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Crystal Eastman, socialist feminist, writes in 1920 about the tasks that remain after the vote was won.
Most women will agree that August 23, the day when the Tennessee legislature finally enacted the Federal suffrage amendment, is a day to begin with, not a day to end with. Men are saying perhaps “Thank God, this everlasting woman’s fight is over!” But women, if I know them, are saying, “Now at last we can begin.” In fighting for the right to vote most women have tried to be either non-committal or thoroughly respectable on every other subject. Now they can say what they are really after; and what they are after, in common with all the rest of the struggling world, is freedom.
Freedom is a large word.
Many feminists are socialists, many are communists, not a few are active leaders in these movements. But the true feminist, no matter how far to the left she may be in the revolutionary movement, sees the woman’s battle as distinct in its objects and different in its methods from the workers’ battle for industrial freedom. She knows, of course, that the vast majority of women as well as men are without property, and are of necessity bread and butter slaves under a system of society which allows the very sources of life to be privately owned by a few, and she counts herself a loyal soldier in the working-class army that is marching to overthrow that system. But as a feminist she also knows that the whole of woman’s slavery is not summed up in the profit system, nor her complete emancipation assured by the downfall of capitalism.
Woman’s freedom, in the feminist sense, can be fought for and conceivably won before the gates open into industrial democracy. On the other hand, woman’s freedom, in the feminist sense, is not inherent in the communist ideal. All feminists are familiar with the revolutionary leader who “can’t see” the woman’s movement. “What’s the matter with the women? My wife’s all right,” he says. And his wife, one usually finds, is raising his children in a Bronx flat or a dreary suburb, to which he returns occasionally for food and sleep when all possible excitement and stimulus have been wrung from the fight. If we should graduate into communism tomorrow this man’s attitude to his wife would not be changed. The proletarian dictatorship may or may not free women. We must begin now to enlighten the future dictators.
What, then, is “the matter with women”? What is the problem of women’s freedom? It seems to me to be this: how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinitely varied ways, instead of being destined by the accident of their sex to one field of activity -housework and child-raising. And second, if and when they choose housework and child-raising, to have that occupation recognized by the world as work, requiring a definite economic reward and not merely entitling the performer to be dependent on some man.
This is not the whole of feminism, of course, but it is enough to begin with. “Oh, don’t begin with economics,” my friends often protest, “Woman does not live by bread alone. What she needs first of all is a free soul.” And I can agree that women will never be great until they achieve a certain emotional freedom, a strong healthy egotism, and some un-personal sources of joy — that in this inner sense we cannot make woman free by changing her economic status. What we can do, however, is to create conditions of outward freedom in which a free woman’s soul can be born and grow. It is these outward conditions with which an organized feminist movement must concern itself.
Freedom of choice in occupation and individual economic independence for women: How shall we approach this next feminist objective? First, by breaking down all remaining barriers, actual as well as legal, which make it difficult for women to enter or succeed in the various professions, to go into and get on in business, to learn trades and practice them, to join trades unions. Chief among these remaining barriers is inequality in pay. Here the ground is already broken. This is the easiest part of our program.
Second, we must institute a revolution in the early training and education of both boys and girls. It must be womanly as well as manly to earn your own living, to stand on your own feet. And it must be manly as well as womanly to know how to cook and sew and clean and take care of yourself in the ordinary exigencies of life. I need not add that the second part of this revolution will be more passionately resisted than the first. Men will not give up their privilege of helplessness without a struggle. The average man has a carefully cultivated ignorance about household matters — from what to do with the crumbs to the grocer’s telephone number — a sort of cheerful inefficiency which protects him better than the reputation for having a violent temper. It was his mother’s fault in the beginning, but even as a boy he was quick to see how a general reputation for being “no good around the house” would serve him throughout life, and half-consciously he began to cultivate that helplessness until today it is the despair of feminist wives.
A growing number of men admire the woman who has a job, and, especially since the cost of living doubled, rather like the idea of their own wives contributing to the family income by outside work. And of course for generations there have been whole towns full of wives who are forced by the bitterest necessity to spend the same hours at the factory that their husbands spend. But these bread-winning wives have not yet developed homemaking husbands. When the two come home from the factory the man sits down while his wife gets supper, and he does so with exactly the same sense of fore-ordained right as if he were “supporting her.” Higher up in the economic scale the same thing is true. The business or professional woman who is married, perhaps engages a cook, but the responsibility is not shifted, it is still hers. She “hires and fires,” she orders meals, she does the buying, she meets and resolves all domestic crises, she takes charge of moving, furnishing, settling. She may be, like her husband, a busy executive at her office all day, but unlike him, she is also an executive in a small way every night and morning at home. Her noon hour is spent in planning, and too often her Sundays and holidays are spent in “catching up.”
Two business women can “make a home” together without either one being over-burdened or over-bored. It is because they both know how and both feel responsible. But it is a rare man who can marry one of them and continue the homemaking partnership. Yet if there are no children, there is nothing essentially different in the combination. Two self-supporting adults decide to make a home together: if both are women it is a pleasant partnership, more fun than work; if one is a man, it is almost never a partnership — the woman simply adds running the home to her regular outside job. Unless she is very strong, it is too much for her, she gets tired and bitter over it, and finally perhaps gives up her outside work and condemns herself to the tiresome half-job of housekeeping for two.
Cooperative schemes and electrical devices will simplify the business of homemaking, but they will not get rid of it entirely. As far as we can see ahead people will always want homes, and a happy home cannot be had without a certain amount of rather monotonous work and responsibility. How can we change the nature of man so that he will honorably share that work and responsibility and thus make the homemaking enterprise a song instead of a burden? Most assuredly not by laws or revolutionary decrees. Perhaps we must cultivate or simulate a little of that highly prized helplessness ourselves. But fundamentally it is a problem of education, of early training — we must bring up feminist sons.
Sons? Daughters? They are born of women — how can women be free to choose their occupation, at all times cherishing their economic independence, unless they stop having children? This is a further question for feminism. If the feminist program goes to pieces on the arrival of the first baby, it is false and useless. For ninety-nine out of every hundred women want children, and seventy-five out of every hundred want to take care of their own children, or at any rate so closely superintend their care as to make any other full-time occupation impossible for at least ten or fifteen years. Is there any such thing then as freedom of choice in occupation for women? And is not the family the inevitable economic unit and woman’s individual economic independence, at least during that period, out of the question?
The feminist must have an answer to these questions, and she has. The immediate feminist program must include voluntary motherhood. Freedom of any kind for women is hardly worth considering unless it is assumed that they will know how to control the size of their families. “Birth control” is just as elementary an essential in our propaganda as “equal pay.” Women are to have children when they want them, that’s the first thing. That ensures some freedom of occupational choice; those who do not wish to be mothers will not have an undesired occupation thrust upon them by accident, and those who do wish to be mothers may choose in a general way how many years of their lives they will devote to the occupation of childraising.
But is there any way of insuring a woman’s economic independence while child-raising is her chosen occupation? Or must she sink into that dependent state from which, as we all know, it is so hard to rise again? That brings us to the fourth feature of our program — motherhood endowment. It seems that the only way we can keep mothers free, at least in a capitalist society, is by the establishment of a principle that the occupation of raising children is peculiarly and directly a service to society, and that the mother upon whom the necessity and privilege of performing this service naturally falls is entitled to an adequate economic reward from the political government. It is idle to talk of real economic independence for women unless this principle is accepted. But with a generous endowment of motherhood provided by legislation, with all laws against voluntary motherhood and education in its methods repealed, with the feminist ideal of education accepted in home and school, and with all special barriers removed in every field of human activity, there is no reason why woman should not become almost a human thing.
It will be time enough then to consider whether she has a soul.
Delivered March 1925 New York, NY:
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: My subject is “The Children’s Era.” The Children’s Era! This makes me think of Ellen Key’s book — The Century of the Child. Ellen Key hoped that this twentieth century was to be the century of the child. The twentieth century, she said, would see this old world of ours converted into a beautiful garden of children. Well, we have already lived through a quarter of this twentieth century. What steps have we taken toward making it the century of the child? So far, very, very few.
Why does the Children’s Era still remain a dream of the dim and the distant future? Why has so little been accomplished? — in spite of all our acknowledged love of children, all our generosity, all our good-will, all the enormous spending of millions on philanthropy and charities, all our warm-hearted sentiment, all our incessant activity and social consciousness? Why?
Before you can cultivate a garden, you must know something about gardening. You have got to give your seeds a proper soil in which to grow. You have got to give them sunlight and fresh air. You have got to give them space and the opportunity (if they are to lift their flowers to the sun), to strike their roots deep into that soil. And always — do not forget this — you have got to fight weeds. You cannot have a garden, if you let weeds overrun it. So, if we want to make this world a garden for children, we must first of all learn the lesson of the gardener.
So far we have not been gardeners. We have only been a sort of silly reception committee, a reception committee at the Grand Central Station of life. Trainload after trainload of children are coming in, day and night — nameless refugees arriving out of the Nowhere into the Here. Trainload after trainload — many unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown, without baggage, without passports, most of them without pedigrees. These unlimited hordes of refugees arrive in such numbers that the reception committee is thrown into a panic — a panic of activity. The reception committee arouses itself heroically, establishes emergency measures: milk stations, maternity centers, settlement houses, playgrounds, orphanages, welfare leagues, and every conceivable kind of charitable effort. But still trainloads of children keep on coming — human weed crop up that spread so fast in this sinister struggle for existence, that the overworked committee becomes exhausted, inefficient, and can think of no way out.
