Aims and Purposes
DEMOCRATIC KEYNOTE ADDRESS
By ROBERT S. KERR, Governor of Oklahoma
Delivered before the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Ill., July 19, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 611-616.
IN this solemn hour, as representatives of the common people of every State and territory in this nation, we meet again to reaffirm our faith in democratic principles and to give an accounting of our stewardship. But in this greatest crisis in history America and the world have a right to ask more of us. They are entitled to know where we stand and what our aims and purposes as a great political party are. We are here to answer.
Our aim is complete and speedy victory.
Our goal is a just and abiding peace.
Our promise to a world at peace is responsibility and cooperation.
Our pledge to America at peace is a Government responsive to the needs and hopes of every citizen, even the humblest, a Government which will not shirk or fail, but will fulfill with gratitude and fidelity our sacred obligation to our returning service men and women.
The keynote of this convention and of America's heart and mind is not being sounded here tonight. It is being thundered by our fighting men around the world; by those at home who provide the food for them and us, by the workers who provide the munitions of war, by the rank and file of our citizens who, through taxes and bond purchases, provide the money required to pay our part of the daily cost of this global war.
This keynote is being sounded loud and clear by the roaring, swirling thousands of our fighter planes, our slashing bombers and our mighty Superfortresses of the air. It comes from the deadly throats of the many guns of the battle units of our powerful fleets—all seven of them! It comes from the blazing firepower set and kept in motion by our men who fight on the ground, the infantry—yes, and the invincible marines.
May God bless them and keep them—all of them, our fighting men and women, and give them the sustaining strength to match their glorious spirit. It is they who since Pearl Harbor have been and now are sounding the keynote of America's unyielding purpose, of democracy's aims and hopes.
Let us be in tune with the spirit of that keynote.
Hitler, in his blind ignorance and fury, called us a "decadent soft democracy." Our fighting men have given him his answer—the greatest ail-American team of all times—the team of all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, has given him his answer! The farmers, the workers, the rank and file of our citizens, the armed forces of our nation, democratic, but not decadent, are marching, tramping and climbing with our Commander in Chief to victory!
There is no easy way to win this war either at home or abroad. As our fighting men battle and slash their way closer and closer to Berlin and Tokyo they will meet harder and sterner tasks. The same is true where we fight.
Our sacrifices will be harder and sterner. We know that in the long shadows we yet must travel there will be in the words of the mighty Churchill: "blood, toil, tears and sweat." That is our portion—that we can and will endure-but wouldn't it really be terrible if, in addition to all of these, we should be compelled to suffer the affliction and disaster of another Hoover Administration?
In this hall last month the Republicans nominated as their candidate for President the man selected for them four years ago by Herbert Hoover. As America looked on she saw the mantle of Herbert Hoover not falling upon but being placed upon the shoulders of his cherished disciple, Thomas E. Dewey. What she did not see, but what will become more and more apparent, is that the mantle has become the shroud.
When that same convention snubbed and sidetracked Wendell Willkie, the last vestige of liberal leadership in the Republican party was buried under an avalanche of reactionary sentiment from which it cannot soon emerge.
Talleyrand said: "The Bourbons were incapable either of learning anything or of forgetting anything." To give these modern Bourbons, these Republican leaders, control of the nation for the next four years would bring about a certain return of 1932. It would be to invite disaster without even the chance of coming in "on a wing and a prayer.
The Old Guard is again in the saddle in the G.O.P., hoping to run rampant over liberalism in America in November as they did over their own ranks here three short weeks ago.
In their blindness the Republicans have charted a course America will not follow.
In their hatred they have matched a fight they cannot win. The forces of democracy will accept their challenge and defeat them either on the issue of what they did not do and cannot do, or on the issue of what we have done and will do.
I have never in my lifetime seen men who had greater desire or a more consuming ambition, with less justification or worthiness for either, than the Republican leaders this year.
Do you remember the twelve long years from 1920 through 1932 when America "hardened" under Harding, "cooled" under Coolidge and "hungered" under Hoover?
The Republican party had no program to prevent economic disaster then. It had no program in the dangerous years preceding Pearl Harbor to prevent war or to meet it if it came. Most of the Republican members of the national Congress fought every constructive move designed to prepare our country in case of war.
They fought and voted against the Naval Expansion Bill in 1938.
In March, 1939, they voted against a bill to increase our air force to a total of 6,000 planes.
In June, 1939, in the House they voted 144 to 8 to reduce the appropriation for the Army Air Corps.
In September, 1939, after war started in Europe, they voted six to one against the .repeal of the arms embargo.
