Address to Farmers
WE CANNOT BE AN ISLAND
By PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Delivered over the radio to those attending anniversary farm dinners to commemorate the eighth year of the New Deal Agricultural Program, March 8, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 376-377.
I AM glad to be able to take a part again in this anniversary celebration. Eight long years ago today I sent out a call for farmers and farm leaders to come to Washington to help draft farm legislation to meet the emergency.
And that meeting led directly to the national farm programs that we now have.
Farmers did their work well. Agriculture was almost helpless, as we remember, before the emergency of 1933, but in September, 1939, when another crisis confronted us, the crisis of the second World War, farming was far better prepared.
The reasons for the favorable position of agriculture in the late Summer of 1939 are not hard to find. Agriculture probably suffered more than any other industry from the short-sighted national policies that followed the end of the first World War.
When the farmers arrived here in response to my call of March 8, 1933, I found a group eager for action and ready to lay aside minor differences.
They knew that they had no time to lose.
So when the second World War began a year and a half ago the farm programs inaugurated in 1933 served as what might be called shock-absorbers for agriculture. We had no repetition of the "buying-a-bale" movement and other ineffective proposals for farm relief that followed that August of 1914 after the outbreak of the first World War.
Ready to Play Full Part
Today there is no call to plow up the plains. American Agriculture is in splendid condition to play its full part in the program of national defense. Our granaries are full.
Our stores of food and fibres are adequate to meet our own needs at home—yes, and the needs of our friends in the other lands now fighting for their existence—fighting in behalf of all democratic forms of government, fighting against world control by dictatorships.
The country is glad that there are no bottlenecks in our Agricultural production. The farm front is ready for any demand of total defense.
It is no accident that the farmers of our country stand ready to serve in the severe trial ahead of us. Their preparedness is the fruit of their own voluntary concerted efforts, stretching back over all these years.
These efforts are embodied in national farm programs, conceived by the farmers and administered by the farmers.
To me the story of that achievement is a genuine inspiration.
Back, back there in 1933 farmers balked at the philosophy of fear and inaction. Assisted by their government they came together and began to work together to solve some of these difficulties. Through their programs they've raised farm income. They are conserving their soil. They are rehabilitating poverty-stricken farmers.
The farm front is a broad one but national programs for agriculture touch every part of this front in every part of the land.
Six million farmers cooperating in these national programs are helping to give the answer to those who question the future of democracy. I am well aware that these program? have not solved all the farm problems. Out of the war, the present war, have arisen new difficulties and new demands.
"We Cannot Be An Island"
The post-war world will be different in many ways from the world that we knew before September, 1939. But, given a sympathetic National Administration, fanners can meet these post-war problems as they met the problems of 1933. They can achieve the equality they must have if they are to make their proper contribution to the national defense and to the American way of life.
It is the fate of this common life that weighs upon all our hearts tonight.
And it may interest you to know that only a few hoursago the Senate has passed by a vote of about 2 to 1 the lend-lease bill for aid to the democracies of the world that are trying to save their democracy.
The farmer, no less than the businessman and the workman, has his eyes turned to the world situation.
Democracy over large areas of the Old World is threatened with extinction. And no democratic farm program in the United States, nor the democratic way of life here, can hope to survive the death of democracy over the rest of the earth.
We cannot escape our collective responsibility for the kindof life that is going to emerge from the ordeal through which the world is passing today. We cannot be an island.
We may discharge that responsibility unwisely but we cannot escape the consequences of our choice.
We would have it a world in which we may live in peace, live in freedom, live in security, the kind of world our farmer forefathers dreamed of and worked for as they settled the old Atlantic seaboard and pushed their way into the West. I am confident that the farmers of 1941 want this kind of world to survive.