When we protest against this immeasurable, meaningless waste of motherhood and child-life; when we protest against the ever-mounting cost to the world of asylums, prisons, homes for the feeble-minded, and such institutions for the unfit, when we protest against the disorder and chaos and tragedy of modern life, when we point out the biological corruption that is destroying the very heart of American life, we are told that we are making merely an “emotional” appeal. When we point the one immediate practical way toward order and beauty in society, the only way to lay the foundations of a society composed of happy children, happy women, and happy men, they call this idea indecent and immoral.
It is not enough to clean up the filth and disorder of our overcrowded cities. It is not enough to stop the evil of Child Labor — even if we could! It is not enough to decrease the rate of infantile mortality. It is not enough to open playgrounds, and build more public schools in which we can standardize the mind of the young. It is not enough to throw millions upon millions of dollars into charities and philanthropies. Don’t deceive ourselves that by so doing we are making the world “Safe for Children.”
Those of you who have followed the sessions of this Conference must, I am sure, agree with me that the first real stop toward the creation of a Children’s Era must lie in providing the conditions of healthy life for children not only before birth but even more imperatively before conception. Human society must protect its children — yes, but prenatal care is most essential! The child-to-be, as yet not called into being, has rights no less imperative.
We have learned in the preceding sessions of this Conference that, if we wish to produce strong and sturdy children, the embryo must grow in a chemically healthy medium. The blood stream of the mother must be chemically normal. Worry, strain, shock, unhappiness, enforced maternity, may all poison the blood of the enslaved mother. This chemically poisoned blood may produce a defective baby — a child foredoomed to idiocy, or feeble-mindedness, crime, or failure.
Do I exaggerate? Am I taking a rare exception and making it a general rule? Our opponents declare that children are conceived in love, and that every new-born baby converts its parents to love and unselfishness. My answer is to point to the asylums, the hospitals, the ever-growing institutions for the unfit. Look into the family history of those who are feeble-minded; or behind the bars of jails and prisons. Trace the family histories; find out the conditions under which they were conceived and born, before you attempt to persuade us that reckless breeding has nothing to do with these grave questions.
There is only one way out. We have got to fight for the health and happiness of the Unborn Child. And to do that in a practical, tangible way, we have got to free women from enforced, enslaved maternity. There can be no hope for the future of civilization, no certainty of racial salvation, until every woman can decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother, and when and how many children she cares to bring into the world. That is the first step.
I would like to suggest Civil Service examinations for parenthood! Prospective parents after such an examination would be given a parenthood license, proving that they are physically and mentally fit to be the fathers and mothers of the next generation.
This is an interesting idea — but then arises the questions “Who is to decide?” “Would there be a jury, like a play jury?” Would a Republican administration give parenthood permits only to Republicans — or perhaps only to Democrats? The more you think of governmental interference, the less it works out. Take this plan of civil service examination for parenthood. It suggests Prohibition: there might even be bootlegging in babies!
No, I doubt the advisability of governmental sanction. The problem of bringing children into the world ought to be decided by those most seriously involved — those who run the greatest risks; in the last analysis — by the mother and the child. If there is going to be any Civil Service examination, let it be conducted by the Unborn Child, the Child-to-be.
Just try for a moment to picture the possibilities of such an examination. When you want a cook or housemaid, you go to an employment bureau. You have to answer questions. You have to exchange references. You have to persuade the talented cook that you conduct a proper well-run household. Children ought to have at least the same privilege as cooks.
Sometimes in idle moments I like to think it would be a very good scheme to have a bureau of the Child-to-be. At such a bureau of the unborn, the wise child might be able to find out a few things about its father — and its mother. Just think for a moment of this bureau where prospective parents might apply for a baby. Think of the questions they would be asked by the agent of the unborn or by the baby itself.
First: “Mr. Father, a baby is an expensive luxury. Can you really afford one?”
“Have you paid for your last baby yet?”
“How many children have you already? Six? You must have your hands full. Can you take care of so many?”
“Do you look upon children as a reward — or a penalty?”
“How are you ductless glands — well balanced?”
Can you provide a happy home for one! A sunny nursery? Proper food?”
“What’s that you say? Ten children already? Two dark rooms in the slums?”
“No, thank you! I don’t care to be born at all if I cannot be well-born. Good-bye!”
And if we could organize a society for the prevention of cruelty to unborn children, we would make it a law that children should be brought into the world only when they were welcome, invited, and wanted; that they would arrive with a clean bill of health and heritage; that they would possess healthy, happy, well-mated, and mature parents.
And there would be certain conditions of circumstances which would preclude parenthood. These conditions, the presence of which would make parenthood a crime, are the following:
1. Transmissible disease
2. Temporary disease
3. Subnormal children already in the family
4. Space out between births
5. Twenty-three years as a minimum age for parents
6. Economic circumstances adequate
7. Spiritual harmony between parents.
In conclusion, let me repeat: We are not trying to establish a dictatorship over parents. We want to free women from enslavery and unwilling motherhood. We are fighting for the emancipation for the mothers of the world, of the children of the world, and the children to be. We want to create a real Century of the Child — usher in a Children’s Era. We can do this by handling the terrific gift of life in bodies fit and perfect as can be fashioned. Help us to make this Conference, which as aroused so much interest, the turning point toward this era. Only so can you help in the creation of the future.
Delivered 14 July 1992, New York, NY:
I’m Elizabeth Glaser. Eleven years ago, while giving birth to my first child, I hemorrhaged and was transfused with seven pints of blood. Four years later, I found out that I had been infected with the AIDS virus and had unknowingly passed it to my daughter, Ariel, through my breast milk, and my son, Jake, in utero.
Twenty years ago I wanted to be at the Democratic Convention because it was a way to participate in my country. Today, I am here because it’s a matter of life and death. Exactly — Exactly four years ago my daughter died of AIDS. She did not survive the Reagan Administration. I am here because my son and I may not survive four more years of leaders who say they care, but do nothing. I — I am in a race with the clock. This is not about being a Republican or an Independent or a Democrat. It’s about the future — for each and every one of us.
I started out just a mom — fighting for the life of her child. But along the way I learned how unfair America can be today, not just for people who have HIV, but for many, many people — poor people, gay people, people of color, children. A strange spokesperson for such a group: a well-to-do white woman. But I have learned my lesson the hard way, and I know that America has lost her path and is at risk of losing her soul. America wake up: We are all in a struggle between life and death.
I understand — I understand the sense of frustration and despair in our country, because I know firsthand about shouting for help and getting no answer. I went to Washington to tell Presidents Reagan and Bush that much, much more had to be done for AIDS research and care, and that children couldn’t be forgotten. The first time, when nothing happened, I thought, “They just didn’t hear me.” The second time, when nothing happened, I thought, “Maybe I didn’t shout loud enough.” But now I realize they don’t hear because they don’t want to listen.
When you cry for help and no one listens, you start to lose your hope. I began to lose faith in America. I felt my country was letting me down — and it was. This is not the America I was raised to be proud of. I was raised to believe that other’s problems were my problems as well. But when I tell most people about HIV, in hopes that they will help and care, I see the look in their eyes: “It’s not my problem,” they’re thinking. Well, it’s everyone’s problem and we need a leader who will tell us that. We need a visionary to guide us — to say it wasn’t all right for Ryan White to be banned from school because he had AIDS, to say it wasn’t alright for a man or a woman to be denied a job because they’re infected with this virus. We need a leader who is truly committed to educating us.
I believe in America, but not with a leadership of selfishness and greed — where the wealthy get health care and insurance and the poor don’t. Do you know — Do you know how much my AIDS care costs? Over 40,000 dollars a year. Someone without insurance can’t afford this. Even the drugs that I hope will keep me alive are out of reach for others. Is their life any less valuable? Of course not. This is not the America I was raised to be proud of — where rich people get care and drugs that poor people can’t. We need health care for all. We need a leader who will say this and do something about it.
I believe in America, but not a leadership that talks about problems but is incapable of solving them — two HIV commission reports with recommendations about what to do to solve this crisis sitting on shelves, gathering dust. We need a leader who will not only listen to these recommendations, but implement them.
I believe in America, but not with a leadership that doesn’t hold government accountable. I go to Washington to the National Institutes of Health and say, “Show me what you’re doing on HIV.” They hate it when I come because I try to tell them how to do it better. But that’s why I love being a taxpayer, because it’s my money and they must feel accountable.
I believe in an America where our leaders talk straight. When anyone tells President Bush that the battle against AIDS is seriously under-funded, he juggles the numbers to mislead the public into thinking we’re spending twice as much as we really are. While they play games with numbers, people are dying.
I believe in America, but an America where there is a light in every home. A thousand points of light just wasn’t enough: My house has been dark for too long.
Once every generation, history brings us to an important crossroads. Sometimes in life there is that moment when it’s possible to make a change for the better. This is one of those moments.
For me, this is not politics. This is a crisis of caring.
In this hall is the future — women, men of all colors saying, “Take America back.” We are — We are just real people wanting a more hopeful life. But words and ideas are not enough. Good thoughts won’t save my family. What’s the point of caring if we don’t do something about it? A President and a Congress that can work together so we can get out of this gridlock and move ahead, because I don’t win my war if the President cares and the Congress, or if the Congress cares and the President doesn’t support the ideas.
The people in this hall this week, the Democratic Party, all of us can begin to deliver that partnership, and in November we can all bring it home.
My daughter lived seven years, and in her last year, when she couldn’t walk or talk, her wisdom shone through. She taught me to love, when all I wanted to do was hate. She taught me to help others, when all I wanted to do was help myself. She taught me to be brave, when all I felt was fear. My daughter and I loved each other with simplicity. America, we can do the same.
This was the country that offered hope. This was the place where dreams could come true, not just economic dreams, but dreams of freedom, justice, and equality. We all need to hope that our dreams can come true. I challenge you to make it happen, because all our lives, not just mine, depend on it.
