Policy