"With Liberty and Justice for All"
THE TORCH BEARERS TODAY
By THE HONORABLE JOSEPH C. GREW, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State
Delivered on the anniversary of the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, New York City, October 27, 1943
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 75-77.
"He entered all the portals of the world,
A vibrant, thrilled, exhaustless, restless soul,
Riding at last the very stars."
WHO shall competently measure the worth of any man ? Certainly not his contemporaries, for they are too close to the scene of his life and work to weigh them in proper perspective, too liable in assessing character to be influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the current and often inadequate or misguided estimates of public opinion. Only history can fully and broadly gauge these things. "By their fruits ye shall know them," and no epitome can today or in the future more accurately and broadly characterize the life and work, the 'Vibrant, thrilled, exhaustless, restless" striving and determination of Theodore Roosevelt than those ringing and all-embracing words: "With liberty and justice for all." For these words represented the core of his personal, his political and his spiritual creed. How often in the history of mankind has a prophet cried in the wilderness I Yet how often have the seeds which those prophets planted fallen on good ground and sprung up in their time!
Theodore Roosevelt inspired my youth as his creed and doctrine have constantly inspired my efforts in later life. To be one of the recipients tonight of the medal of the Roosevelt Memorial Association is therefore among the highest and certainly the most deeply appreciated honors that have come to me in life. I wish in full measure to express that appreciation and my profound sense of gratitude at having thus been brought into intimate touch with an association with whose purposes I am and always have been in close sympathy.
At the risk of obtruding a personal story—and yet I suppose that all personal stories have a degree of human interest—it is perhaps not out of place to relate my first contact with Theodore Roosevelt. The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts, and the thoughts of this youth about forty years ago aspired to a foreign post in the service of the United States, although we had no such thing as an organized Foreign Service in those days. Political influence ruled appointments and my own political influence or backing was precisely nil. A friend in Washington spoke of me to the President but he replied discouragingly. Political support was lacking. And then, one day, my friend went out on a cross-country tramp with the President and bringing the conversation around to his pet subject of big game hunting, told him of a little experience I had enjoyed with a tiger in a dark cave in China in which the tiger emerged second-best. Various myths have arisen about that episode, but it was quite simple; once in the cave, all the hunter had to do was to pull the trigger and hit the barn door, since the tiger was only two or three feet away. But the episode seemed to appeal
to the President, for he pulled out his notebook and said: "By Jove, I'll have to do something for that young man!" —and the next day my appointment as Third Secretary of our Embassy in Mexico City was announced. Several years later, as Chairman of the Examining Board for the Foreign Service, I had plenty of fun with the candidates, telling them: "You young men don't know how fortunate you are. All you have to do to get into the Foreign Service is to answer a few questions; I had to shoot a tiger." But that was the way of Theodore Roosevelt.
When I came to Washington the President said: "I have put you in the Foreign Service because I believe in you, but there's no career in it. It's all politics. I will keep you in while I am President but my successor will most certainly throw you out—and then where will you be?" I remember replying: "Mr. President, as a great nation we must develop a professional Foreign Service if only to protect our world interests and in self-defense. Anyway, I'd like to have a hack at it." Within a year from that conversation, Theodore Roosevelt had put through Congress a bill applying civil service principles to the then diplomatic service, following President Cleveland's similar action for the consular service, and some twenty years later, in 1924, the Rogers Act amalgamated the two services in one great Foreign Service of the United States which, in point of individual qualifications and professional training and all-around efficiency I do not believe is surpassed by any similar service in the world. I say this from forty years experience. To the vision of Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt, and later to the vision of Congressman John Jacob Rogers, we owe the great organization that serves the United States abroad today. The faults and failures of that Service, as of any service, are sometimes news; its widespread accomplishments and successes often pass unpublicized.
I venture to give one more little personal and intimate anecdote of Theodore Roosevelt, for it is, I think, from such even trivial illustrations that the personality of any man emerges.
During the ex-President's famous hunting trip in Africa in 1909 I was only a young secretary in Berlin, but I had the temerity to write him to his camp on the White Nile saying that I would like to arrange, during his forthcoming visit to the Kaiser in Berlin, a luncheon of the well-known German big game hunters, with many of whom he was acquainted, at least from their books, especially with Schilling, the then famous big game photographer. The reply came in due course, written on a scrap of well-stained paper as befitted the jungle, accepting the invitation with typical Rooseveltian gusto. I took the reply to my chief, the Ambassador, who shook his head. "No", he said, "I don't think we can arrange that luncheon; Mr. Roosevelt is going to be awfully busy during his week's visit; every minute will be occupied with official duties." Of course I deferred to my chief's wishes and a long telegram was dispatched to Mr. Roosevelt in Cairo, as he emerged from central Africa, sending him the program. The reply came very quickly and tersely: "Program approved but please include Grew's lunch." I was not very popular with my chief that day.