Delivered 2 December 1964, The University of California at Berkeley:
You know, I just wanna say one brief thing about something the previous speaker said. I didn’t wanna spend too much time on that ’cause I don’t think it’s important enough. But one thing is worth considering.
He’s the — He’s the nominal head of an organization supposedly representative of the undergraduates. Whereas in fact under the current director it derives — its authority is delegated power from the Administration. It’s totally unrepresentative of the graduate students and TAs.¹
But he made the following statement (I quote): “I would ask all those who are not definitely committed to the FSM² cause to stay away from demonstration.” Alright, now listen to this: “For all upper division students who are interested in alleviating the TA shortage problem, I would encourage you to offer your services to Department Chairmen and Advisors.” That has two things: A strike breaker and a fink.
I’d like to say — like to say one other thing about a union problem. Upstairs you may have noticed they’re ready on the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall, Locals 40 and 127 of the Painters Union are painting the inside of the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. Now, apparently that action had been planned some time in the past. I’ve tried to contact those unions. Unfortunately — and [it] tears my heart out — they’re as bureaucratized as the Administration. It’s difficult to get through to anyone in authority there. Very sad. We’re still — We’re still making an attempt. Those people up there have no desire to interfere with what we’re doing. I would ask that they be considered and that they not be heckled in any way. And I think that — you know — while there’s unfortunately no sense of — no sense of solidarity at this point between unions and students, there at least need be no — you know — excessively hard feelings between the two groups.
Now, there are at least two ways in which sit-ins and civil disobedience and whatever — least two major ways in which it can occur. One, when a law exists, is promulgated, which is totally unacceptable to people and they violate it again and again and again till it’s rescinded, appealed. Alright, but there’s another way. There’s another way. Sometimes, the form of the law is such as to render impossible its effective violation — as a method to have it repealed. Sometimes, the grievances of people are more — extend more — to more than just the law, extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.
And that’s what we have here. We have an autocracy which — which runs this university. It’s managed. We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn’t he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received — from a well-meaning liberal — was the following: He said, “Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his Board of Directors?” That’s the answer.
Well I ask you to consider — if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the Board of Directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I tell you something — the faculty are a bunch of employees and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw materials that don’t mean to be — have any process upon us. Don’t mean to be made into any product! Don’t mean — Don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!
And that — that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all!!
That doesn’t mean — I know it will be interpreted to mean, unfortunately, by the bigots who run The Examiner, for example — That doesn’t mean that you have to break anything. One thousand people sitting down some place, not letting anybody by, not [letting] anything happen, can stop any machine, including this machine! And it will stop!!
We’re gonna do the following — and the greater the number of people, the safer they’ll be and the more effective it will be. We’re going, once again, to march up to the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. And we’re gonna conduct our lives for awhile in the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. We’ll show movies, for example. We tried to get — and [they] shut them off. Unfortunately, that’s tied up in the court because of a lot of squeamish moral mothers for a moral America and other people on the outside. The same people who get all their ideas out of the San Francisco Examiner. Sad, sad. But, Mr. Landau — Mr. Landau has gotten us some other films.
Likewise, we’ll do something — we’ll do something which hasn’t occurred at this University in a good long time! We’re going to have real classes up there! They’re gonna be freedom schools conducted up there! We’re going to have classes on [the] 1st and 14th amendments!! We’re gonna spend our time learning about the things this University is afraid that we know! We’re going to learn about freedom up there, and we’re going to learn by doing!!
Now, we’ve had some good, long rallies. [Rally organizers inform Savio that Joan Baez has arrived.] Just one moment. We’ve had some good, long rallies. And I think I’m sicker of rallies than anyone else here. She’s not going to be long. I’d like to introduce one last person — one last person before we enter Sproul Hall. Yeah. And the person is Joan Baez.
Delivered 23 Sept 1932, San Francisco, CA:
I count it a privilege to be invited to address the Commonwealth Club. It has stood in the life of this city and state, and it is perhaps accurate to add, the nation, as a group of citizen leaders interested in fundamental problems of government, and chiefly concerned with achievement of progress in government through non-partisan means. The privilege of addressing you, therefore, in the heat of a political campaign, is great. I want to respond to your courtesy in terms consistent with your policy.
I want to speak not of politics but of government. I want to speak not of parties, but of universal principles. They are not political, except in that larger sense in which a great American once expressed a definition of politics, that nothing in all of human life is foreign to the science of politics…
The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government of economics, or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women. This question has persistently dominated the discussion of government for many generations. On questions relating to these things men have differed, and for time immemorial it is probable that honest men will continue to differ.
The final word belongs to no man; yet we can still believe in change and in progress. Democracy, as a dear old friend of mine in Indian, Meredith Nicholson, has called it, is a quest, a never-ending seeking for better things, and in the seeking for these things and the striving for better things, and in the seeking for these things and the striving for them, there are many roads to follow. But, if we map the course of these roads, we find that there are only two general directions.
When we look about us, we are likely to forget how hard people have worked to win the privilege of government. The growth of the national governments of Europe was a struggle for the development of a centralized force in the nation, strong enough to impose peace upon ruling barons. In many instances the victory of the central government, the creation of a strong central government, was a haven of refuge to the individual. The people preferred the master far away to the exploitation and cruelty of the smaller master near at hand.
But the creators of national government were perforce ruthless men. They were often cruel in their methods, but they did strive steadily toward something that society needed and very much wanted, a strong central state, able to keep the peace, to stamp out civil war, to put the unruly nobleman in his place, and to permit the bulk of individuals to live safely. The man of ruthless force had his place in developing a pioneer country, just as he did in fixing the power of the central government in the development of nations. Society paid him well for his services and its development. When the development among the nations of Europe, however, has been completed, ambition, and ruthlessness, having served its term tended to overstep its mark.
There came a growing feeling that government was conducted for the benefit of a few who thrived unduly at the expense of all. The people sought a balancing- a limiting force. There came gradually, through town councils, trade guilds, national parliaments, by constitution and by popular participation and control, limitations on arbitrary power.
Another factor that tended to limit the power of those who ruled, was the rise of the ethical conception that a ruler bore a responsibility for the welfare of his subjects.
The American colonies were born in this struggle. The American Revolution was a turning point in it. After the revolution the struggle continued and shaped itself in the public life of the country. There were those who because they had seen the confusion which attended the years of war for American independence surrendered to the belief that popular government was essentially dangerous and essentially unworkable. They were honest people, my friends, and we cannot deny that their experience had warranted some measure of fear. The most brilliant, honest and able exponent of this point of view was Hamilton. He was too impatient of slow moving methods. Fundamentally he believed that the safety of the republic lay in the autocratic strength of its government, that the destiny of individuals was to serve that government, and that fundamentally a great and strong group of central institutions, guided by a small group of able and public spirited citizens could best direct all government.
But Mr. Jefferson, in the summer of 1776, after drafting the Declaration of Independence turned his mind to the same problem and took a different view. He did not deceive himself with outward forms. Government to him was a means to an end, not an end in itself; it might be either a refuge and a help or a threat and a danger, depending on the circumstances. We find him carefully analyzing the society for which he was to organize a government. “We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers, our rich who cannot live without labor, either manual or professional, being few and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families and from the demand for their labor, are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to feed abundantly, clothe above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.”
These people, he considered, had two sets of rights, those of “personal competency” and those involved in acquiring and possessing property. By “personal competency” he meant the right of free thinking, freedom of forming and expressing opinions, and freedom of personal living each man according to his own lights. To insure the first set of rights, a government must so order its functions as not to interfere with the individual. But even Jefferson realized that the exercise of the property rights might so interfere with the rights of the individual that the government, without whose assistance the property rights could not exist, must intervene, not to destroy individualism but to protect it.
You are familiar with the great political duel which followed, and how Hamilton, and his friends, building towards a dominant centralized power were at length defeated in the great election of 1800, by Mr. Jefferson’s party. Out of that duel came the two parties, Republican and Democratic, as we know them today.
So began, in American political life, the new day, the day of the individual against the system, the day in which individualism was made the great watchword of American life. The happiest of economic conditions made that day long and splendid. On the Western frontier, land was substantially free. No one, who did not shirk the task of earning a living, was entirely without opportunity to do so. Depressions could, and did, come and go; but they could not alter the fundamental fact that most of the people lived partly by selling their labor and partly by extracting their livelihood from the soil, so that starvation and dislocation were practically impossible. At the very worst there was always the possibility of climbing into a covered wagon and moving west where the untilled prairies afforded a haven for men to whom the East did not provide a place. So great were our natural resources that we could offer this relief not only to our own people, but to the distressed of all the world; we could invite immigration from Europe, and welcome it with open arms. Traditionally, when a depression came, a new section of land was opened in the West; and even our temporary misfortune served our manifest destiny.
It was the middle of the 19th century that a new force was released and a new dream created. The force was what is called the industrial revolution, the advance of steam and machinery and the rise of the forerunners of the modern industrial plant. The dream was the dream of an economic machine, able to raise the standard of living for everyone; to bring luxury within the reach of the humblest; to annihilate distance by steam power and later by electricity, and to release everyone from the drudgery of the heaviest manual toil. It was to be expected that this would necessarily affect government. Heretofore, government had merely been called upon to produce conditions within which people could live happily, labor peacefully, and rest secure. Now it was called upon to aid in the consummation of this new dream. There was, however, a shadow over the dream. To be made real, it required use of the talents of men of tremendous will, and tremendous ambition, since by no other force could the problems of financing and engineering and new developments be brought to a consummation.
