Our Reservoir of World Respect and Hope


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Republican Presidential Candidate—1940

Delivered over the radio, October 26, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 34, 36-39

My fellow Americans:

SEVERAL months ago it occurred to me that perhaps I could make a contribution to the war by visiting the world's people who have a stake in it. I wanted to see them. I wanted to talk to them at their fighting fronts. I also wanted frank discussion with both leaders and people in countries which have not yet decided on their course of action.

Naturally, in time of war, it is impossible to leave this country without permission. So I applied to the President for permission to visit the Middle East, Russia and China. I wanted to go as a private citizen, as I had gone to England when she alone was so courageously holding the free world's battle line against Hitler. The President agreed to my trip, and asked that I perform certain specific tasks for him, which I was happy to undertake.

Went as a Free Agent

It was clearly understood between him and me that apart from the specific matters handled for him, I should go as a free agent. I was at liberty to express my opinion while abroad and equally so when I returned.

I have talked to literally hundreds and hundreds of people around the world in the last two months. Everywhere I made it crystal clear that I was present as a free citizen of a free country, a member of a different party from the President's—in fact, the candidate who opposed him in 1940.

I traveled in a four-engined Consolidated bomber, which had been converted for transport service, and which was operated and navigated with extraordinary skill by American Army officers. All my personal expenses I paid myself. If I have occasion to write articles, reporting on my journey at greater length, any proceeds will be paid at my direction to various war relief agencies that are supporting our common cause.

I make these points clear because the citizens of a democracy have the right to know them. And tonight I am reporting to you, and summarizing my conclusions, as an American, interested only in the welfare of my country and proud that I am accountable only to my fellow-citizens.

Convinced World Is Small

If I ever had any doubts that the world has become small and completely interdependent, this trip would have dispelled them altogether. I traveled a total of 31,000 miles, which sounds very far. The net impression of my trip, however, is not one of distance from other peoples, but of closeness to them.

Now, the extraordinary fact is that to cover these apparently enormous distances we were in the air a total of only 160 hours. We usually flew from eight to ten hours a day when we were on the move, which means that, out of the forty-nine days I allotted to the trip, I had about thirty days on the ground for the accomplishment of the purposes on hand.

The new world that has been opened up by modern inventions was never more vividly illustrated, I think, than on our last lap home. We left Chengtu on October 9, traveled almost 1,000 miles in China, crossed the vast expanse of the Gobi Desert and the Mongolian Republic, crossed thousands of miles of Siberia, crossed the Bearing Sea, the full length of Alaska and the full width of Canada and arrived in the United States four days later, on October 13.

Calls for Global Planning

I say to you: There are no distant points in the world any longer. The myriad millions of human beings of the Far East are as close to us as Los Angeles is to New York by the fastest railroad trains. I cannot escape the conviction that in the future what concerns them must concern us, almost as much as the problems of the people of California concern the people of New York.

Our thinking and planning in the future must be global.

Now this world we live in has become small not only on the map but also in the minds of men. All around the world there are some ideas which millions and millions of men hold in common, almost as much as if they lived in the same town. One of these ideas, and one which I can report without hesitation, has tremendous significance for us in America; it is the mixture of respect and hope with which the world looks to this country.

Whether I was talking to a resident of Belem or Natal in Brazil, or one toting his burden on his head in Nigeria, or a prime minister or a king in Egypt, or a veiled woman in ancient Baghdad, or a Shah or a weaver of carpets in legendary Persia, now known as Iran, or a follower of Ataturk in those streets of Ankara, which look so like the streets of our Middle Western cities, or to a strong-limbed, resolute factory worker in Russia, or to Stalin himself, or the enchanting wife of the great Generalissimo of China, or a Chinese soldier at the front, or a fur-capped hunter on the edge of the trackless forests of Siberia—whether I was talking to any of these people, or to any others, I found that they all have one common bond, and that is their deep friendship for the United States.

Says All Turn to Us

They, each and every one, turn to the United States with a friendliness which is often akin to genuine affection. I bring back to you this clear and significant fact: That there exists in the world today a gigantic reservoir of goodwill toward you, the American people.

