The Crown Jewels of America


By W. J. CAMERON, of the Ford Motor Co.

Armistice Day address broadcast over the Nation-Wide Network of the Columbia Broadcasting Systemfrom Detroit, November 10, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol VII, pp. 157-158.

TOMORROW is Armistice Day, reminding us that just 22 years ago the war ended that was to make the world safe for democracy. The men who named these events must have had a strange unconscious foresight. They spoke not of the "Peace" of 1918, but only of the "Armistice," as if hostilities merely were suspended. And the war was not officially named "The World War" but only "TheGreat War" as if a greater were yet to come. Well, a world safe for democracy has not appeared. The meaning of Armistice Day has been obscured by later events, events that in their turn will be obscured to those who look back upon them 22 years hence. What, then, shall we contemplate tomorrow?

Let us think about the Crown Jewels of America. Rumorswere heard during the past year that the crown jewels of one or another country were being removed to other lands for safety. Now, no royal crown or scepter, no orb, no throne or sword of state exists in this country—nonetheless we have Crown Jewels of more than regal splendor and of priceless worth. What are they?

Some might answer that those precious writings, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, are our high insignia of state. But in these matters our nation was somewhat like ourselves——in youth we seldom are interested in our genealogy or our family heirlooms; that appreciation comes with maturity. So, the Declaration of Independence and other precious documents lay neglected by this young nation for 100 years, exposed to fire and weather hazards, until the Centennial of 1876, when Americans began to reflect on the formative period of their history. Many other things were more highly treasured than these documents at first, things that preceded them and things that flowered from them.

There's the shrine of Plymouth Rock where the weary Pilgrims landed; there's a country church at Richmond where epic words were spoken that burn with meaning yet; there's the Old North Steeple, Boston, where the signal lanterns hung; there's a river bridge at Concord where once the embattled farmers stood; there are pleasant dells at Valley Forge where the winter snow lay heavy; there's a room in Philadelphia where grave men wisely wrought; there's a farm on the Potomac where our Cincinnatus lived; there's a cherished spot at Yorktown where a storied struggle ended; there's a Hermitage in Tennessee whence a lionheart emerged; there's the Alamo in Texas, mute memorial of sacrificial gallantry; there's a cabin in Kentucky where an Emancipator first beheld the light. These are some of the Crown Jewels of America.

Yet these are not all. Among the Rockies there are cloud-capped peaks named for men that made them signposts for the westward-faring people. There are handcarts at SaltLake City, dragged a thousand miles over prairie and mountain by men and women seeking freedom. There are missions and harbors and cities all up and down the Pacific coast sacred to the pioneers. And then the landmarks of American enterprise—from the early iron forges and milling machinery of Pennsylvania and the cotton gin of Georgia, to the electrical wizardry of Edison that lighted the world from New Jersey and the giant irrigation dams that, as works of man, excel the pyramids. At the San Francisco Fair a gold spike was exhibited, of greater worth than gold, because it symbolized the pony track widening to the wagon track and that hardening into the railroad track of the nation's westward progress. These also are among the Crown Jewels of America.

And yet there are more. Little schools that grew into famous universities; pioneer medical practices that made a noble science and profession; the whole American system of free and universal education; the expanding American economy giving greater value for a lower price and higher wages for less burdensome labor than any other in the world; freedom to speak and to print, freedom to assemble and think and worship, freedom to say "no" as well as "yes" and vote as conscience dictates; a nation devoted to the social art of living together in peace, a nation owning its homes, a nation unafraid—these also are among our Crown Jewels of America.

We may think of these on Armistice Day, and we may think of this rich land of our heritage that can abundantly provide for all. We may think of our Flag—look at that Flag!—women and children never have fled in terror before that Flag! We may think of our Temple of Covenanted Liberties—the Constitution—for a century and a half an impregnable dike against encroachments of power.

Who can name or number the Crown Jewels of our nation? If you would see them all, then you must see every city and village, every street, every shop and farm and home—the Crown Jewels of America are everywhere.