So manifest were the advantages of the machine age, however, that the United States fearlessly, cheerfully, and, I think, rightly, accepted the bitter with the sweet. It was thought that no price was too high to pay for the advantages which we could draw from a finished industrial system. The history of the last half century is accordingly in large measure a history of a group of financial Titans, whose methods were not scrutinized with too much care, and who were honored in proportion as they produced the results, irrespective of the means they used. The financiers who pushed the railroads to the Pacific were always ruthless, we have them today. It has been estimated that the American investor paid for the American railway system more than three times over in the process; but despite that fact the net advantage was to the United States. As long as we had free land; as long as population was growing by leaps and bounds; as long as our industrial plants were insufficient to supply our needs, society chose to give the ambitious man free play and unlimited reward provided only that he produced the economic plant so much desired.
During this period of expansion, there was equal opportunity for all and the business of government was not to interfere but to assist in the development of industry. This was done at the request of businessmen themselves. The tariff was originally imposed for the purpose of “fostering our infant industry”, a phrase I think the older among you will remember as a political issue not so long ago. The railroads were subsidized, sometimes by grants of money, oftener by grants of land; some of the most valuable oil lands in the United States were granted to assist the financing of the railroad which pushed through the Southwest. A nascent merchant marine was assisted by grants of money, or by mail subsidies, so that our steam shipping might ply the seven seas. Some of my friends tell me that they do not want the Government in business. With this I agree; but I wonder whether they realize the implications of the past. For while it has been American doctrine that the government must not go into business in competition with private enterprises, still it has been traditional particularly in Republican administrations for business urgently to ask the government to put at private disposal all kinds of government assistance.
The same man who tells you that he does not want to see the government interfere in business-and he means it, and has plenty of good reasons for saying so-is the first to go to Washington and ask the government for a prohibitory tariff on his product. When things get just bad enough-as they did two years ago-he will go with equal speed to the United States government and ask for a loan; and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation is the outcome of it. Each group has sought protection from the government for its own special interest, without realizing that the function of government must be to favor no small group at the expense of its duty to protect the rights of personal freedom and of private property of all its citizens.
In retrospect we can now see that the turn of the tide came with the turn of the century. We were reaching our last frontier; there was no more free land and our industrial combinations had become great uncontrolled and irresponsible units of power within the state. Clear-sighted men saw with fear the danger that opportunity would no longer be equal; that the growing corporation, like the feudal baron of old, might threaten the economic freedom of individuals to earn a living. In that hour, our antitrust laws were born. The cry was raised against the great corporations. Theodore Roosevelt, the first great Republican progressive, fought a Presidential campaign on the issue of “trust busting” and talked freely about malefactors of great wealth. If the government had a policy it was rather to turn the clock back, to destroy the large combinations and to return to the time when every man owned his individual small business.
This was impossible; Theodore Roosevelt, abandoning the idea of “trust busting“, was forced to work out a difference between “good” trusts and “bad” trusts. The Supreme Court set forth the famous “rule of reason” by which it seems to have meant that a concentration of industrial power was permissible if the method by which it got its power, and the use it made of that power, was reasonable.
Woodrow Wilson, elected in 1912, saw the situation more clearly. Where Jefferson had feared the encroachment of political power on the lives of individuals, Wilson knew that the new power was financial. He say, in the highly centralized economic system, the depot of the twentieth century, on whom great masses of individuals relied for their safety and their livelihood, and whose irresponsibility and greed ( if it were not controlled) would reduce them to starvation and penury. The concentration of financial power had not proceeded so far in 1912 as it has today; but it had grown far enough for Mr. Wilson to realize fully its implications. It is interesting, now, to read his speeches.
What is called “radical” today (and I have reason to know whereof I speak) is mild compared to the campaign of Mr. Wilson. “No man can deny,” he said, “that the lines of endeavor have more and more narrowed and stiffened; no man who knows anything about the development of industry in this country can have failed to observe that the larger kinds of credit are more and more difficult to obtain unless you obtain them upon terms of uniting your efforts with those who already control the industry of the country, and nobody can fail to observe that every man who tries to set himself up in competition with any process of manufacture which has taken place under the control of large combinations of capital will presently find himself either squeezed out or obliged to sell and allow himself to be absorbed.”
Had there been no World War — had Mr. Wilson been able to devote eight years to domestic instead of to international affairs- we might have had a wholly different situation at the present time. However, the then distant roar of European cannon, growing ever louder, forced him to abandon the study of this issue. The problem he saw so clearly is left with us as a legacy; and no one of us on either side of the political controversy can deny that it is a matter of grave concern to the government.
A glance at the situation today only too clearly indicates that equality of opportunity as we have know it no longer exists. Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached, and there is practically no more free land. More than half of our people do not live on the farms or on lands and cannot derive a living by cultivating their own property. There is no safety valve in the from of a Western prairie to which those thrown out of work by the Eastern economic machines can go for a new start. We are not able to invite the immigration from Europe to share our endless plenty. We are now providing a drab living for our own people.
Our system of constantly rising tariffs has at last reacted against us to the point of closing our Canadian frontier on the north, our European markets on the east, many of our Latin American markets to the south, and a goodly proportion of our Pacific markets on the west, through the retaliatory tariffs of those countries. It has forced many of our great industrial institutions who exported their surplus production to such countries, to establish plants in such countries within the tariff walls. This has resulted in the reduction of the operation of their American plants, and opportunity for employment.
Just as freedom to farm has ceased, so also the opportunity in business has narrowed. It still is true that men can start small enterprises, trusting to native shrewdness and ability to keep abreast of competitors; but area after area has been preempted altogether by the great corporations, and even in the fields which still have no great concerns, the small man starts with a handicap. The unfeeling statistics of the past three decades show that the independent business man is running a losing race. Perhaps he is forced to the wall; perhaps he cannot command credit; perhaps he is “squeezed out,” in Mr. Wilson’s words, by highly organized corporate competitors, as your corner grocery man can tell you.
Recently a careful study was made of the concentration of business in the United States. It showed that our economic life was dominated by some six hundred odd corporations who controlled two-thirds of American industry. Ten million small business men divided the other third. More striking still, it appeared that if the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men. Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already.
Clearly, all this calls for a re-appraisal of values. A mere builder of more industrial plants, a creator of more railroad systems, and organizer of more corporations, is as likely to be a danger as a help. The day of the great promoter or the financial Titan, to whom we granted anything if only he would build, or develop, is over. Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for our surplus production, of meeting the problem of under consumption, of adjusting production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.
Just as in older times the central government was first a haven of refuge, and then a threat, so now in a closer economic system the central and ambitious financial unit is no longer a servant of national desire, but a danger. I would draw the parallel one step farther. We did not think because national government had become a threat in the 18th century that therefore we should abandon the principle of national government. Nor today should we abandon the principle of strong economic units called corporations, merely because their power is susceptible of easy abuse. In other times we dealt with the problem of an unduly ambitious central government by modifying it gradually into a constitutional democratic government. So today we are modifying and controlling our economic units.
As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.
Every man has a right to life; and this means that he has also a right to make a comfortable living. He may by sloth or crime decline to exercise that right; but it may not be denied him. We have no actual famine or death; our industrial and agricultural mechanism can produce enough and to spare. Our government formal and informal., political and economic, owes to every one an avenue to possess himself of a portion of that plenty sufficient for his needs, through his own work.
Every man has a right to his own property; which means a right to be assured, to the fullest extent attainable, in the safety of his savings. By no other means can men carry the burdens of those parts of life which, in the nature of things afford no chance of labor; childhood, sickness, old age. In all thought of property, this right is paramount; all other property rights must yield to it. If, in accord with this principle, we must restrict the operations of the speculator, the manipulator, even the financier, I believe we must accept the restriction as needful, not to hamper individualism but to protect it.
These two requirements must be satisfied, in the main, by the individuals who claim and hold control of the great industrial and financial combinations which dominate so large a pert of our industrial life. They have undertaken to be, not business men, but princes-princes of property. I am not prepared to say that the system which produces them is wrong. I am very clear that they must fearlessly and competently assume the responsibility which goes with the power. So many enlightened business men know this that the statement would be little more that a platitude, were it not for an added implication.
This implication is, briefly, that the responsible heads of finance and industry instead of acting each for himself, must work together to achieve the common end. They must, where necessary, sacrifice this or that private advantage; and in reciprocal self-denial must seek a general advantage. It is here that formal government-political government, if you choose, comes in. Whenever in the pursuit of this objective the lone wolf, the unethical competitor, the reckless promoter, the Ishmael or Insull whose hand is against every man’s, declines to join in achieving and end recognized as being for the public welfare, and threatens to drag the industry back to a state of anarchy, the government may properly be asked to apply restraint. Likewise, should the group ever use its collective power contrary to public welfare, the government must be swift to enter and protect the public interest.
The government should assume the function of economic regulation only as a last resort, to be tried only when private initiative, inspired by high responsibility, with such assistance and balance as government can give, has finally failed. As yet there has been no final failure, because there has been no attempt, and I decline to assume that this nation is unable to meet the situation.
The final term of the high contract was for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have learnt a great deal of both in the past century. We know that individual liberty and individual happiness mean nothing unless both are ordered in the sense that one man’s meat is not another man’s poison. We know that the old “rights of personal competency”-the right to read, to think, to speak to choose and live a mode of life, must be respected at all hazards. We know that liberty to do anything which deprives others of those elemental rights is outside the protection of any compact; and that government in this regard is the maintenance of a balance, within which every individual may have a place if he will take it; in which every individual may find safety if he wishes it; in which every individual may attain such power as his ability permits, consistent with his assuming the accompanying responsibility…
Faith in America, faith in our tradition of personal responsibility, faith in our institutions, faith in ourselves demands that we recognize the new terms of the old social contract. We shall fulfill them, as we fulfilled the obligation of the apparent Utopia which Jefferson imagined for us in 1776, and which Jefferson, Roosevelt and Wilson sought to bring to realization. We must do so, lest a rising tide of misery engendered by our common failure, engulf us all. But failure is not an American habit; and in the strength of great hope we must all shoulder our common load.
