The Role America Must Play


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Presidential Candidate of the Republican Party

Delivered at St. Louis, Mo., October 17, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, p. 58-61.

I AM delighted to be here in St. Louis. I have a very pleasant recollection of my visit here prior to the Republican National Convention. Tonight I want to talk to you upon a subject about which my convictions are very deep and very strong. It is of course true that the people who live on the sea coasts of these United States, on the Atlantic and the Pacific, are closer to the problem of foreign affairs than are the people who live in the interior.

But I am sure the people who live on the sea coasts will agree that a policy for the United States cannot be a true policy, it cannot be a realistic policy, unless it gives full expression to the ideals and the hopes of this great American interior.

Here in the valley of the Mississippi we can look outward in our mind's eye, across the Alleghenies to the Atlantic, and across the Rockies to the Pacific. We can see in giant perspective the position of America on this earth. We can see in Europe the advance of bloody armies across nations that were once numbered in the democratic world. We have seen those armies advance across fields where some of our boys lie buried.

And when we turn to the other direction and look out across the Pacific we find that the same insatiate and aggressive dictator that has made a shambles of Europe, has now joined in alliance with Japan, an alliance that seems to be aimed at these United States.

We may perhaps take comfort in the fact that Japan is very far away. And likewise, we may perhaps also take comfort in the recent intimation by the Japanese Foreign Office that the new alliance is not really aimed at these United States. We deeply hope that that is right.

A Cause for "Misgivings"

Nevertheless, in the light of the record, we must view that alliance with profound misgivings.

Now, my fellow Americans, this situation has been brewing for a number of years, since the World War as a matter of fact, and perhaps before. But tonight I want to confine my discussion to the last four or five years.

In those four or five years the Administration in Washington has been very active in foreign affairs. It has been active, so it tells us, in promoting the cause of peace. And it has tried to persuade the American people of the wisdom of its foreign policy.

There are some people in America today who admit frankly that this Administration has failed in its most elementary duties at home. They admit frankly that the New Deal has demoralized American industry, created widespread unemployment and brought America to the verge of bankruptcy.

And yet these same persons tell us that this Administration has been so wise and so effective in its foreign policy that it ought to be re-elected for a third term.

Now I am in agreement with some of the basic international objectives of the Administration at the present time. I shall return to those objectives presently, to define them for you.

"Has Contributed to War"

But I wish to make it plain tonight that I do not think the New Deal has been either wise or effective in foreign affairs. I do not think it has contributed to peace. As a matter of fact, I believe it has contributed to war. And I believe so because of a fundamental misunderstanding, a fundamental failure to understand, the role that America must play among the nations of the earth.

In order to define what I believe to be the proper role of America, the proper function of America, I am now going to quote some passages at considerable length. They were written about America by a European statesman, in my judgment the most courageous and the most far-sighted statesman in the world today. I am referring to Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England.

Now I want you to listen very carefully to these passages. The first one was written in December of 1937. Now listen very carefully. These are the words of Winston Churchill, not the words of Wendell Willkie, although, when you hear them you will suspect that they were taken from my writing.

"There is one way above all others," said Mr. Churchill, "in which the United States can aid the European democracies." Now this was in 1937 he said this. "Let her regain and maintain her prosperity."

A prosperous United States," he says "exerts an immense beneficent force upon world affairs. A United States, on the other hand, thrown into financial and economic collapse spreads evil far and wide, and weakens France and England just at the time when they have most need to be strong."

Quotes Criticism of New Deal

Now let me proceed with Winston Churchill.

"The Washington Administration," I'm still quoting Mr. Churchill, "has waged so ruthless a war on private enterprise that the United States . . . is actually . . . leading the world back into the trough of depression. . . . The effect has been to range the Executive of the United States agencies of the capitalistic system. . . ."

Now mark you, that passage was written in 1937. That is what Winston Churchill thought about what the New Deal had done to its own recovery and to the effect it had had upon the world.

Now let me proceed with Mr. Churchill.

"Even in time of peace," he said, "even in time of peace the economic and financial policy of the United States may exercise an appreciable check upon the war preparations of potential dictators."

That was Winston Churchill in 1937, who said that if the Washington Administration had permitted economic recovery in the United States Hitler would have been checked.

But what did the Washington Administration do? Now please don't take it in the language of Wendell Willkie,take it in the language of Winston Churchill, one year later,namely, in 1938, and again I quote him.

"Economic and financial disorder in the United States,"said Mr. Churchill in 1938, "not only depresses all sister countries, but weakens them in those very forces which either mitigate the hatreds of race or provide the means to resist tyranny. The first service which the United States canrender the world cause is to become prosperous and also to become well armed."

Internal "Warfare" Decried

I'm still quoting Mr. Churchill. Let's see what else he has to say.

"The warfare between big business and the Administration continues at a grievous pace. These great forces do not seem to realize how much they are dependent, one upon another. The President," this is still Winston Churchill, "continues blithely now to disturb, now to console, business and finance. He blows hot, he blows cold, and confidence does not return.

