A LESSON WE MUST NOT FORGET
By EDWARD R. STETTINIUS, Jr., Under Secretary of State
Delivered before the Graduating Class, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, July 5, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 733-735.
IT is a great honor to be invited to Rutgers University to participate with you today in your commencement exercises.
I should like to discuss with you briefly the subject of cooperation—that is, the ability of men to work together smoothly, effectively and harmoniously. Cooperation is not an abstract, ideal virtue; it is a vital, practical necessity for success in life. It is indispensable to the solution of the problems which we as a nation, and you as individual citizens of that nation will face in the years that lie ahead.
No matter what your talents may be, no matter what your training has been or how great your ability, you will find you will not render the service to your nation or to humanity of which you are capable unless you learn quickly and effectively the secret of working with your fellow men
[in a spirit of tolerance and understanding and good will. This has been the great common characteristic of our American national leaders and heroes. It is the very foundation
of our greatness as a nation. And it is the indispensable basis for the momentous effort we are now making to preserve our nation's freedom.
From battlefronts in all parts of the world new and inspiring reports come to us every day of the successes of our armies and the armies of our allies. To the winning of these far-flung victories have been devoted the full strength and resources of the feedom-loving peoples of all the world—the energy and courage of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and of our merchant seamen; the long hours of the workers in war factories, in shipyards, and on the farms; the skill of our scientists and inventors in their laboratories; our raw materials—coal, iron, copper and petroleum; our great war industries now producing guns and planes in such incredible volume; and finally, the hopes and ideals of all for a decent world where peace and opportunity will be secure for all men.
We and the other United Nations are fighting our brutal enemies with resources and energies of staggering size and force. Yet all of this would be just so much useless equipment and wasted energy had we not, as individuals and as nations, learned the vital lesson of team play—each performing his individual job for the benefit of all. Consider the war, for a moment, on the simplest level. A landing boat approaches the shore of France. Its bottom scrapes oh the sand. The ramp falls, and a platoon of men advance onto the beach. Unless every man in that platoon can depend on every other man to know his individual job and to do it effectively and courageously; unless the men have complete faith in their leader and he has faith in them;—in short, unless they can all work together as a single effective fighting team, a small strip of beach may remain in the hands of the enemy. A small, but vital step in the invasion may fail.
For in the final analysis what is an invading army? It is nothing more than thousands upon thousands of small groups of men trained to work together, each group depending upon all the others to do their part in carrying out a common plan of attack.
We are winning the victories which will bring this war to a successful conclusion through team-work. But, this cooperation does not start at the battlefronts. The grand strategy of this war is a gigantic pattern of cooperation which involves our entire nation.
American Government, labor and business have had to plan together and work together in order to turn out in the shortest possible time the best possible weapons for our men to use on the battlefronts. It is difficult to realize today that we were forced to start practically from scratch, < only a few short years ago, to marshal a fighting strength greater than that which our enemies have spent many years building.
Through our democratic processes, we have planned together how to use our great resources to the best common advantage. We have depended on our scientists and inventors to keep pace with the technological advances of war; upon our engineers to plan the mass production of the most modern weapons; and upon the management, foremen, and workers of our industries to carry through as a team and deliver the tools to our men on the battlefronts.
Our aircraft factories and shipyards through intricate systems of cooperative mass production are producing the greatest air fleet and merchant fleet in the world. It is easy to forget that when this war started neither ships nor planes had ever been turned out before by large scale, mass* production methods. We have learned to do this only; through the most intimate team-work. The technical knowledge of our great industries has been pooled so that the latest techniques could be available to all. Engineers, workmen, management, and Government all worked together to achieve these miracles of production.
In these last few years, our farmers, in cooperation with the Government, have achieved the greatest food production in our nation's history. All this is a part of the victories we are winning today. From the first stages of preparation, this gigantic cooperative effort has cut across many lines which in the past have divided men. This nation is now working together as a single unit despite differences of outlook between geographic sections, political parties, economic classes and religious beliefs. And we are, moreover, only one of a great group of United Nations all working together toward the one common goal of victory.
Hitler's strategy of divide and conquer has proved an utter failure. Men of different nationalities, race, color and creed, are fighting side by side today under a single command. Through Lend-Lease and reverse Lend-Lease, and other forms of mutual aid, the United Nations are sharing their material resources so that the hardest possible blows can be struck against our common enemies.
It has been my privilege to serve in the building of our country's defenses since May of 1940, when—during the dark days of the fall of France—the President called into being again the National Defense Advisory Commission. Up until that time, I had served in large American industrial organizations. I found when I started to work in Washington, that the job to be done involved the same cooperation and team play, the same give and take of ideas, that underlies the success of any large business unit. Only now this team work had to be on a nation-wide basis.
I could give you countless examples of the way in which American business and labor and government have pulled together to make possible the gigantic supply achievements of this country. I remember a day in October 1941, for instance, just after I had undertaken the direction of our Lend-Lease program. We received an urgent request from the Russians for barbed wire. The great battles before Moscow were starting. The Russians were desperately short of barbed wire, and they needed 4,000 tons urgently. The only convoy on which it could sail in time to do any good was leaving in two weeks.