On Vietnam and Not Seeking Reelection.
Delivered 31 March 1968:
Good evening, my fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to speak to you of peace in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. No other question so preoccupies our people. No other dream so absorbs the 250 million human beings who live in that part of the world. No other goal motivates American policy in Southeast Asia.
For years, representatives of our Governments and others have traveled the world seeking to find a basis for peace talks. Since last September they have carried the offer that I made public at San Antonio. And that offer was this:
That the United States would stop its bombardment of North Vietnam when that would lead promptly to productive discussions — and that we would assume that North Vietnam would not take military advantage of our restraint.
Hanoi denounced this offer, both privately and publicly. Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the government, and the allies of South Vietnam. Their attack — during the Tet holidays — failed to achieve its principal objectives. It did not collapse the elected Government of South Vietnam or shatter its army — as the Communists had hoped. It did not produce a “general uprising” among the people of the cities, as they had predicted. The Communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. And they took very heavy casualties. But they did compel the South Vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities. They caused widespread disruption and suffering. Their attacks, and the battles that followed, made refugees of half a million human beings.
The Communists may renew their attack any day. They are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in South Vietnam — the year that brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least a turning point in the struggle.
This much is clear: If they do mount another round of heavy attacks, they will not succeed in destroying the fighting power of South Vietnam and its allies. But tragically, this is also clear: Many men — on both sides of the struggle — will be lost. A nation that has already suffered 20 years of warfare will suffer once again. Armies on both sides will take new casualties. And the war will go on. There is no need for this to be so. There is no need to delay the talks that could bring an end to this long and this bloody war.
Tonight, I renew the offer I made last August: to stop the bombardment of North Vietnam. We ask that talks begin promptly, that they be serious talks on the substance of peace. We assume that during those talks Hanoi will not take advantage of our restraint. We are prepared to move immediately toward peace through negotiations. So tonight, in the hope that this action will lead to early talks, I am taking the first step to de-escalate the conflict. We are reducing — substantially reducing — the present level of hostilities, and we are doing so unilaterally and at once.
Tonight, I have ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam, except in the area north of the demilitarized zone where the continuing enemy buildup directly threatens allied forward positions and where the movements of their troops and supplies are clearly related to that threat. The area in which we are stopping our attacks includes almost 90 percent of North Vietnam’s population, and most of its territory. Thus, there will be no attacks around the principal populated areas, or in the food-producing areas of North Vietnam.
Even this very limited bombing of the North could come to an early end — if our restraint is matched by restraint in Hanoi. But I cannot in good conscience stop all bombing so long as to do so would immediately and directly endanger the lives of our men and our allies. Whether a complete bombing halt becomes possible in the future will be determined by events. Our purpose in this action is to bring about a reduction in the level of violence that now exists. It is to save the lives of brave men –and to save the lives of innocent women and children. It is to permit the contending forces to move closer to a political settlement. And tonight I call upon the United Kingdom and I call upon the Soviet Union — as co-chairmen of the Geneva conferences, and as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — to do all they can to move from the unilateral act of de-escalation that I have just announced toward genuine peace in Southeast Asia.
Now, as in the past, the United States is ready to send its representatives to any forum, at any time, to discuss the means of bringing this ugly war to an end. I am designating one of our most distinguished Americans, Ambassador Averell Harriman, as my personal representative for such talks. In addition, I have asked Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, who returned from Moscow for consultation, to be available to join Ambassador Harriman at Geneva or any other suitable place –just as soon as Hanoi agrees to a conference.
I call upon President Ho Chi Minh to respond positively, and favorably, to this new step toward peace. But if peace does not come now through negotiations, it will come when Hanoi understands that our common resolve is unshakable, and our common strength is invincible.
Tonight, we and the other allied nations are contributing 600,000 fighting men to assist 700,000 South Vietnamese troops in defending their little country. Our presence there has always rested on this basic belief: The main burden of preserving their freedom must be carried out by them — by the South Vietnamese themselves.
We and our allies can only help to provide a shield behind which the people of South Vietnam can survive and can grow and develop. On their efforts — on their determinations and resourcefulness –the outcome will ultimately depend. That small, beleaguered nation has suffered terrible punishment for more than 20 years. I pay tribute once again tonight to the great courage and the endurance of its people. South Vietnam supports armed forces tonight of almost 700,000 men, and I call your attention to the fact that that is the equivalent of more than 10 million in our own population. Its people maintain their firm determination to be free of domination by the North.
There has been substantial progress, I think, in building a durable government during these last three years. The South Vietnam of 1965 could not have survived the enemy’s Tet offensive of 1968. The elected government of South Vietnam survived that attack — and is rapidly repairing the devastation that it wrought. The South Vietnamese know that further efforts are going to be required to expand their own armed forces; to move back into the countryside as quickly as possible; to increase their taxes; to select the very best men that they have for civil and military responsibilities; to achieve a new unity within their constitutional government, and to include in the national effort all those groups who wish to preserve South Vietnam’s control over its own destiny.
Last week President Thieu ordered the mobilization of 135,000 additional South Vietnamese. He plans to reach as soon as possible a total military strength of more than 800,000 men. To achieve this, the Government of South Vietnam started the drafting of 19-year-olds on March 1st. On May 1st, the Government will begin the drafting of 18-year-olds. Last month, 10,000 men volunteered for military service. That was two and a half times the number of volunteers during the same month last year. Since the middle of January, more than 48,000 South Vietnamese have joined the armed forces, and nearly half of them volunteered to do so.
All men in the South Vietnamese armed forces have had their tours of duty extended for the duration of the war, and reserves are now being called up for immediate active duty. President Thieu told his people last week, and I quote:
“We must make greater efforts, we must accept more sacrifices, because as I have said many times, this is our country. The existence of our nation is at stake, and this is mainly a Vietnamese responsibility.”
He warned his people that a major national effort is required to root out corruption and incompetence at all levels of government. We applaud this evidence of determination on the part of South Vietnam. Our first priority will be to support their effort. We shall accelerate the re-equipment of South Vietnam’s armed forces in order to meet the enemy’s increased firepower. And this will enable them progressively to undertake a larger share of combat operations against the Communist invaders.
On many occasions I have told the American people that we would send to Vietnam those forces that are required to accomplish our mission there. So with that as our guide we have previously authorized a force level of approximately 525,000. Some weeks ago to help meet the enemy’s new offensive we sent to Vietnam about 11,000 additional Marine and airborne troops. They were deployed by air in 48 hours on an emergency basis. But the artillery and the tank and the aircraft and medical and other units that were needed to work with and support these infantry troops in combat could not then accompany them by air on that short notice.
In order that these forces may reach maximum combat effectiveness, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended to me that we should prepare to send during the next five months the support troops totaling approximately 13,500 men. A portion of these men will be made available from our active forces. The balance will come from reserve component units, which will be called up for service.
The actions that we have taken since the beginning of the year to re-equip the South Vietnamese forces; to meet our responsibilities in Korea, as well as our responsibilities in Vietnam; to meet price increases and the cost of activating and deploying these reserve forces; to replace helicopters and provide the other military supplies we need, all of these actions are going to require additional expenditures. The tentative estimate of those additional expenditures is 2 1/2 billion dollars in this fiscal year and 2 billion, 600 million in the next fiscal year. These projected increases in expenditures for our national security will bring into sharper focus the nation’s need for immediate action, action to protect the prosperity of the American people and to protect the strength and the stability of our American dollar.
On many occasions I have pointed out that without a tax bill or decreased expenditures, next year’s deficit would again be around $20 billion. I have emphasized the need to set strict priorities in our spending. I have stressed that failure to act — and to act promptly and decisively — would raise very strong doubts throughout the world about America’s willingness to keep its financial house in order.
Yet Congress has not acted. And tonight we face the sharpest financial threat in the postwar era — a threat to the dollar’s role as the keystone of international trade and finance in the world.
Last week, at the monetary conference in Stockholm, the major industrial countries decided to take a big step toward creating a new international monetary asset that will strengthen the international monetary system. And I’m very proud of the very able work done by Secretary Fowler and Chairman Martin of the Federal Reserve Board. But to make this system work, the United States just must bring its balance of payments to — or very close to — equilibrium. We must have a responsible fiscal policy in this country. The passage of a tax bill now, together with expenditure control that the Congress may desire and dictate, is absolutely necessary to protect this nation’s security, and to continue our prosperity, and to meet the needs of our people.
Now, what is at stake is seven years of unparalleled prosperity. In those seven years, the real income of the average American, after taxes, rose by almost 30 percent — a gain as large as that of the entire preceding 19 years. So the steps that we must take to convince the world are exactly the steps that we must take to sustain our own economic strength here at home. In the past eight months, prices and interest rates have risen because of our inaction. We must therefore now do everything we can to move from debate to action, from talking to voting and there is, I believe — I hope there is — in both Houses of the Congress a growing sense of urgency that this situation just must be acted upon and must be corrected.
My budget in January, we thought, was a tight one. It fully reflected our evaluation of most of the demanding needs of this nation. But in these budgetary matters, the President does not decide alone. The Congress has the power, and the duty, to determine appropriations and taxes. And the Congress is now considering our proposals, and they are considering reductions in the budget that we submitted.
As part of a program of fiscal restraint that includes the tax surcharge, I shall approve appropriate reductions in the January budget when and if Congress so decides that that should be done. One thing is unmistakably clear, however. Our deficit just must be reduced. Failure to act could bring on conditions that would strike hardest at those people that all of us are trying so hard to help
So these times call for prudence in this land of plenty. And I believe that we have the character to provide it, and tonight I plead with the Congress and with the people to act promptly to serve the national interest and thereby serve all of our people.