In September, 1940, after France had fallen and the blitzkrieg against England had begun, the Republicans in the House voted 112 to 52 against the Selective Service Act.
In February, 1941, the Republicans in the House voted 135 to 24 against lend-lease.
In August, 1941, four months before Pearl Harbor, the Republicans in the House voted 133 to 21 to disband that part of the armed forces built from Selective Service personnel.
They fought every person who came forward with courage to declare the danger that threatened the world and us, and every person who sought to prepare this nation to meet the conflict that loomed across the world's horizon.
The Republican party has no program today, except to oppose. Let us limit them to that role.
They have played partisan politics with one of the most deadly dangers confronting our nation—the danger of inflation! They have offered no program to prevent it. Yet with reckless abandon they sought to destroy the one adopted.
Our Republican opponents are not even united among themselves. Millions of them favored Willkie and deeply resent bis being driven from the party.
Confidentially, my fellow Democrats, real battles are being fought among the tall timbers of the Republican party. I have never seen a group more keenly suspicious of each other, nor have I ever seen suspicions better founded.
Most Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, agree that our President has done a great job as a war leader. Our opponents attack him and seek to defeat him on domestic issues.
I take it that none here is too young to remember the tragic years of 1929 through 1932. The awful depression and Republican unemployment of those four years, brought on by the unsound policies of Coolidge's administration and intensified by Hoover's inadequacy and insufficiencies, crested more suffering in this nation, destroyed more wealth, causedmore poverty and left our nation in the most weakened and hopeless condition ever known.
What American is not grateful for the gains our people have made since those dark days? A prosperous nation now demonstrates its mighty power as its factories, mills and farms, year after year, set new records of production. They are the wonders of the world. I share your pride in the unparalleled peacetime advances won under the matchless leadership of our great President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt!
If you truly favor private enterprise and equal opportunity to all, can you support the Republican party, under which these suffered most and came the nearest to destruction?
Do you remember when the President of the National Chamber of Commerce publicly urged that the President revive and restore the crushed and broken structure of private enterprise?
Do you remember when the captains of industry throughout the land, struggling to free themselves from the quicksand in which they were sinking, pled for the national Government to save them? How often must they be saved from the flames of depression and bankruptcy brought on by the short-sighted policy of the Republican party-when in power before they will seek to avoid the cause of their trouble with as much vigor as they strive to be relieved of its consequences?
How many whirlwinds must they reap before they learn the folly of sowing the wind? If we truly favor private enterprise, how can we fail to support the democratic President, under whom the greatest advance in material prosperity by the largest percentage of our people in all of the nation's history has been achieved?
A few weeks ago I read a news story as follows:
"The thirteen thousand two hundred seventy-five insured commercial banks reported net profits after taxes of six hundred thirty-eight million dollars for 1943, the largest total since the inauguration of deposit insurance."
Yet, I know a few bankers so concerned because their tax bill in 1943 was fifty-one million dollars greater than in 1942 they ignore the fact that after all taxes for 1943 were paid their net profit for that year was one hundred ninety-seven million dollars greater than in the year before.
I even know some whose prosperity is exceeded by their pessimism. Their howls are louder in the midst of the most prosperous times they have ever known than their groans were in the bottom of Hoover's black depression. And this when so many are suffering and sacrificing so heroically and without complaint!
If Americans truly favor prosperity for our farmers, can they support the Republican party under which the farmers suffered the most, or oppose the present Democratic administration, under which they have prospered the best?
If Americans truly favor labor, can they support the Republican party, under which labor fared the worst, or oppose the present administration, under which it has enjoyed the greatest progress?
If you truly favor old age assistance to give our honored aged citizens freedom from want and starvation, can you support the Republican party, under which this security was never known, or can you oppose the present administration which originated it in spite of the Republicans' bitter opposition?
If America truly favors a social security program giving American workers security from starvation when conditions beyond their control temporarily prevent their employment, can we restore the party to power that fought the legislation providing it? Or can we afford to remove the party from power that erected this great milestone of progress?
If we in America truly favor a sound banking system providing profit to its owners and safety to its depositors, could we restore the party to power under which in twelve years more banks failed than in all the rest of our nation's history, with the greatest loss to depositors ever known, or could we remove from power the Democratic administration under which the depositors have suffered the smallest losses and the stockholders received the fairest percentage of profit ever had during any similar period?
If we favor economic conditions permitting small business to prosper could we vote to restore the Republican party to power, under which in 1932 alone 32,000 small businesses failed, or could we vote to remove from power the Democratic Administration under which small business has enjoyed its most profitable years?