Then King Edward of Great Britain died, his nephew the Kaiser had to go into mourning, and Mr. Roosevelt's visit to Wilhelm the Second was off. Instead it was arranged that the distinguished guest should stay at the American Embassy for three days instead of the proposed week at the palace. The Ambassador called me in and politely pointed out that my luncheon would now have to go overboard. "Of course", I said. The revised program was wired to Mr. Roosevelt in Rome and promptly back came the reply: "Revised program approved but don't forget Grew's lunch." By that time my relations with the Ambassador were getting somewhat tenuous.
Well, the luncheon was duly held and Mr. Roosevelt was of course very much in his element surrounded by mighty hunters. The chief had said to me that our distinguished guest must leave promptly at 2:00 o'clock to carry out his round of calls on high German officials, but after luncheon Professor Schilling showed his admirable film of big game at close quarters, climaxed by a petition to Mr. Roosevelt signed by all the beasts of the African jungle in the Swahili language saying: "We appeal to you, oh greatest of hunters, to protect us from extermination 1" The ex-President loved that because the protection of wild life from indiscriminate killing anywhere in the world was one of his shibboleths. At about 3:00 o'clock the Ambassador came to me. "You really must get Mr. Roosevelt started on his calls," he said, and I reluctantly conveyed the message. "What, what?" said T. R.; "Official calls? Not a bit of it. We're all going to the Zoo!—and we did. Those calls, I fear, were never made. There, indeed, was the "vibrant, thrilled, exhaustless, restless soul."
In the volume "Peace and War", recently issued by our Government, there is published a dispatch of mine from Tokyo dated December 27, 1934, in which occurs the passage : "Theodore Roosevelt enunciated the policy 'Speak softly and carry a big stick'. If our diplomacy in the Far East is to achieve favorable results, and if we are to reduce to a minimum the risk of an eventual war with Japan", I wrote, "that is the only way to proceed. . . . It would be criminally short-sighted to discard from our calculations (the possibility of war), and the best possible way to avoid (war) is to be adequately prepared, for preparedness is a cold fact which even the chauvinists, the military, the patriots and the ultra-nationalists in Japan, for all their bluster concerning 'provocative measures' in the United States, can grasp and understand . . . Again, and yet again, I urge that our own country be adequately prepared to meet all eventualities in the Far East."
For years before Pearl Harbor we "spoke softly". The "big stick"—our two-ocean navy—began to grow, but, alas, it had to grow from a willow branch, and two-ocean navies cannot be built overnight. Even before the drafting of that dispatch of mine, Mr. Hull, on May 5, 1934, warned our people that dictatorships had sprung up suddenly in place of democracies; that numerous nations were "feverishly arming", taxing their citizens beyond their ability to pay, and in many ways were developing a military spirit which might lead to war. He warned that it would be both a blunder and a crime for civilized peoples to fail much longer to take notice of present dangerous tendencies. He appealed to every individual to awaken and come to a realization of the problems and difficulties facing all and of the necessity for real sacrifice of time and service. A month later, Mr. Hull warned in another public speech of international dangers. He said that abroad there was reason "for the gravest apprehension"; that the theory seemed to be abandoned that nations like individuals should live as neighbors and friends.
These were strong words, and they were reiterated and amplified in public utterances by other high officials of our Government during those fateful years before Pearl Harbor. The handwriting was on the wall for all to see. Our people, alas—as in the case of so many other peace-mindedand peace-loving people throughout the world—were quite simply asleep. They had forgotten the grim lessons of history. "Nine-tenths of wisdom", said Theodore Roosevelt in 1917, "is being wise in time."
But that is all water over the dam now. Today we are, like Theodore Roosevelt, "a vibrant, thrilled, exhaustless, restless" nation, and we must not rest until we have brought our enemies—all our enemies—to unconditional surrender through complete defeat in battle. No inconclusive peace, however momentarily alluring, must tempt us to leave our mighty work half done, for should we, through weariness of war, fail to achieve our final goal, our grandsons or their sons will beyond peradventure be called upon to fight again in their generation. That cancer of aggressive militarism which has over-run the world must be excised now—and kept excised for all time to come.
Here again we are inevitably reminded of Theodore Roosevelt's prophetic vision in the autumn of 1918: "It is a sad and dreadful thing to have to face some months or a year or so of additional bloodshed", he wrote in support of his insistence on the unconditional surrender of Germany, "but it is a much worse thing to quit now and have the children growing up be obliged to do the job all over again, and with ten times as much bloodshed and suffering, when their turn comes." The possibility that he foresaw was "that, perhaps, within a dozen years, certainly within the lifetime of the men now fighting this war (the first world war), our country and the other free countries would have to choose between bowing their necks to the German yoke or going into another war under conditions far more disadvantageous to them."