Many things have created this enormous reservoir. At the top of the list go the hospitals, schools and colleges which Americans—many of them missionaries—have founded in the far corners of the world. Many of the new leaders of old countries—men who are today running Iraq, or Turkey or China—have studied under American teachers whose only interest has been to spread knowledge. Now, in our time of crisis, we owe a great debt to these men and women who have made friends for us.

Good-will has also been stored up for us, like credit in a bank account, by those Americans who have pioneered in the opening of new roads, new airways, new shipping lines. They have caused the world to think of us as people who move goods, and ideas, and move them fast. They like us for this, and they respect us.

Our motion pictures have played an important role in building up this reservoir of friendliness. They are shown all over the world. People of every country can see with their own eyes what we look like, can hear our voices. From Natal to Chungking I was plied with questions about American motion-picture stars—questions asked eagerly by shop girls and those who served me coffee, and just as eagerly by the wives of prime ministers and kings.

Finds All Admire Labor Here

There are still other reasons for our reserve of good-will abroad. The people of every land, whether industrialized or not, admire the aspirations and accomplishments of American labor, which they have heard about, and which they long to emulate. Also, they are impressed by American business and industry.

In nearly every country I went to there is some great dam or irrigation project, some harbor or factory, which has been built by Americans. People like our works, I found, not only because they help to make life easier and richer, but also because we have shown that American business enterprise, unlike that of most other industrial nations, does not necessarily lead to political control or imperialism.

I found this dread of imperialism everywhere. The fact that we are not associated with it in men's minds has caused people to go much farther in their approval of us than I had dared to imagine. I was amazed to discover how keenly the world is aware of the fact that we do not seek—anywhere, in any region—to impose our rule upon others or to exact special privileges.

All the people of the earth know that we have no sinister designs upon them, that even when we have in the past withdrawn from international affairs into a false self-sufficiency, it was without sinister purpose. And they know that, now we are in this war, we are not fighting for profit, or loot, or territory, or mandatory power over the lives or the governments of other people. That, I think, is the single most important reason for the existence of our reservoir of good-will around the world.

Urges Use of "Reservoir"

Now, as I see it, the existence of this reservoir is the biggest political fact of our time. No other Western nation has such a reservoir. Ours must be used to unify the peoples of the earth in the human quest for freedom and justice. It must be maintained so that, with confidence, they may fight and work with us against the gigantic evil forces that are seeking to destroy all that we stand for, all that they hope for.

The preservation of this reservoir of good-will is a sacred responsibility, not alone toward the aspiring peoples of the earth, but toward our own sons who are fighting this battle on every continent. For the water in this reservoir is the clean, the invigorating water of freedom.

I bring you the assurance that this reservoir exists. I also bring you the warning that it is leaking. It is leaking dangerously. It is leaking at a thousand points. It is leaking through steadily spreading cracks and holes.

These holes have not been punched in the reservoir by Hitler. They have been punched by us. All the leaks in this priceless reservoir, are of our own making. For the very existence of this reservoir is built on confidence in us, in our integrity of purpose, our honesty in dealing, our ability in performance. We have made great promises. How have these promises been fulfilled?

Flow of War Materials Hit

Take the vital matter of our production of war materials. Here we are, supposedly the biggest industrial nation on earth. But the flow of war materials out of this country to some of the nations I visited is not only small in itself, but as compared to the immensity of this global war we are engaged in it is tragically small.

This was first dramatized for me not at the end of the trip but near the start, when I saw a warehouse that was supposedly an important distribution center for American materials to be delivered by air transport. That warehouse was about the size of my house in Rushville, which has ten rooms. But when I came to examine the goods in it, I found there were only enough to fill one room of such a house.

From this infinitesimal supply materials would have to branch out into ever-smaller streams and finally trickle into the hands of those who so desperately need them—people who sometimes do not know whether to laugh or to weep when these crates and packages arrive.