"Immense use is made of the national borrowing power for relieving unemployment which would largely cure itself, if even for a single year the normal conditions of confidence were restored."

Does that sound much different from what Wendell Willkie has been preaching to the American people?

Well, let's see what else this forthright far-sighted statesman said about these United States in 1938.

"Party politics," he goes on, "invade every aspect of our economic life. The authority and prestige which spring from the great armament of a free people may be undermined by financial and political disorder."

Then he utters this hope, which I certainly reutter here tonight:

"But we must hope that other counsels will prevail."

That was what America looked like in 1938 to the statesman beyond the seas. It is not, of course, the carefully decorated picture of American foreign policy that the New Deal has drawn for the American people. But it is a forthright picture drawn by a man on whom has fallen the terrible task of defending the democratic world.

Now I know there are many who believe that the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans are so broad that Americans need not worry concerning what happens on the other side of them.

Says Third Term Means War

Those oceans are indeed broad. We can say with the utmost confidence, standing here in the center of America: We do not want to send our boys over there again. And we do not intend to send them over there again. And if you elect me President we won't.

But by the same token I believe if you re-elect the third-term candidate they will be sent. We cannot and we must not undertake to maintain by arms the peace of Europe.

But, my fellow-Americans, those broad oceans were not intended by their Creator to be barriers. They ought to be broad blue highways of commerce and of trade.

When trade travels across the oceans and the frontiers, a new demand is set up, directly and indirectly, for the products you manufacture here in St. Louis and the crops you grow here in Missouri. That demand, in turn, is created by the purchases of American industry, by the buying of tin and rubber and nickel and other commodities that our industries need.

The role of the United States among the nations is not the settlement of boundary disputes or of racial disputes. It isnot the maintenance of a balance of power in Europe. The role of the United States, at least the role it should occupy, the peacetime role, is something far more congenial to our people. It is to create purchasing power and to raise the standard of living, first for ourselves, and as a result of raising it for ourselves, thereby raising the standard of living for others.

"We Have Failed in That Aim"

That is the aim. When we fail in that aim we weaken the democratic world. During the past several years, since Winston Churchill penned those penetrating lines, we have failed utterly to achieve that aim, and we have seen a great part of the democratic world collapse.

But some say all that is water over the dam. We may perhaps look forward to some future time, under some future Administration, when America may have a chance to play that peacetime role. They say today the world is at war. The New Deal, so these people say, is necessary to the fulfillment of the wartime, not the peacetime, role of the United States.

But I ask, what role is this? What is this role to which the New Deal is indispensable?

Again we are speaking here in the middle of the American continent and as we look across those oceans what do we find standing between us and the decline of our trade and commerce?

What do we find standing between our free enterprise and the totalitarian method of production by slavery?

What do we find standing between our free institutions which we cherish and the barbaric philosophy of slavery to the State?

Calls the British Heroic

We find, we find Great Britain. We find the heroic British people standing.

We find those people across the Atlantic. We find them north of us in Canada. We find them remotely, and in smaller numbers, across the Pacific in Australia and in Asia.

As we stand here looking out to the east and to the west we find the British people living on the very rim of our freedom.

So I ask again: What is the role under these circumstances that the United States should play in this war-torn world?

What is this role to which the New Deal says it is so indispensable?

Is it that we should send an expeditionary force over there? Is it that we should join again in a foreign war? Is that the role to which the New Deal thinks itself indispensable? Is that the reason for the provocative statements, the gratuitous insults, the whispers, the rumors that keep coming out of Washington?

I ask the question frankly. I ask it in deadly earnest. Because you and I know that that is not our role.

We cannot send an expeditionary force out to that rim. We have no such force. And even if we had that force it would do no good. It isn't what those people need. It isn't even what they've asked us for.

Production Held Our Role

The reinforcement of that rim of freedom can be accomplished in one way. And only in one way. It can be accomplished only by a thing that the New Deal does not understand, namely, production.

We must produce more, and more, and more. We must produce airplanes. We must produce hundreds of other things. That is our role. That is the role that we must employ to reinforce that rim of freedom.

But, but people of Missouri, when we have reached thatresolution, we uncover a terrible fact, a perfectly terrible fact. We have not got those things to send to Great Britain. We haven't even got them for ourselves.

And here is another terrible fact. Here is the worst fact of all: We are not even making those things in any substantial quantity. We are not helping the way we ought to help, the way we must help if we are not to be left utterly alone in this bloody and this barbarous world.

And why is this? Why are we so incapable of doing the every thing that we know we ought to do and for which America has heretofore always been famed for doing?

It is because for the past five years this Administration which knew, which could not help from knowing what was happening in the world, failed utterly and failed completely to grasp the real function of America in a war-torn world.