Now let me give you my estimate of the chances for peace — the peace that will one day stop the bloodshed in South Vietnam; that will — all the Vietnamese people [will] be permitted to rebuild and develop their land; that will permit us to turn more fully to our own tasks here at home. I cannot promise that the initiative that I have announced tonight will be completely successful in achieving peace any more than the 30 others that we have undertaken and agreed to in recent years. But it is our fervent hope that North Vietnam, after years of fighting that has left the issue unresolved, will now cease its efforts to achieve a military victory and will join with us in moving toward the peace table.
And there may come a time when South Vietnamese — on both sides — are able to work out a way to settle their own differences by free political choice rather than by war. As Hanoi considers its course, it should be in no doubt of our intentions. It must not miscalculate the pressures within our democracy in this election year. We have no intention of widening this war. But the United States will never accept a fake solution to this long and arduous struggle and call it peace.
No one can foretell the precise terms of an eventual settlement. Our objective in South Vietnam has never been the annihilation of the enemy. It has been to bring about a recognition in Hanoi that its objective — taking over the South by force — could not be achieved. We think that peace can be based on the Geneva Accords of 1954, under political conditions that permit the South Vietnamese — all the South Vietnamese — to chart their course free of any outside domination or interference, from us or from anyone else.
So tonight, I reaffirm the pledge that we made at Manila: that we are prepared to withdraw our forces from South Vietnam as the other side withdraws its forces to the North, stops the infiltration, and the level of violence thus subsides. Our goal of peace and self-determination in Vietnam is directly related to the future of all of Southeast Asia, where much has happened to inspire confidence during the past 10 years. And we have done all that we knew how to do to contribute and to help build that confidence.
A number of its nations have shown what can be accomplished under conditions of security. Since 1966, Indonesia, the fifth largest nation in all the world, with a population of more than 100 million people, has had a government that’s dedicated to peace with its neighbors and improved conditions for its own people.
Political and economic cooperation between nations has grown rapidly. And I think every American can take a great deal of pride in the role that we have played in bringing this about in Southeast Asia. We can rightly judge — as responsible Southeast Asians themselves do — that the progress of the past three years would have been far less likely, if not completely impossible, if America’s sons and others had not made their stand in Vietnam.
At Johns Hopkins University about three years ago, I announced that the United States would take part in the great work of developing Southeast Asia, including the Mekong valley, for all the people of that region. Our determination to help build a better land — a better land for men on both sides of the present conflict — has not diminished in the least. Indeed, the ravages of war, I think, have made it more urgent than ever.
So I repeat on behalf of the United States again tonight what I said at Johns Hopkins — that North Vietnam could take its place in this common effort just as soon as peace comes. Over time, a wider framework of peace and security in Southeast Asia may become possible. The new cooperations of the nations of the area could be a foundation stone. Certainly friendship with the nations of such a Southeast Asia is what the United States seeks — and that is all that the United States seeks.
One day, my fellow citizen, there will be peace in Southeast Asia. It will come because the people of Southeast Asia want it — those whose armies are at war tonight; those who, though threatened, have thus far been spared. Peace will come because Asians were willing to work for it and to sacrifice for it — and to die by the thousands for it. But let it never be forgotten: peace will come also because America sent her sons to help secure it.
It has not been easy — far from it. During the past four and a half years, it has been my fate and my responsibility to be Commander in Chief. I have lived daily and nightly with the cost of this war. I know the pain that it has inflicted. I know perhaps better than anyone the misgivings that it has aroused. And throughout this entire long period I have been sustained by a single principle: that what we are doing now in Vietnam is vital not only to the security of Southeast Asia, but it is vital to the security of every American.
Surely, we have treaties which we must respect. Surely, we have commitments that we are going to keep. Resolutions of the Congress testify to the need to resist aggression in the world and in Southeast Asia.
But the heart of our involvement in South Vietnam under three different presidents, three separate Administrations, has always been America’s own security. And the larger purpose of our involvement has always been to help the nations of Southeast Asia become independent, and stand alone, self-sustaining as members of a great world community, at peace with themselves, at peace with all others. And with such a nation our country — and the world — will be far more secure than it is tonight.
I believe that a peaceful Asia is far nearer to reality because of what America has done in Vietnam. I believe that the men who endure the dangers of battle there, fighting there for us tonight, are helping the entire world avoid far greater conflicts, far wider wars, far more destruction, than this one. The peace that will bring them home someday will come. Tonight, I have offered the first in what I hope will be a series of mutual moves toward peace.
I pray that it will not be rejected by the leaders of North Vietnam. I pray that they will accept it as a means by which the sacrifices of their own people may be ended. And I ask your help and your support, my fellow citizens, for this effort to reach across the battlefield toward an early peace.
Finally, my fellow Americans, let me say this:
Of those to whom much is given, much is asked. I cannot say — and no man could say — that no more will be asked of us. Yet I believe that now, no less than when the decade began, this generation of Americans is willing to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival, and the success, of liberty.
Since those words were spoken by John F. Kennedy, the people of America have kept that compact with mankind’s noblest cause. And we shall continue to keep it.
Yet, I believe that we must always be mindful of this one thing — whatever the trials and the tests ahead, the ultimate strength of our country and our cause will lie, not in powerful weapons or infinite resources or boundless wealth, but will lie in the unity of our people.
This I believe very deeply. Throughout my entire public career I have followed the personal philosophy that I am a free man, an American, a public servant, and a member of my party — in that order — always and only.
For 37 years in the service of our nation, first as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as Vice President, and now as your President, I have put the unity of the people first. I have put it ahead of any divisive partisanship. And in these times as in times before, it is true that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand.
There is division in the American house now. There is divisiveness among us all tonight. And holding the trust that is mine, as President of all the people, I cannot disregard the peril to the progress of the American people and the hope and the prospects of peace for all peoples. So, I would ask all Americans, whatever their personal interests or concern, to guard against divisiveness and all of its ugly consequences.
Fifty-two months and ten days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.
United we have kept that commitment. And united we have enlarged that commitment. And through all time to come I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.
Our reward will come in the life of freedom and peace and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead. What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion and distrust and selfishness and politics among any of our people. And believing this, as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.
With American sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office — the Presidency of your country.
Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President. But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong and a confident and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace; and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause, whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
Thank you for listening. Good night and God bless all of you.
Delivered 12 August 1980, New York, NY:
Thanks very much, Barbara Mikulski, for your very eloquent, your eloquent introduction. Distinguished legislator, great spokeswoman for economic democracy and social justice in this country, I thank you for your eloquent introduction.
Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought, but let me tell you, I still love New York.
My fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause.
I’m asking you — I am asking you to renew the commitment of the Democratic Party to economic justice.
I am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity that can put America back to work.
This is the cause that brought me into the campaign and that sustained me for nine months across a 100,000 miles in 40 different states. We had our losses, but the pain of our defeats is far, far less than the pain of the people that I have met.
We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.
The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political Party in this republic and the longest lasting political Party on this planet.
Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.
Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called “the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers.” On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith.
Now I take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment of my campaign personally to our national convention. I speak out of a deep sense of urgency about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across America.
I speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the Democratic Party, and in the potential of that Party and of a President to make a difference. And I speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and the divisions of our Party.
The economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material things, but it is also a moral issue that I raise tonight. It has taken many forms over many years. In this campaign and in this country that we seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for these fundamental democratic principles.
Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.
Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.
Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.
These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our Party across the generations. It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.
We dare not forsake that tradition.
We cannot let the great purposes of the Democratic Party become the bygone passages of history.
We must not permit the Republicans to seize and run on the slogans of prosperity. We heard the orators at their convention all trying to talk like Democrats. They proved that even Republican nominees can quote Franklin Roosevelt to their own purpose.
The Grand Old Party thinks it has found a great new trick, but 40 years ago an earlier generation of Republicans attempted the same trick. And Franklin Roosevelt himself replied, “Most Republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women.”
“You know,” he continued, “very few of us are that gullible.” And four years later when the Republicans tried that trick again, Franklin Roosevelt asked, “Can the Old Guard pass itself off as the New Deal? I think not. We have all seen many marvelous stunts in the circus, but no performing elephant could turn a handspring without falling flat on its back.”
The 1980 Republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent words that you shall know them.
The same Republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment have nominated a man who once said, and I quote, “Unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders.” And that nominee is no friend of labor.
The same Republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner cities have nominated a man who said, and I quote, “I have included in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the Federal Government not bail out New York.” And that nominee is no friend of this city and our great urban centers across this nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about security for the elderly have nominated a man who said just four years ago that “Participation in social security should be made voluntary.” And that nominee is no friend of the senior citizens of this nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about preserving the environment have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and I quote, “Eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and trees.” And that nominee is no friend of the environment.
And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, “Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal.” And that nominee whose name is Ronald Reagan has no right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win.
The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. It is surely correct that we cannot solve problems by throwing money at them, but it is also correct that we dare not throw out our national problems onto a scrap heap of inattention and indifference. The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.
The demand of our people in 1980 is not for smaller government or bigger government but for better government. Some say that government is always bad and that spending for basic social programs is the root of our economic evils. But we reply: The present inflation and recession cost our economy 200 billion dollars a year. We reply: Inflation and unemployment are the biggest spenders of all.
The task of leadership in 1980 is not to parade scapegoats or to seek refuge in reaction, but to match our power to the possibilities of progress. While others talked of free enterprise, it was the Democratic Party that acted and we ended excessive regulation in the airline and trucking industry, and we restored competition to the marketplace. And I take some satisfaction that this deregulation legislation that I sponsored and passed in the Congress of the United States.
