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                               PAPER XV

"Can we continue our peaceful construction if all the other continents 
embrace by preference or by compulsion a wholly different principle of 

Address by radio to the Eighth Pan American Scientific
Congress, Washington, D. C., May 10,1940

My Fellow Servants of the Americas: 

All the men and women of this Pan American Scientific Congress have come 
here tonight with heavy hearts. During the past few years you and I have 
seen event follow event, each and every one of them a shock to our hopes 
for the peaceful development of modern civilization as we know it. This 
very day, the tenth of May, 1940 three more independent nations have 
been cruelly invaded by force of arms. 

In some kinds of human affairs the mind of man becomes accustomed to 
unusual actions if those actions are often repeated. But that is not so 
in the world happenings of today-and I am proud that it is not so. I am 
glad that we Americans of the three Americas are shocked and angered by 
the tragic news that has come to us from Belgium and The Netherlands and 

The overwhelmingly greater part of the population of the world abhors 
conquest and war and bloodshed-prays that the hand of neighbor shall not 
be lifted against neighbor. The whole world has seen attack follow 
threat on so many occasions and in so many places during these later 
years. We have come, therefore, to the reluctant conclusion that a 
continuance of these processes of arms presents a definite challenge to 
the continuance of the type of civilization to which all of us in the 
three Americas have been accustomed for so many generations. 

I use this Pan American Scientific Congress as an illustration, and I 
could use many similar illustrations. It is no accident that this 
meeting takes place in the New World. In fact, this hemisphere is now 
almost the only part of the earth in which such a gathering can take 
place. Elsewhere war or politics in its worst sense has compelled 
teachers and scholars to leave their great callings and to become the 
agents of destruction. 

We, and most of the people in the World, still believe in a civilization 
of construction and not of destruction. We, and most of the people in 
the world, still believe that men and women have an inherent right to 
hew out the patterns of their own individual lives, just so long as they 
as individuals do not harm their fellow beings. V e call this ideal, by 
many terms which are synonymous-we call it individual liberty, we call 
it civil liberty and, I think, best of all, we call it democracy.

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Until now we permit ourselves by common consent to search for 29 truth, 
to teach the truth as we see it--and by learning a little here and a 
little there, and by teaching a little here and a little there, to allow 
the normal processes of truth to keep growing for the well-being of our 
fellow men. In our search and in our teachings we are a part of a great 
adventure-an exciting adventure-which gives to us even a larger 
satisfaction than our forefathers had when they were in the midst of the 
adventure of settling the Americas from the Old World. We feel that we 
are building human progress by conquering disease, poverty and 
discomfort, and by improving science and culture, removing one by one 
the many cruelties, crudities and barbarities of less civilized eras.

In contrast to that rather simple picture of our ideals, in other parts 
of the world, teachers and scholars are not permitted to search for 
truth, lest the truth, when made known, might not suit the designs of 
their masters. Too often they are not allowed to teach the truth as they 
see it, because truth might make men free. They become objects of 
suspicion if they speak openly, if they show an interest in new truth, 
for their tongues and minds are supposed to be mobilized for other ends.

This has not happened in the New World. God willing, it shall not happen 
in the New World. 

At the Pan American Conference at Buenos Aires, and again at Lima, we 
discussed a dim and unpleasant possibility. We feared that other 
Continents might become so involved in wars brought on by the school of 
destruction that the Americans might have to become the guardian of 
Western culture, the protector of Christian civilization. 

In those days, not so long ago, it was merely a fear. Today the fear has 
become a fact. 

The inheritance which we had hoped to share with every nation of the 
world is, for the moment, left largely in our keeping: and it is our 
compelling duty to guard and enrich that legacy, to preserve it for a 
world which must be reborn from the ashes of the present disaster. 

Today we know that until recent weeks too many citizens of our American 
Republics believed themselves wholly safe-physically, and economically 
and socially from the impact of the attacks on civilization which are in 
progress elsewhere. Perhaps this mistaken idea was based on a false 
teaching of geography-the thought that a distance of several thousand 
miles from a war-torn Europe to a peaceful America gave to us some form 
of mystic immunity that could never be violated.

Yet, speaking in terms of time-tables, in terms of the moving of men and 
guns and planes and bombs, every single acre-every hectare-in all the 
Americas from the Arctic to the Antarctic is closer to the home of 
modern conquerors and the scenes of the attacks in Europe than was ever 
the case in those episodes of history that we read about, the efforts to 
dominate the whole world by conquest in centuries gone by. From tile 
point of view of conquests, it is a shorter distance from the center of 
Europe to Santiago de Chile than it was for the chariots of Alexander 
the Great to roll from Macedonia to Persia. In modern terms it is a 
shorter distance from Europe to San Francisco, California, than it was 
for the ships and the legions of Julius Caesar to move from Rome to 
Spain or Rome to Britain. Today it is four or five hours of travel from 
the Continent of Africa to the Continent 

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of South America, where it was four or five weeks for the armies of 
Napoleon to march from Paris to Rome or Paris to Poland. 

You who are scientists may have been told that you are in part 
responsible for the debacle of today because of the processes of 
invention for the annihilation of time and of space, but I assure you 
that it is not the scientists of the world who are responsible, because 
the objectives which you held have looked toward closer and more 
peaceful relations between all nations through the spirit of cooperation 
and the interchange of knowledge. What has come about has been caused 
solely by those who would use, and are using, the progress that you have 
made along lines of peace in an entirely different cause. Those people 
seek to dominate hundreds of millions of human beings in vast 
continental areas-and, if they are successful in that aim they will we 
know down in our hearts, enlarge their wild dream to encompass every 
human being and every mile of the earth's surface. 

The great achievements of science and even of art can be used in one way 
or another to destroy as well as to create; they are only instruments by 
which men try to do the things they most want to do If death is desired, 
science can do that. If a full, rich, and useful life is sought, science 
can do that also. Happily for us that question has been solved-for in 
the New World we live for each other and in the service of a Christian 

Is this solution-our solution-permanent or safe if it is solved just for 
us alone? That seems to me to be the most immediate issue that the 
Americas face. Can we continue our peaceful construction if all the 
other Continents embrace by preference or by compulsion a wholly 
different principle of life? No, I think not. 

Surely it is time for our Republics to spread that problem before us in 
the cold light of day, to analyze it, to ask questions, to call for 
answers, to use every knowledge, every science we possess, to apply 
common sense, and above all to act with unanimity and singleness of 

I am a pacifist. You my fellow citizens of twenty-one American 
Republics, are pacifists too. 

But I believe that by overwhelming majorities in all the Americas you 
and I, in the long run if it be necessary, will act together to protect 
and defend by every means at our command our science, our culture, our 
American freedom and our civilization.