If we in America truly favor the opportunity for the average family to own its home, can we vote to restore to power the party under which more homes and farms were lost and more mortgages foreclosed than during any other similar period, or could we vote to remove the Democratic party from power when more millions of American homes, both on the farms and in our cities and towns were saved than during any other time?
If we in America truly favor conservation of our greatest natural resource, the soil, the reclamation of badly eroded or abandoned lands, the provision for irrigation of millions of acres, can we vote to remove from power the Administration under which the most progress ever made has been brought about, or could we vote to return to power the Republican Administration under which these matters were either forgotten or ignored?
If we favor winning an abiding peace after our magnificent fighting men and women have defeated our enemies—if we do not want to compel each succeeding generation of America's sons to leave their homes and firesides and families to go yonder where the ravages of war maim and disable and kill, can we vote to restore to power the political party whose leadership after World War I willfully and wickedly sabotaged every effective vehicle for keeping the peace?
Shall we restore to power the party whose national leadership, under the domination of isolationists, scrapped and sank more of our fleet than was destroyed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor? Or can we fail to support the Democratic Administration under which America has become the greatest naval power on earth?
If we in America truly love these sons and daughters of ours who today fight for us and who tomorrow will achieve the victory for which they fight today, and if it is our resolve that they shall have the opportunity for profitable peacetime employment when they return from the wars to take their place as the most respected and best loved among us, can we hope to return to power the political party whose national leaders were so indifferent to the welfare of the veterans of World War I? You saw those veterans compelled to sell apples and pencils on the streets of our cities because no jobs were available anywhere in the land.
You saw them go to Washington to petition their Government, for which they had fought at Chateau Thiery, at Belleau Wood, in the Meuse Argonne and on a dozen other battlefields.
You saw that same Republican administration turn a deaf ear to their petition and order its military forces to drive those veterans from the streets of the capital of the nation they and their battle-killed comrades had saved. You saw the military armament, machine guns, rifles and tanks of the Government for which they had offered their lives turned on them by the unwilling hands of their own comrades because of the stupid and brutal orders of Republican President; you saw some of them killed, you saw their pitiful personal belongings, evidences of their poverty, taken from them and burned.
If you oppose this kind of bitter ingratitude, and I know you do, can you oppose the Democratic Administration which has already recommended and helped to bring about legislation providing lasting and constructive benefits to the returning service men and women of this war? Can you fail to support this Democratic Administration that has declared so unequivocally its purpose of providing the opportunity for profitable peacetime employment to our returning service men and women?
The American fighting man aims to win this war and then come home to Mom and Dad and to Mary and the kids, and he wants a job, the opportunity for honorable and profitable employment. Where is the American who would deny him this blessed privilege? Where is the American who would give him less? The Republican Administration gave him much less after the other war, at the very time Andrew Mellon, without even an act of Congress, was returning billions of dollars from the Federal treasury to great corporations already war wealthy.
The Republicans made some vague promises to our fight ing men here in this hall last month about what they will do for them after the war. That's pretty good from a bunch that wouldn't even give them the opportunity to vote during the war. I've seen the Constitution used for a lot of fine purposes, but that is the first time I ever saw it misused as a cudgel to drive millions of fighting Americans away from their own ballot boxes.
Many Republican leaders, sounding the real keynote and purpose of the Republican party in this fateful year say: "There has not been a single constructive accomplishment brought about by the Roosevelt Administration." Reactionary Republicans have resisted every progressive measure of this Administration and bitterly oppose them now. They remind me of the cantankerous old grumbler who on his ninety-second birthday was asked: "Uncle, you have lived to the ripe old age of 92; you must have seen a lot of changes in your time, haven't you?" Replied the uncle: "Yes, and I'm agin' every one of them."
I read a graphic, if not elegant, poem the other day describing the Republican opposition. It read as follows:
"Twelve Long Years"
"The Republicans for twelve long years
Have shed their coats and skins and tears
To tell their comrades how they feel
Regarding Roosevelt's New Deal.
"For twelve long years they've pled for votes,
But never mention nine-cent oats.
They say 'this New Deal stuff is rotten,'
But never speak or four-cent cotton.
"For twelve long years they've wept aloud,
And cussed this money-spending crowd.
They say 'Of liberty we are shorn,'
But not a breath of twelve-cent corn.
"For twelve long years they've been at sea,
And now they come to you and me
And offer us as bait for votes
More three-cent steers and nine-cent oats.
"For twelve long years they fume and fret,
Hammer and slander the 'New Deal set.'
They say to all: 'What a cheat!'
But forget to talk of two-bit wheat!
"They offer, as in days of old
A crown of thorns, a cross of gold,
More gilded promises—can you beat 'em?
Well, one sure thing, you can't eat 'em!"