As Democrats we recognize that each generation of Americans has a rendezvous with a different reality. The answers of one generation become the questions of the next generation. But there is a guiding star in the American firmament. It is as old as the revolutionary belief that all people are created equal, and as clear as the contemporary condition of Liberty City and the South Bronx. Again and again Democratic leaders have followed that star and they have given new meaning to the old values of liberty and justice for all.
We are the Party — We are the Party of the New Freedom, the New Deal, and the New Frontier. We have always been the Party of hope. So this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.
To all those who are idle in the cities and industries of America let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. Democrats have always believed that a basic civil right of all Americans is that their right to earn their own way. The Party of the people must always be the Party of full employment.
To all those who doubt the future of our economy, let us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of America. And let our vision reach beyond the next election or the next year to a new generation of prosperity. If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II, then surely we can reindustrialize our own nation and revive our inner cities in the 1980’s.
To all those who work hard for a living wage let us provide new hope that their price of their employment shall not be an unsafe workplace and a death at an earlier age.
To all those who inhabit our land from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters, let us provide new hope that prosperity shall not be purchased by poisoning the air, the rivers, and the natural resources that are the greatest gift of this continent. We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.
To all those who see the worth of their work and their savings taken by inflation, let us offer new hope for a stable economy. We must meet the pressures of the present by invoking the full power of government to master increasing prices. In candor, we must say that the Federal budget can be balanced only by policies that bring us to a balanced prosperity of full employment and price restraint.
And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms, let us shut off tax shelters. Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for the rich.
The tax cut of our Republican opponents takes the name of tax reform in vain. It is a wonderfully Republican idea that would redistribute income in the wrong direction. It’s good news for any of you with incomes over 200,000 dollars a year. For the few of you, it offers a pot of gold worth 14,000 dollars. But the Republican tax cut is bad news for the middle income families. For the many of you, they plan a pittance of 200 dollars a year, and that is not what the Democratic Party means when we say tax reform.
The vast majority of Americans cannot afford this panacea from a Republican nominee who has denounced the progressive income tax as the invention of Karl Marx. I am afraid he has confused Karl Marx with Theodore Roosevelt — that obscure Republican president who sought and fought for a tax system based on ability to pay. Theodore Roosevelt was not Karl Marx, and the Republican tax scheme is not tax reform.
Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must — We must not surrender — We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.
The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot. We do not get a bill even if we ask for it, and when do you think was the last time a member of Congress asked for a bill from the Federal Government? And I say again, as I have before, if health insurance is good enough for the President, the Vice President, the Congress of the United States, then it’s good enough for you and every family in America.
There were some — There were some who said we should be silent about our differences on issues during this convention, but the heritage of the Democratic Party has been a history of democracy. We fight hard because we care deeply about our principles and purposes. We did not flee this struggle. We welcome the contrast with the empty and expedient spectacle last month in Detroit where no nomination was contested, no question was debated, and no one dared to raise any doubt or dissent.
Democrats can be proud that we chose a different course and a different platform.
We can be proud that our Party stands for investment in safe energy, instead of a nuclear future that may threaten the future itself. We must not permit the neighborhoods of America to be permanently shadowed by the fear of another Three Mile Island.
We can be proud that our Party stands for a fair housing law to unlock the doors of discrimination once and for all. The American house will be divided against itself so long as there is prejudice against any American buying or renting a home.
And we can be proud that our Party stands plainly and publicly and persistently for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Women hold their rightful place at our convention, and women must have their rightful place in the Constitution of the United States. On this issue we will not yield; we will not equivocate; we will not rationalize, explain, or excuse. We will stand for E.R.A. and for the recognition at long last that our nation was made up of founding mothers as well as founding fathers.
A fair prosperity and a just society are within our vision and our grasp, and we do not have every answer. There are questions not yet asked, waiting for us in the recesses of the future. But of this much we can be certain because it is the lesson of all of our history: Together a President and the people can make a difference. I have found that faith still alive wherever I have traveled across this land. So let us reject the counsel of retreat and the call to reaction. Let us go forward in the knowledge that history only helps those who help themselves.
There will be setbacks and sacrifices in the years ahead; but I am convinced that we as a people are ready to give something back to our country in return for all it has given to us.
Let this — Let this be our commitment: Whatever sacrifices must be made will be shared and shared fairly. And let this be our confidence: At the end of our journey and always before us shines that ideal of liberty and justice for all.
In closing, let me say a few words to all those that I have met and to all those who have supported me at this convention and across the country. There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help; but even more, you gave your hearts.
And because of you, this has been a happy campaign. You welcomed Joan, me, and our family into your homes and neighborhoods, your churches, your campuses, your union halls. And when I think back of all the miles and all the months and all the memories, I think of you. And I recall the poet’s words, and I say: “What golden friends I had.”
Among you, my golden friends across this land, I have listened and learned.
I have listened to Kenny Dubois, a glassblower in Charleston, West Virginia, who has ten children to support but has lost his job after 35 years, just three years short of qualifying for his pension.
I have listened to the Trachta family who farm in Iowa and who wonder whether they can pass the good life and the good earth on to their children.
I have listened to the grandmother in East Oakland who no longer has a phone to call her grandchildren because she gave it up to pay the rent on her small apartment.
I have listened to young workers out of work, to students without the tuition for college, and to families without the chance to own a home.
I have seen the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines of Anderson, Indiana and South Gate, California, and I have seen too many, far too many idle men and women desperate to work.
I have seen too many, far too many working families desperate to protect the value of their wages from the ravages of inflation.
Yet I have also sensed a yearning for a new hope among the people in every state where I have been.
And I have felt it in their handshakes, I saw it in their faces, and I shall never forget the mothers who carried children to our rallies.
I shall always remember the elderly who have lived in an America of high purpose and who believe that it can all happen again.
Tonight, in their name, I have come here to speak for them. And for their sake, I ask you to stand with them. On their behalf I ask you to restate and reaffirm the timeless truth of our Party.
I congratulate President Carter on his victory here.
I am — I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis of Democratic principles, and that together we will march towards a Democratic victory in 1980.
And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith.
May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again.
And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:
“I am a part of all that I have met
To [Tho] much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are —
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.
For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
*Thank you, and let’s proceed with the Convention.*
Woman suffrage is inevitable. Suffragists knew it before November 4, 1917; opponents afterward. Three distinct causes made it inevitable.
First, the history of our country. Ours is a nation born of revolution, of rebellion against a system of government so securely entrenched in the customs and traditions of human society that in 1776 it seemed impregnable. From the beginning of things, nations had been ruled by kings and for kings, while the people served and paid the cost. The American Revolutionists boldly proclaimed the heresies: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The colonists won, and the nation which was established as a result of their victory has held unfailingly that these two fundamental principles of democratic government are not only the spiritual source of our national existence but have been our chief historic pride and at all times the sheet anchor of our liberties.
Eighty years after the Revolution, Abraham Lincoln welded those two maxims into a new one: “Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Fifty years more passed and the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, in a mighty crisis of the nation, proclaimed to the world: “We are fighting for the things which we have always carried nearest to our hearts: for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.”
All the way between these immortal aphorisms political leaders have declared unabated faith in their truth. Not one American has arisen to question their logic in the 141 years of our national existence. However stupidly our country may have evaded the logical application at times, it has never swerved from its devotion to the theory of democracy as expressed by those two axioms ….
With such a history behind it, how can our nation escape the logic it has never failed to follow, when its last unenfranchised class calls for the vote? Behold our Uncle Sam floating the banner with one hand, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” and with the other seizing the billions of dollars paid in taxes by women to whom he refuses “representation.” Behold him again, welcoming the boys of twenty-one and the newly made immigrant citizen to “a voice in their own government” while he denies that fundamental right of democracy to thousands of women public school teachers from whom many of these men learn all they know of citizenship and patriotism, to women college presidents, to women who preach in our pulpits, interpret law in our courts, preside over our hospitals, write books and magazines, and serve in every uplifting moral and social enterprise. Is there a single man who can justify such inequality of treatment, such outrageous discrimination? Not one ….
Second, the suffrage for women already established in the United States makes women suffrage for the nation inevitable. When Elihu Root, as president of the American Society of International Law, at the eleventh annual meeting in Washington, April 26, 1917, said, “The world cannot be half democratic and half autocratic. It must be all democratic or all Prussian. There can be no compromise,” he voiced a general truth. Precisely the same intuition has already taught the blindest and most hostile foe of woman suffrage that our nation cannot long continue a condition under which government in half its territory rests upon the consent of half of the people and in the other half upon the consent of all the people; a condition which grants representation to the taxed in half of its territory and denies it in the other half a condition which permits women in some states to share in the election of the president, senators, and representatives and denies them that privilege in others. It is too obvious to require demonstration that woman suffrage, now covering half our territory, will eventually be ordained in all the nation. No one will deny it. The only question left is when and how will it be completely established.
Delivered 30 April 1970 from Washington, DC:
Good evening, my fellow Americans. Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced the decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. And at that time I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation. Despite that warning, North Vietnam has increased its military aggression in all these areas, and particularly in Cambodia.
After full consultation with the National Security Council, Ambassador Bunker, General Abrams and my other advisors, I have concluded that the actions of the enemy in the last 10 days clearly endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam now and would constitute an unacceptable risk to those who will be there after withdrawal of another 150, 000. To protect our men who are in Vietnam, and to guarantee the continued success of our withdrawal and Vietnamization program, I have concluded that the time has come for action.
Tonight, I shall describe the actions of the enemy, the actions I have ordered to deal with that situation, and the reasons for my decision.
Cambodia — a small country of seven million people — has been a neutral nation since the Geneva Agreement of 1954, an agreement, incidentally, which was signed by the government of North Vietnam. American policy since then has been to scrupulously respect the neutrality of the Cambodian people. We have maintained a skeleton diplomatic mission of fewer than 15 in Cambodia’s capital, and that only since last August. For the previous four years, from 1965 to 1969, we did not have any diplomatic mission whatever in Cambodia, and for the past five years we have provided no military assistance whatever and no economic assistance to Cambodia.
