|120. Address in Little Rock at the Dedication of the World War Memorial Park|
June 11, 1949 |
Governor McMath, Mr. Mayor of Little Rock, and comrades of the 35th Division, ladies and gentlemen:
We are here to dedicate this beautiful park to the dead of two world wars, whose memory we should always hold dear.
The brave men who lost their lives in those wars would approve of the way you have chosen to honor them. This park will be a place of rest and recreation. It is fitting that a war memorial should be something that can be used and enjoyed by the people. Nothing could be more appropriate than to devote a war memorial to those values of human life which our soldiers died to preserve--the values of freedom and peace.
We are not a militaristic nation. We do not glorify the military way of life. Some nations have taken greater pride in their military victories than in any other of their national achievements, but it has never been so with this great country. When we think of war, it is with a prayer that the sacrifices our dead have made will never have to be repeated.
After every war we have solemnly resolved to prevent future wars. We have learned, however, that it is not enough to make resolutions. It is not enough to utter them in speeches or engrave them on monuments. We have learned that we must devote the best efforts of our whole Nation to make those resolutions come true.
We entered the First World War to restore peace and to preserve human freedom; but when that war was finished, we turned aside from the task we had begun. We turned our backs upon the League of Nations--the international organization which was established to maintain peace. We ignored the economic problems of the world, and adopted a tariff policy which only made them worse. We let our domestic affairs fall into the hands of selfish interests.
We failed to join with others to take the steps which might have prevented a second world war.
This time we are fully aware of the mistakes that were made in the past. We are on guard against the indifference and isolationism which can only lead to the tragedy of war. This time we will not let our decisions be made for us by a little group of men who are concerned only with their own special interests.
This time we have taken vigorous and far-reaching measures to preserve peace and restore prosperity throughout the world. We have assumed the responsibility which I believe God intended this great Republic to assume after the First World War. We have shouldered the enormous responsibilities that go with our tremendous strength.
We have been fortunate in having many public servants of ability and vision who have devoted themselves to the problems of foreign affairs and national defense. We have able leaders in the Congress, who have mastered the complex details of our relations with other nations. They have made themselves familiar with the effects of our policies in all parts of the globe. They have labored painstakingly to enact a body of legislation to carry out the responsibilities we have assumed.
Most significant of all, the people of this country understand the supreme importance of our foreign policy and the great objectives toward which we are moving. Public debate has threshed out the basic questions of our foreign policy. The people have made up their minds. They have supported, and will continue to support, the measures necessary to maintain peace.
We have had to work for peace in the face of troubled conditions and against Communist pressures. But because we have been united in our determination to use our strength and our substance, we have already turned the tide in favor of freedom and peace. The disintegration of the democracies of Europe has been halted. Free peoples in many parts of the world have been given new hope and new confidence. The restoration of a system of world trade has begun. All this has been accomplished without dosing the door to peaceful negotiation of the differences between the free nations and the Soviet Union.
But we are only midway in carrying out our policy. We have a long way to go before we can make the free world secure against the social and political evils on which communism thrives. The cause of peace and freedom is still threatened.
Yet there are some who have grown weary of the effort we are making. There are voices which claim that because our policy has been successful so far, we can afford to relax now. There are some who want to slash the aid we are giving to the economic recovery of other nations; there are some who want to reject the measures that are necessary for defense against aggression; there are some who wish to abandon our efforts toward the revival of world trade. These are the same voices that misled us in the 1920's. They are misguided by short-run considerations. They refuse to face the plain facts. They try to convince us that we cannot afford to pay the price of peace.
But the people of the United States will not be misled a second time. We know that the short-sighted course, the easy way, is not the path to peace. The task is difficult, and requires firm determination and steadfast effort.
We know that if we are to build a lasting peace in the world we must achieve three essential conditions.
First, this Nation must be strong and prosperous.
Second, other nations devoted to the cause of peace and freedom must also be strong and prosperous.