"Key to War and Peace"

This Administration failed to see—failed most tragically to see—that the key to war, as well as the key to peace, is America, American production, production.

I have shown on many occasions that this Administration has been aware of the need for adequate defense for nearly five years. It itself said so in January, 1936.

But what was done about it at that time? Our agencies of production were abused, attacked, smothered under a wave of political propaganda.

Our Navy was not built up. Our Army was not modernized. Our arsenals were allowed to sink into decrepitude. Our aircraft industry was not encouraged—we have today only a few hundred modern military planes.

As a result we don't even have the capacity in America to make those things today.

And, as a further result, everything we send to Britain is a sacrifice to our own defense. We must make the awful choice as to whether to supply Britain or ourselves first. We cannot supply either one adequately, much less both.

I have said before that I am in favor of aiding Britain at some sacrifice to our own defense program. But I want to point out here, that it is a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is entirely due to the New Deal's fault.

And worse, much worse, our entire industrial system is demoralized. The expansion of our capacity will be even slower than it would have been had we been producing even on a normal basis.

We do not start this huge task from a normal level. We start it from a depression level and a depression level that the policies of the New Deal have caused.

Charge of Failure "to Understand"

Therefore, my fellow Americans, I put the proposition to you very, very seriously.

Here is an Administration which has maintained itself in power chiefly by attacking American industry.

Here is an Administration which does not understand industry—which does not understand, which has never studied the most elementary principles of production.

Here is an Administration which, from 1933 through 1937, failed to understand the relationship of America to a world at peace, and from 1937 onward has failed to grasp the relationship of America in a world at war.

Here is an Administration which now—even now—refuses to give adequate power to men who understand production; which insists, which insists upon clearing the entire defense program over the desk of a single man who is seeking to violate one of the most cherished traditions of this Republic, in running for a third term.

Do you seriously believe that this Administration is capable of meeting this crisis, which it has so entirely brought about itself?

Do you seriously believe that it is capable of reinforcing the rim of freedom quickly and effectively?

Do you seriously believe that it can supply America with the indispensable weapons of defense and at the same time send appropriate aid to Great Britain?

Are you confident that it will never send our boys over there, in a desperate and futile effort to cover up its own errors in failing to bring about production?

Magnitude of Production Task

In the history of the world there has never been such a huge production job. It's the greatest job of production that has even challenged the imagination of man. It surpasses by far what we attempted at the time of the last World War.

And I can also truthfully say that no Administration in the history of America has ever understood less about the problems and the necessity of production than this one.

Let us not be fooled by scenery. Let us not be fooled by poses and attitudes and clever words. The production of words never saved any man's life in battle.

America has contributed to make this crisis in the world today. And the men responsible for that fact are the men of the third-term party, who are seeking re-election, strange as it may seem, on the international issue.

I am speaking not only to you people of Missouri. I am speaking tonight to millions, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from Canada to Mexico. I plead with all of you. Let us see America as it really is.

In peacetime America must conduct herself with a consciousness that she is a great economic force in the world. If her actions are irresponsible they are capable of disrupting the economics of the world.

Our role, therefore, in peacetime is to produce, to raise the purchasing power, to lift the standard of living, not alone of ourselves but of others, to lift the standard of living of others who aspire to the democratic way of life.

And our position in wartime is exactly the same. It is still production—production to reinforce the rim of freedom far beyond our borders.

The failure of America to produce, whether in peace or in war, makes havoc of the democratic world.

Let us be very clear about that. The fact that the New Deal stopped the recovery that was coming about in 1937 helped wreck France and England and helped to promote Hitler.

"The Only Road to Peace"

Let us see ourselves as we really are. What happens when we fail in this twofold responsibility of production in peacetime and production in wartime?

What happens when America fails to produce? Why, war happens. Yes, when our instruments and agencies of production fail, war threatens even us.

Alliances are made against us. Threats are flung against us. Our interests are violated. Our neighbors to the south are invaded by the emissaries of dictators to wean them away from us.

War is never the road to peace. Appeasement is not the road to peace. Production is the road to peace and the only road to peace.

Today the emergency is increased by our own dire need for a defense system. Until we can show power with our air force, our Navy, our Army and until we have mobilized industry to supply them, no foreign power that we may devise can be effective.

The primary object of a defense system should be to defend ourselves and to support our neighbor, Canada, to the north and other neighbors to the south. When we make that de-

fense system strong—and only when we make it strong—we can realistically hope for peace in this hemisphere.

More than ever before in history, the American people now hold the fate of other nations in their hands. More than ever before in history, it is for them to mold the shape of things to come.

This shape, this unknown shape, will be born on a single day: on that day next month when the people choose their government for the next four years.

On that day let them not choose a government for which Peace is just a word; a government of attitudes and poses, a government whose promises still are, and will remain on order.

Let them choose rather a government that will make peace a reality; a government that will get things done to make them strong. A government that can turn to any dictator and say:

"This is America, and America is on hand."