North Vietnam, however, has not respected that neutrality. For the past five years, as indicated on this map, that you see here, North Vietnam has occupied military sanctuaries all along the Cambodian frontier with South Vietnam. Some of these extend up to 20 miles into Cambodia. The sanctuaries are in red, and as you note, they are on both sides of the border. They are used for hit-and-run attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. These Communist-occupied territories contain major base camps, training sites, logistics facilities, weapons and ammunition factories, airstrips, and prisoner of war compounds.
And for five years neither the United States nor South Vietnam has moved against these enemy sanctuaries because we did not wish to violate the territory of a neutral nation. Even after the Vietnamese Communists began to expand these sanctuaries four weeks ago, we counseled patience to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed restraints on our own commanders.
In contrast to our policy the enemy in the past two weeks has stepped up his guerrilla actions, and he is concentrating his main forces in these sanctuaries that you see in this map, where they are building up to launch massive attacks on our forces and those of South Vietnam.
North Vietnam in the last two weeks has stripped away all pretense of respecting the sovereignty or the neutrality of Cambodia. Thousands of their soldiers are invading the country from the sanctuaries. They are encircling the capital of Pnompenh. Coming from these sanctuaries, as you see here, they had moved into Cambodia and are encircling the capital.
Cambodia, as a result of this, has sent out a call to the United States, to a number of other nations, for assistance. Because if this enemy effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier: a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation. North Vietnamese men and supplies could then be poured into that country, jeopardizing not only the lives of our own men but the people of South Vietnam as well.
Now confronted with this situation we had three options:
First, we can do nothing. Well the ultimate result of that course of action is clear. Unless we indulge in wishful thinking, the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam after our next withdrawal of 150,000 would be gravely threatened.
Let us go to the map again.
Here is South Vietnam. Here is North Vietnam. North Vietnam already occupies this part of Laos. If North Vietnam also occupied this whole band in Cambodia, or the entire country, it would mean that South Vietnam was completely outflanked and the forces of Americans in this area as well as the South Vietnamese would be in an untenable military position.
Our second choice is to provide massive military assistance to Cambodia itself. Now unfortunately, while we deeply sympathize with the plight of seven million Cambodians whose country has been invaded, massive amounts of military assistance could not be rapidly and effectively utilized by this small Cambodian Army against the immediate trap. With other nations we shall do our best to provide the small arms and other equipment which the Cambodian Army of 40,000 needs and can use for its defense. But the aid we will provide will be limited for the purpose of enabling Cambodia to defend its neutrality and not for the purpose of making it an active belligerent on one side or the other.
Our third choice is to go to the heart of the trouble. And that means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied territories, these sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Some of these, incidentally, are as close to Saigon as Baltimore is to Washington. This one, for example, is called the Parrot’s Beak. It’s only 33 miles from Saigon.
Now faced with these three options, this is the decision I have made. In co-operation with the armed forces of South Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border. A major responsibility for the ground operations is being assumed by South Vietnamese forces.
For example, the attacks in several areas, including the parrot’s beak that I referred to a moment ago, are exclusively South Vietnamese ground operations, under South Vietnamese command, with the United States providing air and logistical support. There is one area however, immediately above the parrot’s beak where I have concluded that a combined American and South Vietnamese operation is necessary.
Tonight, American and South Vietnamese units will attack the headquarters for the entire Communist military operation in South Vietnam. This key control center has been occupied by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong for five years in blatant violation of Cambodia’s neutrality.
This is not an invasion of Cambodia. The areas in which these attacks will be launched are completely occupied and controlled by North Vietnamese forces. Our purpose is not to occupy the areas. Once enemy forces are driven out of these sanctuaries, and once their military supplies are destroyed, we will withdraw.
These actions are in no way directed to the security interests of any nation. Any government that chooses to use these actions as a pretext for harming relations with the United States will be doing so on its own responsibility and on its own initiative, and we will draw the appropriate conclusions.
And now, let me give you the reasons for my decision. A majority of the American people, a majority of you listening to me are for the withdrawal of our forces from Vietnam. The action I have taken tonight is indispensable for the continuing success of that withdrawal program. A majority of the American people want to end this war rather than to have it drag on interminably. The action I have taken tonight will serve that purpose. A majority of the American people want to keep the casualties of our brave men in Vietnam at an absolute minimum. The action I take tonight is essential if we are to accomplish that goal.
We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam, and winning the just peace we all desire.
We have made, we will continue to make every possible effort to end this war through negotiation at the conference table rather than through more fighting in the battlefield.
Let’s look again at the record.
We stopped the bombing of North Vietnam. We have cut air operations by over 20 per cent. We’ve announced the withdrawal of over 250, 000 of our men. We’ve offered to withdraw all of our men if they will withdraw theirs. We’ve offered to negotiate all issues with only one condition: and that is that the future of South Vietnam be determined, not by North Vietnam, and not by the United States, but by the people of South Vietnam themselves.
The answer of the enemy has been intransigence at the conference table, belligerence at Hanoi, massive military aggression in Laos and Cambodia and stepped-up attacks in South Vietnam designed to increase American casualties.
This attitude has become intolerable.
We will not react to this threat to American lives merely by plaintive, diplomatic protests.
If we did, the credibility of the United States would be destroyed in every area of the world where only the power of the United States deters aggression.
Tonight, I again warn the North Vietnamese that if they continue to escalate the fighting when the United States is withdrawing its forces, I shall meet my responsibility as commander in chief of our armed forces to take the action I consider necessary to defend the security of our American men.
The action I have announced tonight puts the leaders of North Vietnam on notice that we will be patient in working for peace. We will be conciliatory at the conference table.
But we will not be humiliated.
We will not be defeated.
We will not allow American men, by the thousands, to be killed by an enemy from privileged sanctuaries.
The time came long ago to end this war through peaceful negotiations. We stand ready for those negotiations. We’ve made major efforts, many of which must remain secret. I say tonight all the offers and approaches made previously remain on the conference table whenever Hanoi is ready to negotiate seriously. But if the enemy response to our most conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation continues to be to increase its attacks and humiliate and defeat us, we shall react accordingly.
My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years. Even here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed.
Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without. If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation — the United States of America — acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.
It is not our power, but our will and character that is being tested tonight.
The question all Americans must ask and answer tonight is this: Does the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world have the character to meet a direct challenge by a group which rejects every effort to win a just peace, ignores our warning, tramples on solemn agreements, violates the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses our prisoners as hostages? If we fail to meet this challenge, all other nations will be on notice that despite its overwhelming power the United States when a real crisis comes will be found wanting.
During my campaign for the Presidency, I pledged to bring Americans home form Vietnam. They are coming home. I promised to end this war. I shall keep that promise. I promised to win a just peace. I shall keep that promise. We shall avoid a wider war, but we are also determined to put an end to this war.
In this room, Woodrow Wilson made the great decisions which led to victory in World War I. Franklin Roosevelt made the decisions which led to our victory in World War II. Dwight D. Eisenhower made decisions which ended the war in Korea and avoided war in the Middle East. John F. Kennedy, in his finest hour, made the great decision which removed Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba and the western hemisphere.
I have noted that there’s been a great deal of discussion with regard to this decision that I have made. And I should point out I do not contend that it is in the same magnitude as these decisions that I have just mentioned. But between those decisions and this decision, there is a difference that is very fundamental. In those decisions the American people were not assailed by counsels of doubt and defeat from some of the most widely known opinion leaders of the nation.
I have noted, for example, that a Republican Senator has said that this action I have taken means that my party has lost all chance of winning the November elections. And others are saying today that this move against enemy sanctuaries will make me a one-term President.
No one is more aware than I am of the political consequences of the action I have taken. It is tempting to take the easy political path, to blame this war on previous Administrations, and to bring all of our men home immediately — regardless of the consequences, even though that would mean defeat for the United States; to desert 18 million South Vietnamese people who have put their trust in us; to expose them to the same slaughter and savagery which the leaders of North Vietnam inflicted on hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese who chose freedom when the Communists took over North Vietnam in 1954.
To get peace at any price now, even though I know that a peace of humiliation for the United States would lead to a bigger war or surrender later. I have rejected all political considerations in making this decision. Whether my party gains in November is nothing compared to the lives of 400,000 brave Americans fighting for our country and for the cause of peace and freedom in Vietnam.
Whether I may be a one-term President is insignificant compared to whether by our failure to act in this crisis the United States proves itself to be unworthy to lead the forces of freedom in this critical period in world history.
I would rather be a one-term president and do what I believe was right than to be a two-term President at the cost of seeing America become a second-rate power and to see this nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history.
I realize in this war there are honest, deep differences in this country about whether we should have become involved; that there are differences to how the war should have been conducted.
But the decision I announce tonight transcends those differences, for the lives of American men are involved.
The opportunity for 150,000 Americans to come home in the next 12 months is involved.
The future of 18-million people in South Vietnam and 7 million people in Cambodia is involved.
The possibility of winning a just peace in Vietnam and in the Pacific is at stake.
It is customary to conclude a speech from the White House by asking support for the President of the United States. Tonight, I depart from that precedent. What I ask is far more important. I ask for your support for our brave men fighting tonight halfway around the world, not for territory, not for glory, but so that their younger brothers and their sons and your sons can have a chance to grow up in a world of peace, and freedom, and justice.
Thank you, and good night.
Delivered 4 July 1939, New York:
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?
Sure I’m lucky
Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?
Sure I’m lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something.
When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something.
When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing.
When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.
So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.