Third, there must be an international structure capable of adjusting international differences and maintaining peace.
The first condition is our own strength and prosperity.
It is unusual for this Nation to maintain substantial armed forces in time of peace. Yet, so long as there is a threat to the principles of peace--the principles on which the United Nations is rounded--we must maintain strong armed forces. Any uncertainty as to the ability or the willingness of the free nations of the world to defend themselves is just an invitation to aggression. We have seen the truth of this statement in the out. break of two world wars.
Our national strength is not, however simply a matter of weapons and trained men Even more important are our economic growth and continued prosperity.
Our economy is the center of a work economy. The hope of economic revival throughout the world depends in large measure upon the prosperity of the United States. If our production and purchasing power are badly impaired, if the buying and selling and investing that we do in other parts of the world are cut off, other nations will be plunged into chaos and despair.
It is a prime belief of the Communist philosophy that our kind of economy is doomed to failure. The Communists predict that our prosperity will collapse--bringing the rest of the free world down with it. But they are wrong--they are just as wrong as they can be.
We know more today about keeping our economy strong than we ever have known before. We know how to strengthen our economy through the expansion of production and the purchasing power and the improvement of standards of living. We understand that constantly rising national output, increasing real wages, and a fair income for our farmers are basic elements of our economic strength.
To maintain these elements of prosperity, it is not sufficient to drift with the tide. We must take advantage of the new opportunities, the increased demands which result from the natural growth of our population. We must develop our natural resources and restore those we have depleted and wasted. We must establish a fair distribution of business opportunity; we must have a free labor movement able to hold its own at the bargaining table; we must protect the purchasing power of Americans against the hazards and misfortunes of life.
These steps are necessary if we are to continue strong and prosperous. That is why our domestic programs for the development of resources, for protection against economic hazards, for the improvement of social conditions, are fundamental to our national effort for peace.
The second condition essential to peace is that other nations, as well as our own, must be strong and prosperous.
We need other nations as our allies in the cause of human freedom. We have seen free nations lost to the democratic way of life because of economic disaster. We know that despair over economic conditions will turn men away from freedom and into the hands of dictators.
It is to our interest, therefore, to aid other nations to restore and maintain their economic health. Our aim is not only to help other nations to help themselves, but also to encourage economic cooperation among them.
We have taken the lead in cooperating with other nations to restore a mutually beneficial system of world trade. No nation today can achieve prosperity in isolation. Only through participation in the trade of the world can a country raise its own standards of living and contribute to the welfare of other nations.
For years before the war, world trade was crippled by high tariffs, import quotas, exchange manipulation, and other artificial devices for securing commercial advantage. These practices were a symptom of international anarchy. They resulted, ultimately, in idle ships, idle men, and economic chaos.
We have come a long way toward correcting these evils. Since 1934, we have worked out a multitude of agreements with other countries to reduce specific tariff barriers. In the general agreement on trade and tariffs of 1948, we struck a worldwide blow at these obstacles to trade.
But this work is not yet finished. If we are to succeed it is vital that the authority to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements be extended. We should then go on to establish a permanent international trade organization to apply standards of fair dealing in the commerce among nations.
The same cooperative principle has been applied in our great undertaking to restore the economies of the Western European nations to a self-sustaining basis. The food, fuel, and equipment which have been sent to Europe have been matched by the efforts which these nations have made to restore their own economies and to cooperate with one another in increasing their production and raising their standards of living.
It is fair to say that the European recovery program has halted the social and economic disintegration which threatened the countries of Western Europe with communism and civil strife.
Nevertheless, the European recovery program is still in early stages. At the outset it was estimated that it would take 4 years before these countries could again become independent of special economic aid. Only a little more than 1 year has passed since we began.
If we were to falter now and cut down our aid, the momentum of recovery would be destroyed. The people of these countries would be thrown into confusion and their advance toward economic self-reliance would be blocked. A slash in the funds available for European recovery at this time would be the worst kind of economy. It would cancel the hopes and the plans of the Western European nations. It would be a great gain for communism.