I followed some of those streams and other streams to their destinations, and I stopped talking about American production. If I were to tell you how few bombers China has received from us you simply would not believe me. IfI were to tell you how far Russia feels we are from fulfilling our commitments, you would agree with me that we have little reason to boast about our performance.

Saw Planes, Tanks in Action

There are exceptions. I have seen American planes and tanks which have been in hard and grueling action and which stood up magnificently. I have seen the beginnings of shipping routes which will some time carry the kind of traffic the world is waiting for. I have seen something of the heroism and the skill with which Americans—pilots, sailors, engineers—are blasting the routes clear for our production when we get it ready.

When will this be? That depends, I think, on how quickly we, and our leaders, can begin to think and act offensively, can begin to mobilize not for defense but for attack. It is my reasoned judgment that we cannot win this war 40 per cent mobilized. There are a great many people listening to me tonight who would like to do more if they knew what more to do. It is up to us to make our leaders give us more to do.

For I tell you that if we continue to fail to deliver to our allies what they are entitled to expect of us or what we have promised them, our reservoir of good-will will turn into one of resentment. We cannot laugh this off or shrug it away or hide it behind censorship. Five million Russians and 5,000,000 Chinese have given their lives in this struggle. Each of these countries has lost as many men as we have in our entire Army. We owe them more than boasts and broken promises.

Ask for Pacific Charter

We are also punching holes in our reservoir of good-will every day by failing to define clearly our war aims. Besides giving our allies in Asia and Eastern Europe something to fight with, we have got to give them assurance of what we are fighting for. The 200,000,000 people of Russia and the 450,000,000 people of China—people like you and me— are bewildered and anxious. They know what they are fighting for. They are not so sure of us. Many of them have read the Atlantic Charter. Rightly or wrongly, they are not satisfied. They ask: What about a Pacific Charter? What about a World Charter?

Their doubts were expressed to me in simple, unmistakable questions. "Is there to be a charter only for the millions of the Western Hemisphere?" they asked. "Is there to be no charter of freedom for the billion people of the East? Is freedom supposed to be priceless for the white man or for the Western world but of no account to us in the East?"

Many of them asked me the question which has become almost a symbol all through Asia: What about India? Now, I did not go to India. I do not propose to discuss that tangled question tonight. But it has one aspect, in the East, which I should report to you. From Cairo on, it confronted me at every turn. The wisest man in China said to me:

"When the aspiration of India for freedom was put aside to some future date, it was not Great Britain that suffered in public esteem in the Far East. It was the United States."

Meaning of Freedom Questioned

This wise man was not quarreling with British imperialism in India when he said this—a benevolent imperialism, if you like. He does not happen to believe in it, but he was not even talking about it. He was telling me, and through me, you, that by our silence on India we have already drawn heavily on our reservoir of good-will in the East. People of the East who would like to count on us are doubtful. They cannot ascertain from our government's wishy-washy attitude toward the problem of India what we are likely to feel at the end of the war about all the other hundreds of millions of Eastern peoples. They cannot tell from our vague and vacillating talk whether or not we really do stand for freedom, or what we mean by freedom.

In Africa, in the Middle East, throughout the Arab world, as well as in China and the whole Far East, freedom means the orderly but scheduled abolition of the colonial system. I can assure you that this is true. I can assure you that the rule of people by other peoples is not freedom, and not what we must fight to preserve.

Please understand—I am not talking about the Commonwealth of Free Nations. I am talking about the colonial system wherever it exists, under whatever nation. We Americans are still too apt to think and speak of the British Empire. We must recognize the truth that in vast areas of the world there is no longer any British Empire but instead a proud Commonwealth of Free Nations. British colonial possessions are but remnants of empire. We must remember that throughout the Commonwealth there are men and women numbered in millions who are working selflessly and with great skill toward reducing these remnants, extending the Commonwealth in place of the colonial system.

Refers to Smut's Speech

This it seemed to me, was what General Smuts was talking about in his recent dramatic speech before the cheering British Parliament.

As Americans we must also recognize that we share with these men and women of the British Commonwealth of Free Nations the responsibility of making the whole world a commonwealth of free nations. The grim, relentless progress of this war is teaching all of us that in a world forced to choose between victory and slavery, between freedom and fascism, there are no purely local problems.