My friends, the Democratic party has proved its worthiness of the peoples continued confidence.
Time and again we have seen the results of the President's leadership. Time and again our opponents have sought to fill the minds of the people with doubt and confusion, and time and again successes have dispelled the doubts, confounded the confusers, and confused the doubters.
The people have not been—they will not be—misled! They are doing a magnificent job. Men and women, boys and girls of all political parties, of every race and color and religious faith are proving themselves to be America's greatest generation.
Our enemies, dazed and bewildered, cannot understand the striking power, producing and building power of our military and civilian soldiers.
Between the fall of France and July 1, 1944, American industry and labor produced more than two hundred ten thousand military airplanes and are now producing one hundred thousand per year. They have produced during that period more than five million tons of naval vessels, one-half of which are combat ships; this represents an armada of more than forty thousand ships of all kinds including thirty-five thousand landing craft.
They have produced seventy-seven thousand tanks and one million six hundred thousand trucks, thirty-five million tons of merchant shipping, equal to almost one-half of all the merchant ships in the world when war was declared in 1939. This vast fleet of merchant ships, manned by our heroic merchant marine, has transported endless cargoes of men, weapons, food and freight to our battle lines on every front.
Our heroic and patriotic farmers have made greater production records each year in spite of increasing shortages of manpower and farm machinery and regardless of periodic gloomy prophecies of national starvation by many, including Herbert Hoover.
All of these and thousands of other things have been accomplished by America's civilian armies, with American women doing their proud part and more. They march side by side with the men in the armed forces. Their strong and faithful hands never stop working, in the homes, on the farms, in the factories and at every job that will speed the day of victory. They long for, work for, and pray for peace. The kind of peace worked for, fought for and died for by the immortal Woodrow Wilson! The kind of peace worked for and fought for now by President Roosevelt.
America and her Allies are winning this war because they have planned their work and are now working their plan. They can and must win an abiding peace; international peace, as we of this generation have had to learn twice, is of vital concern to every American. It cannot be achieved by burying our heads in the sand and leaving white tail feathers waving in the breeze.
Through tragic experience we have learned that it is just as necessary to prepare for peace while waging war as it is to prepare against war while enjoying peace. We must realize that the unsolved problems of peace are the causes of war.
Some of the greatest victories won in this war have been in the field of diplomacy. No military victory can mean more to America and her Allies than the diplomatic advances made in the Atlantic Charter and in the conferences held at Casablanca, Moscow, Teheran and Cairo. These and many other such advances have been wisely conceived by our Presi-
dent, so ably aided by that grand American statesman, the greatest Secretary of State in a hundred years, Cordell Hull.
The President during the next four years must represent our country in many more such conferences. I ask all Americans everywhere: Who can best represent our nation in the future councils of war with our Allies and in the conferences around the peace table? I know America will not regard this question Rghtly, nor decide it wrongly 1 Shall it be Thomas E. Dewey or Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Who will represent England at the peace table? An untried man, or her greatest and wisest, Winston Churchill?
Who will represent China? Some man without experience, or Chiang Kai-shek?
Who will represent Russia? One who for the first time will participate in such a meeting and who, no matter how honorable he might be or how able he might sometime become, would thus be greatly handicapped, or will she be represented by her most experienced and strongest, Josef Stalin?
Each of our allies will be represented by the one who has demonstrated the greatest ability for the task.
Who will represent the United States of America? An untried leader who has not even told his own people what his views are? Or the man who has from the start declared his position in clear and certain words, and who has the respect and esteem of all the United Nations as no other living American?
Will it be Dewey—or Roosevelt?
Just suppose for a moment, but no longer, that it were Dewey. What would Churchill and Stalin and the Generalissimo and the other Allied leaders think and do when they learned that he looked on them as just a group of "tired old men?"
When England faced her darkest hour, with her military forces unorganized and poorly armed, in whose leadership did she place her trust? Her least tried or most proven? Can England, can we, can the civilized world ever discharge the debt of gratitude due Winston Churchill?
When he was just about as old as Mr. Dewey is now he permitted an impetus urge to lead him into the tragedy of Gallipoli. But how differently he acted at 65. After Dunkirk, he stood before the House of Commons. Listen, are these the words of a "tired old man"? "We shall not flag nor fail. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, landing grounds, in the fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender!"
Look at Stalingrad! Whose figure looms amid the defenders? Whose spirit sustains them in the most heroic and awful hour in Russia's history? Who stopped and defeated and now drives Hitler's once mighty armies, once dreaded air force, back and back and back? Mr. Dewey would have discarded him nearly three years ago, when he was 62, as a "tired old man." But Russia is smarter than that. She marches irresistibly today under the leadership of her much revered, world respected, 65-year-old-Josef Stalin.
