Our Southern Neighbors


By NICHOLAS RICCIARDI, President, Sacramento College, Sacramento, Cal.

Delivered before the Business and Professional Women's Club, Sacramento, Cal., January 9, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 346-348.

IN the city of Bogota, South America, I met the manager of a large North American Corporation. A few days later, we were on the same plane flying from Bogota to Barranquilla. I learned from him many things that I could not get from government reports or from printed matter of any kind. He made an observation which I thought, then, was very significant; and I still think so. He said:

"I have lived here over twenty years. Before I came to South America, my ideas about the country and the people were practically all wrong, but when I got here and met the people face to face, learned their language and their ways, mixed with them socially and got to know them intimately, I found that they were no different from the people in the states. I found out, too, that they know how to get more out of life than most people in the states do."

What this man told me was confirmed by everybody I met. One of them said to me:

"In the states, you seem to be bent on solving all of your problems and helping to solve the problems of the world with money. Of course, we need money, but more than that, we need united efforts and a united spirit. The Americas must be one at heart. You are thinking too much about money and not enough about the heart's desires. That is why you do not get as much out of life as you should—as much as we do."

And then he went on, "You spend billions of dollars—we South Americans don't think in billions. We have difficulty thinking about millions of dollars. Too often you spend billions without first reaching the heart of the people, catching their imagination and enthusiasm and their loyalty. When you do that first, everyone will do his part, the big fellow and the little fellow, the rich and the poor—which means that to preserve the blessings of democracy, there must be the influence of the heart as well as the wisdom of the head—the heart and the head must be emotionally balanced."

I am sure that we are ready to admit that any man who has such ideas must be a sincere believer in the democratic way of life, and fortunately, there are many in South America who do think as this man does. We don't know South America until we meet South Americans face to face and really understand them. Meeting South Americans face to face has many advantages. We learn that they are sincerely interested in the democratic way of life even though they have dictators. They are eager to have a united hemisphere because they fully appreciate the benefits that would come from such a union to all of the countries in this hemisphere and indirectly to the whole world. As a people, despite their dictatorial government, they believe without reservations in what we call the American way of life, and they are dedicated fervently to the ideals of democracy, but at the same time, they are practical enough to realize that with the help of the United States, they can solve most, if not all, of their problems.

These problems have to do primarily with the development of natural resources—and South American resources are vast, indeed. We must not forget that the total population of South America is nearly equal to that of the United States. Brazil alone has a population of 44,000,000 and is rich in natural resources. Territorially it is as large as the United States, not including Alaska. When resources are developed so that the people derive substantial benefits, democracy is vitally strengthened, and although Brazil now has a dictatorship, its resources are being developed so that the people do derive substantial benefits.

There are leaders in both North and South America who maintain that the resources of the western hemisphere can be developed to the advantage of all the people in the western world and that mutually profitable trade relations can be established provided the resources of South America are developed with the help of North America. When that is done, because of increased purchasing power and the desire for goods from the United States, South Americans will buy more North American commodities and the increased consumption of goods will mean more production and more employment. Such a desirable cycle will bring beneficial results to the whole western hemisphere.

That is the way the realists talk in the Americas. The pessimists say, "it can't be done." The realists say "it can be done but not too fast." Some of the more enthusiastic realists say, "it's easy. All you have to do is to establish a universal dollar and then create a universal exchange of goods. We in the United States have the gold and the management needed. The South Americans have the natural resources and can help with management and men if necessary. Let's get together. There need be no unemployment and no depression in the western hemisphere." These enthusiastic realists look upon cooperation as a necessity and not merely as an ideal.

Cooperation as a necessity is based on the belief that human behaviour can be improved without changing human nature. If we did not believe in a better tomorrow and a better world, life would be dreary, colorless and hopeless. We would cease struggling for a better mode of living and better things. The hope for better things is based upon the belief that human beings can and will behave better without changing human nature. Fortunately we have evidence that this is true.

In New York State a woman was assigned to a position in which a man had failed. She was decidedly successful and was commended highly for her work, but she was paid only one-fourth of the man's salary. "That's downright injustice," you declare. That's precisely what this woman thought—Susan B. Anthony.

Rankled by such injustice, at the age of 30, Susan B. Anthony decided to devote her life to the long fight for women's rights—fifty-six years. Near the close of her career, she remarked, "If it had been men who had been denied their legal rights, I should have devoted my life in an effort to wipe out the injustice precisely as I have done for my sex." It was her zeal to win freedom that sustained her in times of ridicule and abuse and provided her the courage she needed to carry on the long and hard fight which finally brought victory. Susan B. Anthony is now considered the nation's third great emancipator, the other two being Washington and Lincoln.

One writer comments, "In the early years, she endured ridicule, scorn and abuse. On one occasion the Mayor had to sit on the platform with a shotgun across his knees to maintain order. In later life when public opinion turned in favor of her cause, Miss Anthony was honored by a great audience of distinguished people who cheered her and showered her with roses. Tolerantly and quizzically she remarked, "Time brings strange changes. In this very City which has pelted me with roses, I have been pelted with rotten eggs for saying the things that I have said tonight."

How did she achieve her great victory? She herself explains that it was done by changing the national mind. She did not change human nature, but she did change human behavior by changing the national mind so that today, no one questions the right of any woman to do what any man has the right to do. Today we need leaders like Susan B. Anthony who will devote their lives to the changing of the international mind. We no longer can live in isolation. As a matter of fact, all of the human progress which we have made as a people has been the result of a broader outlook on life, of expanded thinking.

