The Influence of American Democracy on Europe


By JAN MASARYK, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czechoslovak Government in London

Delivered at City College, New York and broadcast over Station WNYC, April 16, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 477-478.

THE influence of American democracy on Europe has been very considerable for a long time, both in European democracies and autocracies. From all over Europe people emigrated to the United States and soon became imbibed with ideas and ideals of American liberty and liberalism. The Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution were always considered highlights in the history of the struggle for human freedom. Czechoslovakia's first President was a well known student of American institutions all of his life which to a great extent was influenced by his wife, my mother, who was a free and independent American. The Czechoslovak constitution has a great deal in common with your constitution and many American principles are embodied therein. Today, when Europe, with the exception of Great Britain, Russia, Switzerland and Sweden has lost its freedom, and the last two are not quite free, and democratic ways of life are only a memory, it is only natural that the downtrodden people in the occupied countries look longingly towards this free continent.

We in Europe have full confidence that America will be the leader once democracy again becomes the foundation of the new world order to come. Europe of course, will need reeducation in many ways. In many parts of the world the temporary failure of the great democracies in preventing gangsterism has shaken the people's confidence, still there are many millions of people in Europe who would rather die than be slaves and their hearts are full of confidence that America will not fail them. I sometimes wonder, whether even you Americans have quite grasped the crucial significance of this very moment. It is not exaggeration at all, when I say "it is now or never" and may I say, as a son of an American mother, that I feel that America first must prove to herself, unflinchingly and without any reservations, that the principles of Washington and Lincoln are the most dignified and sound manifestations of real statesmanship, and to prove to herself that by making compromises on this sacred foundation you would forfeit the right forleadership of the world in matters which really matter. When the Allied Nations will be able to take the offensive in every sense of the word and when, after belated but still thorough preparation, they will strike at Hitler's and the Mikado's heart, the response of the European victims of aggression will be spontaneous and immediate. In my opinion, this is the crucial year in the history of the human race. If the American morale will keep step with American production and I am sure it will,—then our hopes and our prayers will begin to be fulfilled. When this war is won—and it will be won—the new era of international relations will begin—then again it will be America, whether you like it or not, which will take the lead. There will be need for material help, but what is more important, there will be crucial need of steady and confident moral leadership. The youth of Europe will be demoralized—the youth of Germany almost lost. The years of physical and mental suffering of untold millions will have left an indelible mark on the next generation. In the totalitarian, countries, truth, honest thinking, intellectual honesty and scientific accuracy have disappeared altogether. And to make the peoples in these countries use their brains again independently, instead of depending on one half-educated gangster to do it for them, will be a task for all of us. I would like to see a permanent commission formed for the reeducation of derailed Europe, and I am happy to say that certain beginnings in this direction are being contemplated. I consider moral medicines as important as the actual medicines which Europe will need to be healed. I can go on endlessly enumerating what will be needed, but that is not my purpose tonight, I wish to stress here my definite persuasion that only if Europe is reinstated into the realms of human dignity can America preserve all the wonderful things we all are fighting for. Isolation will never again be possible.

A great deal will depend, of course, on the way in which help will be given us after the war. We will be tired and sick and sad, but one way or another we will still be proud,and we shall expect a firm but gentle hand. I hope you do not consider me immodest for this perfectly frank thinking aloud, but if we do not call a spade a spade now, we are apt to lose an opportunity which will never come back. America has a unique opportunity—that is true. To reinforce everything that made her great, to prove to the world that her way of life is infinitely worthwhile and to become a just—not conceited leader in that transitional period into the new world which is upon us—a great many changes may have to take place even in America. The social results of this struggle are going to be. far reaching. Money and property is daily losing its hitherto undisputed significance. America's material and mechanical development in my lifetime has been so astounding that it sometimes overpowers the moral and intellectual development of the masses. To bring about an equilibrium between the material and theethical, the seen and the unseen, the known and the hoped for—that, in my estimation, is the most glorious contribution which America should, can, and will bring to those here and over there to whom democracy was and again is going to be the pivot of their concrete and abstract future. So you see, my friends, we do not expect little from America, but why should we—America does not expect little from herself. The order of the day is the winning of the war. Winning it by superior armaments and superior soldiers, that lies within your and our power. The order of tomorrow is permanent peace, the abolishing of world wars as a political instrument—a return to democracy—a return to international law—a return to international justice—a return to decency.

America's influence on Europe can be most important. I do not see any reason why it should not be. So help us God.