Let us examine the record!
Shall we discard as a "tired old man," the 59-year-old Admiral Nimitz?
Shall we discard as a "tired old man," the lion of the Pacific, 62-year-old Admiral Halsey?
Shall we stop his onward sweep to redeem the Philippine Islands and discard as a "tired old man," 64-year-old Gen. Douglas MacArthur?
Should we discard as a "tired old man" the chief of all our naval forces, 66-year-old Admiral King? Shall we discard as a "tired old man," the greatest military leader of our nation, 64-year-old Gen. George C. Marshall?
No, Mr. Dewey, we know we are winning this war with these "tired old men," including the 62-year-old Roosevelt as their Commander-in-Chief. What diplomatic or military experience have you had that justifies you or us in believing that you can handle the most difficult and important responsibilities and duties ever placed upon the shoulders of any American?
When the life and liberty of every American hang in the balance; when the safety and welfare of unborn generations in this fair land are at stake, what assurance do you have for yourself and for your own loved ones or can you give our 130,000,000 Americans that you and we may know that you can do this tremendous job?
Suppose we broke up this team that every American knows is a winning one, which you have openly approved and in an effort to gain votes promised to keep, that is, all but the Commander-in-Chief, which position you seem to regard as a minor detail.
And suppose we named you Commander-in-Chief. What assurance could our fighting men, their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters have that we could thereby win the war one day sooner, or as soon, and with as few casualties, as we can under our present leadership? What experience have you had or what deeds have you performed to indicate that you could do as well, to say nothing of doing better?
Imagine, if you can, what we would have suffered and where we would be if Dewey had succeeded in his efforts to defeat lend-lease when it was proposed by President Roosevelt, who was neither too old to originate that great program nor too tired to put it in operation.
Roosevelt was not too old to see the terrible danger to America from Germany and Japan, nor too tired to move with speed and courage to get munitions of war to the democracies who were fighting them and thus keeping them away from our shores.
Lend-lease, in spite of Dewey's opposition, in spite of opposition from the vast majority of Republican leaders in Congress, went into effect nine months before Pearl Harbor. Now, three years and four months later, all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, can thank God for it and for Roosevelt who did so much to accomplish it.
In his efforts now to appear something other than the isolationist that he is, Thomas E. Dewey has gathered a few posies from the declared foreign policy of Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Hull, until he has most of the form of a Willkie bouquet without any of the substance.
The forces of isolationism crucified the great-hearted Woodrow Wilson. The same forces now strive with equal fury and frenzy to inflict the same fate on Roosevelt. But where they succeeded then, they will fail now.
The people, patriotic Democrats and Republicans alike, will not again be misled and betrayed by the same false doctrine and propaganda, no matter how disguised or camouflaged it may be.
In 1920, Mr. Harding and the Republican party promised to lead America back to normalcy.
Mr. Hoover reiterated that thought from this platform last month when he said, "And may I say this to the youth, you can lead our nation back to unity of purpose again.
Our answer to that is: "This nation is not going back again."
When this war is won a grateful nation will not go back on the farmers of America who have produced so heroically and so abundantly in our great war effort, nor will nation go back to a Republican administration that did [ ] back on American farmers.
When this war is won a grateful nation will not go back on labor, the workers who have produced the munitions and equipment of war so patriotically in this great struggle, nor will this nation go back to a Republican administration that did go back on the workers of America.
When this war is won a grateful nation will not go back on the home owners, businessmen and the great masses of our citizens who have served so faithfully in this war effort, nor will this nation go back to a Republican administration that did go back on these, our citizens.
When this war is won a grateful nation will not forget nor go back on its returning service men and women, nor will this nation go back to a Republican administration that did go back on the returning service men of World War I.
Our President has already made comprehensive plans for America to go forward now and in the post-war period. He has submitted them to the Congress. Part of them are now law. Others soon will be. It is his proposal and our program that wartime America can and will become a prosperous peacetime America with opportunity for profitable employment for all.
I say to you, to the Democrats of America, to our fighting forces around the globe and to all men and women of this nation who have dreamed of a better world and who are willing to work and sacrifice to realize that dream, victory is within our grasp. We have stormed the beaches of poverty and discouragement and fear and seen the hearts of the people filled with new life, lifted with new hope and buoyant with superb confidence. We have overrun the ramparts of special privilege and reaction and planted the banner of democratic liberalism high on the hill of human progress.
Let our opponents, who have grown fat in a prosperity they could not build for themselves, do their worst. We will not now retreat! We will not falter in mid-passage! We will win!