For Theodore Roosevelt personally, war was indeed a "sad and dreadful thing" for his sons were at the front just as they and their sons are today, once again, distinguishing themselves on the field of valor. Anything else would have been to him unthinkable. His attitude when his son Quentin was killed might well be a source of consolation to many a war-bereaved father and mother today. On the day that the news was published, a friend, who had an engagement with Roosevelt in the afternoon, telephoned his secretary asking whether the Colonel would keep the appointment. The answer came after a moment's silence. "The Colonel says he will keep all his appointments." As the friend entered the room, neither spoke for a moment. Then, convulsively, Roosevelt said, "Well?" and the other said, "Well?" and they sat down. Suddenly the Colonel banged his fist on the table. "He did his duty, and now let us do ours. Go ahead."
Next day he made the keynote address at the Republican state convention at Saratoga. Pleading for a finer and truer patriotism, expressed in political action, he appeared to lose himself and his grief in his passion for the cause he was upholding, as he, who in peace had urged preparedness for war, now, in war, urged preparedness for peace. Toward the end of his speech,—I quote from Hermann Hagedorn's book "The Bugle that Woke America"—Roosevelt abruptly laid the manuscript aside and interpolated an appeal which held the audience in breathless silence:
"In this great world crisis, perhaps the greatest in the history of the world during the Christian era," he said, "when the events of the next few years will profoundly influence for good or for ill our children and our children's children for generations, surely in this great crisis, when we are making sacrifices and making ready for sacrifices on a scale never before known, surely, when we are rendering such fealty to the idealism on the part of the young men sent abroad to die—surely we have the right to ask and to expect a loyal idealism in life from the men and women who stay at home.
"Our young men have gone to the other side—very many of them to give up in their joyous prime all the glory and all the beauty of life for the prize of death in battle for a lofty ideal. Now, while they are defending us, can't we men and women at home make up our minds to insist in public and private on a loftier idealism here at home? I am asking for an idealism which shall find expression beside the hearthstone and in the councils of the state and nation.
"And 1 ask you to see that when those who have gone abroad to endure every species of hardship, to risk their lives and to give their lives—when those of them who live come home, that they shall come home to a nation that they can be proud to have fought for or to have died for."
And later, into a brief article, which he called "The Great Adventure", a heart-breaking tribute to his dead son and his son's mother and to all mothers who might be called upon to experience bereavement like hers, in prose chastened by sorrow and filled with sombre yet heroic music, he poured all that sixty years of wholehearted living had taught him of birth and death, and motherhood and fatherhood and grief and aspiration and love of country.
"Only those are fit to live," he wrote, "who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are part of the same Great Adventure. Never yet was worthy adventure worthily carried through by the man who put his personal safety first. Never yet was a country worth living in unless its sons and daughters were of that stern stuff which bade them die for it at need; and never yet was at country worth dying for unless its sons and daughters thought of life not as something concerned with the selfish evanescence of the individual, but as a link in the great chain of creation and causation, so that each person is seen in his true relations as an essential part of the whole, whose life must be made to serve the larger and continuing lifeof the world.....
"Alone of human beings the good and wise mother stands on a plane of equal honor with the bravest soldier; for she has gladly gone down to the brink of the chasm of darkness to bring back the children in whose hands rests the iuture of the years, .. . . In America today all our people are summoned to service and sacrifice. Pride is the portion only of those who know bitter sorrow or the foreboding of bitter sorrow. But all of us who give service, and stand ready for sacrifice, are the torchbearers. We run with the torches until we fall, content if we can then pass them to the hands of other runners. The torches whose flame is brightest are borne by the gallant men at the front, and by the gallant women whose husbands and lovers, whose sons and brothers are at the front. These men are high of soul as they face their fate on the shell-shattered earth or in the skies above or in the waters beneath; and no less high of soul are the women with torn hearts and shining eyes; the girls whose boy lovers have been struck down in their golden morning, and the mothers and wives to whom word has been brought that henceforth they must walk in the shadow. "These are the torch-bearers; these are they who have la red the Great Adventure."
So wrote Theodore Roosevelt. Let us. In our day, rise to the heights of that noble, utterly courageous, prophetic soul, who would never compromise righteousness for expediency, and let us derive from his life the inspiration, both in war and peace, to carry forward the flaming torch that will illuminate "the larger and continuing life of the world"—with liberty and justice for all.