The adoption of our Constitution was made possible by substituting national thinking for state thinking and a new nation was started on its career to world leadership. To change state thinking and expand it into national thinking was no easy task. The members of the Constitutional Convention were in session behind closed doors in Independence Hall in Philadelphia from May 25 until September 17, 1787. There were many tense moments. There were moments when all of the members felt hopeless. At times it seemed that no constitution would be drafted. It was the wisdom of Franklin and the tolerance and superior guidance of Washington, as presiding officer, that finally brought forth a constitution designed to build thirteen separate states into a union of states with a strong national government. But even after the constitution had been drafted, again there were dark and hopeless moments before it was approved by the states and put into effect.

Virginia, for instance, with Madison to help, approved the Constitution by a margin of only ten votes; New Hampshire by only eleven votes; New York by only three votes, and it was only because of the dynamic leadership and eloquence of Hamilton that approval was achieved. There was a margin of only two votes in Rhode Island, the last state to approve the Constitution. These facts ought to convince us that expanded thinking in the states, which encouraged national thinking, accounts for the approval of our Constitution. The change in thinking had to be made in a rather short time and during that time, the people had to be convinced that their interests would be better served by a union of states with a strong national government than by retaining a federation of states with a weak or nominal national government.

This was an unusual achievement in 1789 because the facilities for travel and communication were very primitive. It took Washington four days to go from his home in Mt. Vernon to Philadelphia to serve as a delegate in the constitutional convention. The same distance may be travelled by automobile today in three hours. By airplane now, Philadelphia is an overnight trip from San Francisco, Sacramento or Los Angeles. Despite the primitive facilities for travel and communication, a union of states was established in 1789 by substituting national thinking for state thinking. By so doing the people in every state became citizens of a nation which today is the leading nation on the face of the earth and provides for its people conditions enjoyed nowhere else in the world.

In the light of these facts today with vastly superior facilities for travel and communication, it seems to be part of common sense to ask ourselves, "Can we expand our thinking and substitute international thinking for national thinking to the advantage of all the people in the western hemisphere?" Are we ready to make the Pan American union an everyday reality? Are we in North America ready to say, "we are no longer merely North Americans; we are Pan Americans?" We are better North Americans because we are Pan Americans. Are the South Americans ready to say the same thing? Are we ready to make the Americas one at heart to the advantage of both North and South Americans?

Economically and culturally the Americas can benefit from a united western hemisphere. What the South Americans want is evidence of willingness on the part of North Americans to solve economic problems with South Americans as partners. In every country, problems should be solved through cooperative leadership and cooperative enterprise. If a united western hemisphere is going to become an everyday reality, the average South American must feel that nothing is going to be imposed upon him and the average North American must be convinced that the investment of money in South American countries will be of direct benefit to him. The conversation around the table in the average home in the Americas must give evidence of sincere belief in the benefits to be derived from a united western hemisphere. Leaders in every country must make clear that a united western hemisphere will not change the culture of the people in any country but it will provide, in the western hemisphere, practical ways of improving progressively the economic and social life in every country thus assuring a better future.

What the future holds for us, no one can accurately foretell, but we do know that the next five years will be the most critically important in the history of our country. We are going to spend billions of dollars in an effort to bring about world collaboration and better conditions for human beings everywhere, but dollars alone cannot accomplish that noble purpose. Everybody can and must help with tolerance and understanding based on accurate information. Everyone of us can help in a very positive way by understanding certain basic facts and adapting behavior to that understanding. The first basic fact is that we cannot preserve and enjoy the American way of life in the United States and have in the rest of the western hemisphere, a way of life hostile or opposed to it.

The second basic fact is that we in the United States must assume leadership in the western hemisphere whether we like it or not, and at the same time discharge the vital responsibility of preserving the American way of life in the whole hemisphere.

The third basic fact is that we now face the most serious problem in the history of our country which is to expand our thinking and to do for the whole hemisphere what Washington and Franklin and Madison and Hamilton and those who believed in them did for the thirteen original states; that is, establish a union of North and South American countries, a Pan American union in order to assure better conditions to all of the people in the western hemisphere with peace as a reality and not merely as an ideal.

In the colonial days, we faced the problem of winning, independence and of establishing a union. We solved that problem by expanding our thinking and becoming national in our outlook on life. In the days of the Rebellion or Civil War, we faced the problem of saving the union. We solved that problem by expanding our thinking to the extent of abolishing slavery and establishing racial tolerance. Now we are confronted with the most serious and difficult problem—that of preserving the benefits of independence and of union in the whole western hemisphere.

Are we capable of solving this problem? If past history means anything, if we can learn from the past, we must conclude that we can solve this problem by expanding our thinking again and establishing a larger union, a union of countries, a Pan American union, just as our forefathers established a union of states in 1789. It is the only way to make the Americas one at heart, utilizing the influence of the heart and the wisdom of the head with adequate emotional stability. By so doing, we shall benefit the people everywhere in this hemisphere. Our relationships with our South American neighbors will have much to do with whether or not we make this hemisphere a brotherhood as well as a neighborhood. We must keep in mind that with the solution of this third and most difficult problem, we become stronger in helping to preserve peace and its benefits in the rest of the world.

Our forefathers in 1789 met their problem and solved it. Today we bless them for it. Will posterity say of us that we met our problem in 1945 and solved it? The answer must be found in the heart and in the head of everyone of us.