India is our problem. If Japan should conquer that vast subcontinent, we will be the losers. In the same sense, the Philippines are a British problem. If we fail to deliver, by force of arms, the independence we have promised to the Filipinos, the whole Pacific world will be the loser. We must believe these simple truths, and speak them loudly and without fear. Only in this way can the peoples of the world forge, in this war, the strength and the confidence in each other which we will need to win the peace.

There will be lots of tough problems. And they will differ in different mandates, different colonies. Not all the peoples of the world are ready for freedom, or can defend it, the day after tomorrow. But today they all want some date to work toward, some guarantee that the date will be kept. For the future, they do not ask that we solve their problems for them. They are neither so foolish nor so faint-hearted. They ask only for the chance to solve their own problems with economic as well as political cooperation. For the peoples of the world intend to be free not only for their political satisfaction but, also, for their economic advancement.

There are other holes that we are blindly punching in our reservoir of good-will which can be more easily repaired. One of them is the half-ignorant, half-patronizing way in which we have grown accustomed to treating many of the peoples in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Asks Better U. S. Representation

The rulers of our allies and our potential allies are proud and intelligent men. The Shah of Iran, the Prime Ministerof Iraq, the Prime Minister or the foreign Minister of Turkey, the Generalissimo of China—to mention just a few—are men who understand the world and who have important ideas about the future. They are in substantial agreement, for example, as to the necessity of abolishing imperialism, of liberating the peoples of the world, of making freedom a reality, instead of just a nice word.

They feel unanimously, I think, that the United States can, and must, make an enormous contribution to the new solutions. They are able and eager to work with representatives of the United States, and to begin now.

But consider our policy. We have consistently failed to send to these men representatives with authority to discuss such problems intelligently and to take realistic steps toward their solution.

One of our representatives to a great power, for example, although he has worked for more than twenty years in the country where he is stationed, has not troubled to learn the language of a proud and sensitive people to which he is accredited. On our special missions to Russia no one of Cabinet rank has been sent from this country to talk to Mr. Stalin. It was the British Prime Minister who primarily spoke for us on the last such mission. Between Cairo and Teheran live the Arab-speaking peoples, in half a dozen lands, with great traditions and great futures. Yet, when I was there, we had in ail this area no Minister or Ambassador in residence.

We must wipe out the distinction in our minds between "first-class" and "second-class" allies. We must send to represent us among all our allies really distinguished men who are important enough in their own right to dare tell our President the truth.

Arbitrary Censorship Denounced

There is one more leak in our reservoir of good-will which I must report to you. It can be plugged, I believe, by resolute and aggressive action by the people of democratic nations, and especially of the United States. This is the atrophy of intelligence which is produced by stupid, arbitrary or undemocratic censorship.

It has been suggested much of late, for example, that private citizens, particularly those not expert in military affairs or those unconnected with government, should refrain from making suggestions about the conduct of the war—military, industrial, economic or political. It is said that we must remain silent and allow our leaders and the experts to solve these problems unmolested.

This position threatens, I believe, to become a tight wall which will keep the truth out and lock misrepresentation and false security within. I have reported to you tonight that in many important respects we are not doing a good job; that we are on the road to winning the war, but that we run a heavy risk of spending far more in men and materials than we need to spend. This report is based on facts. Such facts should not be censored. They should be given to us all. For unless we recognize and correct them, we may lose the friendship of half our allies before the war is over and then lose the peace.

It is plain that to win this war we must make it our war, the war of all of us. In order to do this we must all know as much about it as possible, subject only to the needs of military security. A misdirected censorship will not accomplish this.

Maginot Line as a Warning

You all recall that France had a military leader by the name of Maginot. When a far-sighted citizen of France occasionally suggested that perhaps conditions of modern warfare were such that fortresses built underground would not be adequate against airplanes and tanks, he was reminded that he should leave such matters to the experts.