Four thousand tons of barbed wire is enough to stretch from Moscow to Sidney, Australia, and back again, with a good bit left over. After telephoning to every possible source in this country, we had found immediately available only 700 tons of barbed wire suitable for military purposes.
In the days that followed, wire mills worked twenty-four hours a day; our army dug down into its stocks for us; the British turned over all the wire they had in this country. I remember calling an associate in O.P.M. late one night and asking him if we were going to make it. He stated, "It's an impossibility, but we're all staying here tonight to make it possible. We'll do it."
It was done. When the convoy sailed for Russia, the barbed wire was aboard.
Let me give you another example of team-work. A few days after the American and British forces landed in North Africa, an air raid on one of the major ports seriously damaged the electrical equipment needed to run the port. Some of the damage could be repaired on the spot, but one small part of the equipment which was absolutely vital to the working of the whole system had been blown to bits. General Eisenhower sent a special messenger by plane to Washington. He arrived on a Saturday.
The W.P.B. scoured the country and found only one piece of equipment that would do the work. It was being made by a large American electrical company on a special rush order for the Navy. When the situation was explained
to the Navy Department, they released the equipment because the Army's need was even more urgent than their own.
The workers in the plant worked night and day over the weekend to finish the equipment and adapt it to the French electrical specifications. On Tuesday, the Army officer was able to start back to North Africa by plane with the needed equipment by his side.
Gentlemen, that is the kind of team-work between government, industry, labor and our armed services that is making possible the victories we are winning today.
Terrible as is the tragedy of this war, it has taught us momentous lessons. Although our nation is vast and diversified, we have proved that we can still work together as a united whole as we have done in every national crisis since we proclaimed our national independence in 1776.
This lesson we must not forget in the days to come. Demobilization for peace is no easier than mobilization for war. It will require the patience and cooperation of all Americans. We can accomplish this transition with the same success as we have turned our energies and resources to war, only if we continue the same full measure of team play and mutual confidence.
This war has taught us another momentous lesson. Great nations, too, can work together in intimate and fruitful cooperation. The 35 nations which compose the United Nations family are planning together and working together with a common purpose and a common goal.
This also contains a lesson which we must not forget. The future security of the world depends upon no one nation alone; it depends upon the peace-loving nations of the world learning to work together in peace as they have learned to work together in war. I have high hopes that the freedom-loving nations of the world will be successful in rinding a formula on which to base that full measure of international cooperation through which alone we can maintain peace and security for all mankind.
I have referred to cooperation on a national scale and on an international scale. These same principles apply throughout our lives as individuals—in whatever tasks we turn our hands to. Many of you will doubtless go from this great and historic university into the armed service of your .country. There you will find that team-work and mutual confidence are everything. When you return home again after victory has been won, you will find this same habit of working together equally indispensable to your own individual success in life.
Cooperation is far more than an amiable and friendly state of mind. It is hard work. There are inevitable misunderstandings, irritations and set-backs which have to be ironed out with patience and tolerance. Each of us has his own individual personal peculiarities, and we must be sympathetic with the peculiarities and shortcomings of others if we expect them to work with us in the same spirit of sympathy and friendly cooperation.
A vital element in working together effectively is to learn respect for the ideas and principles of your fellow men. If you will give the other man's point of view fair and sympathetic consideration, you will find in most cases that he has valid reasons for his beliefs just as you have for your own. After thrashing the matter out in a full and honest discussion, you will often find that both of you have arrived at a greater common truth.
That is the way of democratic debate, the principle of working together in the shaping of ideas. It is the method by which the greatest decisions of our nation are made. It is the source of the great basic principles upon which the structure of our national life is founded.
It is difficult for men to work together unless they respect one another, for the philosophy of cooperation is based on the dignity and nobility of man. It is a philosophy rooted deep in our American democratic traditions. The future of your lives and the future of your nation depend upon your boldly carrying forward this great national heritage of working together for the common good in a spirit of faith and good will.
I have just returned from Britain, where it was my privilege to see first-hand the tremendous striking power which we and our allies have mobilized for victory. The volume of weapons and equipment which we, through our cooperative efforts, have been able to send overeas for our fighting men is tremendous, and the complexity and magnitude of the gigantic cooperative military operations by which our victories are being won have never before been matched in history.
At the basis of all these great accomplishments lies the philosophy of working together. With that philosophy to guide us, victory over our enemies is certain. But we as a nation cannot for a moment become over-confident. There are still bitter battles to be fought and won before we achieve victory. There are still difficult problems to solve before we win the peace that follows.
The difficulties which lie ahead are staggering, but I look to the future with confidence. For I feel certain we will approach our problems, nationally as well as internationally, in a spirit of cooperation and mutual trust.
With faith in the principles of freedom for which we are fighting, we shall win through to final victory over our enemies who would destroy those principles. With that faith, we and the other United Nations shall in the end bring about a world where peace and the blessings of peace will be secure for all mankind.