Roosevelt Denounces Dictatorships, Racial Persecution in Message to Congress
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Roosevelt Denounces Dictatorships, Racial Persecution in Message to Congress

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President Roosevelt, in a message to Congress which bristled with denunciation of racial and religious persecution among other manifestations of dictatorships, declared today that the United States rejected an ordering of society relegating religion, democracy and good faith among nations to the background “and retains its ancient faith.”

A storm of applause from the members of both Houses gathered to hear the annual message greeted the President’s repudiation of dictatorship, and he was loudly applauded at several other points of the address when he took occasion to criticize authoritarian states and reaffirm America’s determination to make democracy work.

Declaring that the time was short and “the hour glass may be in the hands of other nations, ” the President told his audience of the nation’s legislators and the millions who listened by radio in many parts of the world that “we are off on a race to make democracy work.”

In denouncing dictatorships, he made several references to attacks on freedom of religion abroad, to concentration camps and destruction of civil liberties. On the other hand, in speaking of the United States, he said this country “retains its ancient faith” in democracy and religious freedom and spoke of the “rich diversity of peoples functioning together in mutual respect and peace,” of the unity of those who for generations have come to these shores, of “fundamental unity” despite racial and other differences and of America’s desire not to accept dictatorship “at the cost of being cast into a concentration camp, the cost of being afraid to walk down the street with the wrong neighbor.”

Excerpts from the President’s message which deal with dictatorships and Liberties follow:

“Storms from abroad directly challenge three institutions indispensable to Americans, now as always. The first is religion. It is the source of the other two – democracy and international good faith. Religio, by teaching man his relationship to God, gives the individual a sense of his own dignity and teaches him to respect himself by respecting his neighbors. Democracy, the practice of self-government, is a covenant among free men to respect the rights and liberties of their fellows. International good faith, a sister of democracy, springs from the will of civilized nations of men to respect the rights and liberties of other nations of men. In a modern civilization, all three–religion, democracy and international good faith–complement each other.

“Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy. Where democracy has been overthrown, the spirit of free worship has disappeared. And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force. An ordering of society which relegates religion, democracy and good faith among nations to the background can find no place within it for the ideals of the Prince of Peace. The United States rejects such an ordering, and retains its ancient faith.

“There comes a time in the affairs of men when they must prepare to defend not their homes alone, but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments and their very civilization are founded. The defense of religion, of democracy and of good faith among nations is all the same fight. To save one we must now make up our minds to save all.

“We know what might happen to us of the United States if the new philosophies of force were to encompass the other continents and invade our own. We, no more than other nations, can afford to be surrounded by the enemies of our faith and our humanity. Fortunate it is, therefore, that in this Western Hemisphere we have, under a common ideal of democratic government, a rich diversity of resources and of peoples functioning together in mutual respect and peace….

“In meeting the troubles of the world we must meet them as one people- with a unity born of the fact that for generations those who have come to our shores, representing many kindreds and tongues, have been welded by common opportunity into a united patriotism. If another form of government can present a united front in its attack on a democracy, the attack must be met by a united democracy. Such a democracy can and must exist in the United States….

“Above all, we have made the American people conscious of their interrelationship and their interdependence. They sense a common destiny – and a common need of each other. Differences of occupation, geography, race and religion no longer obscure the nation’s fundamental unity in thought and in action….Never have there been six years of such far-flung internal preparedness in our history. And all this has been done without any dictator’s power to command, without conscription of labor or confiscation of capital, without concentration camps and without a scratch on freedom of speech, freedom of the press or the rest of the Bill of Rights….

“Dictatorship…involves costs which the American people will never pay. The cost of our spiritual values. The cost of the blessed right of being able to say what we please. The cost of freedom of religion. The cost of seeing our capital confiscated. The cost of being cast into a concentration camp. The cost of being afraid to walk down the street with the wrong neighbor. The cost of having our children brought up not as free and dignified human beings, but as pawns molded and enslaved by a machine.

“If the avoidance of these costs means taxes on my income; if avoiding these costs means taxes on my estate at death, I would bear those taxes willingly as the price of breathing and my children breathing the free air of a free country, as the price of a living and not a dead world.”

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