I am confident that we shall not make this mistake.
Our concern with the economic health of the world also extends to its underdeveloped regions. The prospects for peace will be immeasurably brighter if we can offer a future of hope and a better life to the people of these regions. In these areas there are millions who for centuries have known nothing but exploitation and poverty, and whose economic life is still primitive.
I have offered a program for bringing these people the benefits of our modern civilization. It is not a program of relief. While it is intended ultimately to bring about a great movement of capital through the channels of private investment for the development of these poverty-stricken regions, it is not a program of imperialism. The development of these areas offers enormous potential benefits to a growing world economy.
We have to lay the foundations for this program with care. I expect shortly to send to the Congress recommendations for initial legislation. This will be but the first step of many that we shall take, over the years to come, in this cooperative effort to better the living standards and to unlock the human skills and the natural resources of the underdeveloped parts of the globe.
The third condition essential for peace is an international structure capable of suppressing international violence. However well conceived our economic programs may be, they cannot succeed unless there is some assurance against the outbreak of aggression. Neither our own prosperity nor the prosperity of other nations can survive unless we can protect the operations of economic life from the threat of war.
Such protection depends on two factors. First, there must be constant efforts by all nations to adjust their differences peacefully. Second, there must be an agreement among nations to employ overwhelming force against armed aggression.
The United Nations is the instrument for accomplishing these ends. It has already achieved the peaceful settlement of difficult issues. It has stopped hostilities in the Near East and in Indonesia. It has done a great deal to explore and find solutions for many of the economic and social problems which afflict the world.
Much remains to be done, however, to carry out the principles of the United Nations. Within the terms of the United Nations Charter, we and certain other countries have undertaken to provide greater assurance against the danger of armed conflict. That is the purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty. The idea behind this treaty--the association of democratic nations for mutual defense-is well understood in this country. Perhaps we do not understand, however, the importance of this pact in the eyes of the other democratic nations which are parties to it. They have been greatly weakened by war. They have been haunted by the fear of again becoming the scene of conflict. By assuring them of our support the pact goes a long way to dispel their fears.
I have been greatly heartened by the unanimous report of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate this past week in favor of the North Atlantic Treaty. I believe that it will soon be passed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. The effect of this action will be immediate and far-reaching in allaying the fears which have retarded the economic recovery of Europe.
It is of vital importance that the Atlantic Pact be followed by a program of military aid to increase the effective strength of the free nations against aggression. This military assistance program is based upon mutual help--will give additional confidence to the people of those nations as they continue to rebuild their economies.
These measures will bring a stability to the democratic nations of Europe which has not existed since the end of the war. They will at the same time contribute directly to the security of the United States of America.
I have discussed the three essential elements of lasting peace--a strong and prosperous United States; a strong and prosperous community of free nations; an international organization capable of preventing aggression.
We have given greatly of our effort and our strength to build a firm and enduring foreign policy upon these essentials. The burdens we have had to assume in this enterprise have been enormous and unusual. Never in the history of the world has the victor contributed to the recovery of the vanquished as this country has done after the Second World War. The size of the national budget shows that we are engaged in an undertaking without parallel in the history of our country or of the world.
But the goal we seek is a great one, and that goal is worth the price. Never has a nation had the opportunity which we have today to do so much for the peace and prosperity of mankind. Never has a nation had a better chance of reaching this high goal. We must not falter now.
We must not defeat our own efforts by doing only half the job that lies before us.
The brave men, whose memory we honor here, did all that was required of them. They did not fail us. We must not fail them in our efforts to reach the goal for which they died.
We must press on in the confidence that we will succeed in the mission a divine providence has assigned to us.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. at the World War Memorial Park. His opening words referred to Sidney S. McMath, Governor of Arkansas, and Sam M. Wassell, Mayor of Little Rock. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.