The record of this war to date is not such as to inspire in us any sublime faith in the infallibility of our military and naval experts. Let's have no more of this nonsense. Military experts, as well as our leaders, must be constantly exposed to democracy's greatest driving power—the whiplash of public opinion, developed from honest, free discussion. Men with great power usually like to live free of criticism. But when they get that way, that's the time to increase the criticism.

For instance, it was public criticism of the constant failures in North Africa that brought about a change of command there. When I was in Egypt, that new command stopped Rommel. It has now begun aggressive fighting. I hope our aid to this action will be adequate and prompt, so that Britain and America will be able to eliminate Rommel, free North Africa from Axis domination and begin an assault on the soft spots of Southern Europe.

Second Front Plea Reiterated

I reiterate: We and our allies must establish a second fighting front in Europe. I also hope that shortly we can put the considerable force in India to aggressive use in an all-out attack on Burma, as General Wavell has urged. Thus we will relieve the pressure of our enemies on China and Russia, our superb fighting allies.

I have tried to outline to you the major conclusions of a trip around the world, in the middle of the war. I have told you of our greatest asset, our reservoir of good-will, and I have told you of the holes we have punched in that reservoir. I have told you of certain real accomplishments and I have also told you that in many respects we are not doing a good job. You may well ask—What does it all add up to? I will try to state it briefly.

I believe that in a military sense we can win this war. I believe we have the resources, the manpower and the courage to do so. But a military victory, as such, will not be enough.

Now, I have a son in the service, as so many of you have. And when I set this boy of mine against the background of what I have seen all over the world, I am absolutely positive that a military victory will not be enough. The total defeat of the Japanese war lords, the total crushing of the German Wehrmacht, could not in themselves solve the problems of this great, tumultuous earth. We must fight our way through not alone to the destruction of our enemies but to a new world idea. We must win the peace.

Peace to Make World Free

To win that peace three things seem to me necessary— first, we must plan now for peace on a global basis; second, the world must be free, economically and politically, for nations and for men that peace may exist in it; third, America must play an active, constructive part in freeing it and keeping its peace.

When I say that peace must be planned on a global basis, I mean quite literally that it must embrace the earth. Continents and oceans are plainly only part of a whole, seen, as I have just seen them, from the air. Russia and China, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, Iraq and Iran are also parts. And it is inescapable that there can be no peace for any part of the world unless the foundations of peace are made secure throughout all parts of the world.

When I say that in order to have peace this world must be free, I am only reporting that a great process has startedwhich no man—certainly not Hitler—can stop. Men and women all over the world are on the march, physically, intellectually and spiritually. After centuries of ignorant and dull compliance hundreds of millions of people in Eastern Europe and Asia have opened the books. Old fears no longer frighten them. They are no longer willing to be Eastern slaves for Western profits. They are beginning to know that mens welfare throughout the world is interdependent. They are resolved, as we must be, that there is no more place for imperialism within their own society than in the society of nations. The big house on the hill surrounded by mud huts has lost its awesome charm.

Western World on Trial

Our Western world and our presumed supremacy are now on trial. Our boasting and our big talk leave Asia cold. Men and women in Russia and China and in the Middle East are conscious now of their own potential strength. They are coming to know that many of the decisions about the future of the world lie in their hands. And they intend that these decisions shall leave the peoples of each nationfree from foreign domination, free for economic, social and spiritual growth.

Finally, when I say that this world demands the full participation of a self-confident America, I am only passing on an invitation which these peoples of the East have given us. They would like the United States to be one of their partners in this grand adventure. They want us to join them in creating a new society, global in scope, free alike of the economic injustices of the West and the political malpractices of the East. But as a partner in that great new combination they want us neither hesitant, incompetent nor afraid. They want a partner who will not hesitate to speak out for the correction of injustice anywhere in the world.

Our allies in the East know that we intend to pour out our resources in this war. But they expect us now—not after the war—to use the enormous power of our giving to promote liberty and justice. Other peoples, not yet fighting, are waiting no less eagerly for us to accept the most challenging opportunity of all history—the chance to help create a new society in which men and women the globe around can live and grow invigorated by freedom.