Our Foreign Policy


By SUMNER WELLES, Under Secretary of State

Delivered at the Dedication of the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial at Historic St. Paul's Church, Eastchester, Mount Vernon, New York, December 6, 1942, Broadcast by National Broadcasting Company

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 214-215.

WE are meeting this evening in St. Paul's Church at Eastchester, New York, to pay tribute to the memory of Sara Delano Roosevelt, the great mother of a great son.

By the erection of this memorial to Mrs. Roosevelt, generations still to come will remember that it was largely due to her devoted interest and assistance that there was made possible the restoration of this historic church—the Shrine to the Bill of Rights—a sanctuary that has always since 1733 been identified in the minds of the people of the United States with that great right later established in our Constitution—the freedom of the press.

For nine years Mrs. Roosevelt was the chairman of the restoration Committee which at length succeeded in the task of renewing this grand memorial of our colonial days,so that it now stands once again in its original beauty. To that task Mrs. Roosevelt gave of herself generously and untiringly as she did in so many countless ways, and for so many worthy causes, throughout the years of her life.

Mrs. Roosevelt was the life-long friend of some of us gathered here. And I think we feel her gracious presence very near to us as we meet in this old church that was so close to her heart. None of us who had the privilege of her friendship can ever fail to be grateful for it. For no more loyal, no more devoted and unselfish friend could any man or woman have. Her transparent integrity of soul and mind, her radiant goodness, her charm of personality, and above all else perhaps, her love for her fellow-men, have engraved her image deep in the hearts of all of us. That image will not grow dim.

We are gathered together in these dedication ceremonies on the eve of the first anniversary of that treacherous attack upon the United States which involved our people in this great world war which has engulfed all of the continents of the earth.

It is a solemn moment as we think back over the crowded history of these past twelve months, during which our united people and their Government have made the supreme effort to preserve the freedom with which this land of ours has been blessed, and to turn the tides of battle towards the ultimate victory of the great cause which we uphold—the cause of human liberty.

We think back to those first difficult months when we had to achieve the readjustment of our national life, in all of its phases, so as to insure an all-out war effort, and of the months thereafter when the long and difficult task of translating military and naval plans into accomplishment had to be realized. Now at the end of this twelve-month period, thestrategy which our Government has been devising has become clear. The successes of our military and naval forces and of those of the peoples who are fighting at our side have instilled in us new hope and renewed conviction. It may well be, however, that a dark and anxious time may yet have to be traversed before the ultimate victory, which we know we will attain, is won. Until that time, the efforts, the devotion, and the sacrifices of every one of us must be consecrated to the supreme task of winning the war.

But there are many of us today who are thinking back further than the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. They are thinking back over the past quarter of a century and are asking themselves whether this shattering world upheaval in which all of mankind is engaged was in fact inevitable.

They are asking themselves: if, at the conclusion of the last world war, the Government of the United States, in association with the other governments of free peoples, had sought the ideal which Woodrow Wilson once held up before the eyes of the people of this country—"a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free"—would this tragedy have come to pass?

The foreign policy of any nation must inevitably be a policy of self-interest. The foreign policy of the United States should ever be a policy based upon that course and upon those principles which, in the judgment of the American people themselves, will most clearly further the individual interest of their country, and the general welfare of the people of the United States.

And I think a question that we can well afford to ask ourselves, on the eve of the anniversary of our entrance into the present war, is whether the policy pursued by the people of the United States during the years subsequent to the end of the last world war has proved in any sense to be to the interest or to the individual advantage of the American people. During that period we refused to assume the slights est measure of responsibility for the maintenance of world order. During the greater portion of that period we divorced ourselves from almost every form of cooperation with other powers, and as a people and as a government we stood aside while the forces which resulted in Hitlerism and all that which Hitlerism implies were shaping themselves. We stood aside pretending to ourselves that the United States could keep itself secure and free from danger even if all the rest of the world went up in flames.

From the standpoint of narrow and selfish self-interest alone, there are two straight questions which we might well ask ourselves.

The cost of our participation in the war and of our military and naval production will burden the United States with a staggering national debt which must be paid by the taxpayers of this country. To win this struggle we are necessarily diverting the greater portion of our tremendous productive capacity into channels of destruction, not those of construction, and the debt burden which will have been created will inevitably affect the manner of life of every one of us and will inevitably diminish the opportunity for the progressive advancement of the generation to come.

Would we not as a people have been better advised if we had been willing twenty years ago to Join with the other free peoples of the earth in promoting an international order which would have maintained the peace of the world, and which could have prevented the rise of those conditions which have resulted in the total war of today? Is it conceivable that the material sacrifices which we might have been called upon to undertake to maintain world order in those earlier years could have involved a thousandth part of the material sacrifices which we are called upon today to undertake?

And the second question we may well ask ourselves is a question which hits straight at every family in the United States which has a father, or a son, or a brother serving this country today in the armed forces of the United States. Had the American people been willing a generation ago to bear their fair share of responsibility for the maintenance of world order, would our men today be forced to offer up their lives in order that they may insure the preservation of the independence and the security of their fellow citizens?

Already we hear again the voices of those who decry all forms of practical international cooperation. Already we can see the efforts of those who would make this fundamental issue, the issue of our national future, a question of party politics. Already we can once more follow the machinations of those special privilege interests which would again turn the policy of the United States into one of narrow isolation, because of their belief that they themselves would profit through such a course.

Surely this is a question which transcends the bounds of any aspect of party and any claim of material advantage by a special few.

Today we are fighting this war in the closest collaboration with the governments joined with us. Our military operations, so successfully carried out recently on different fronts, have required effective cooperation and understanding with our allies. The very conduct of the war makes it indispensable that this form of agreement as to the strategy of our military and naval undertakings be continued by all of the governments of the United Nations. Our own security depends upon it.

We realize now that in this war this form of association of free peoples, struggling to preserve their liberty, is vitally necessary for the safety of our nation.

Do we realize that an association of the free peoples of the United Nations when the war is won is just as essential to the future security of this country?

Surely we must assure ourselves when we achieve the victory for which we are fighting that this free people of ours, joined with the other free peoples who are fighting at our side, will see to it that the necessary measures of international cooperation are undertaken so that this catastrophe will not occur again.

In this shrine dedicated to the freedoms which we, the American people, by an inalienable right enjoy, we may well dedicate ourselves to the supreme task of the creation in the future of a world in which all peoples may in truth be free—free from the fear of war and assured of the right to live out their lives in safety and in peace.