"THE KEYNOTE OF ALL THAT WE PROPOSE
TO DO ... JOBS"
It follows the text transcript of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's American Labor speech, delivered at
Washington D.C. - September 23, 1944.
Well, here we are.
Here we are after four years, and what years
they have been! You know, I am actually four
years older, which is a fact that seems to annoy
some people. In fact, in the mathematical field
there are millions of Americans who are more
than eleven years older than when we started in
to clear up the mess that was dumped in our laps
We all know that certain people who make it a
practice to depreciate the accomplishments of
labor—who even attack labor as unpatriotic—they
keep this up usually for three years and six
months in a row. But then, for some strange
reason they change their tune- every four years-
just before election day. When votes are at
stake, they suddenly discover that they really
love labor and that they are anxious to protect
labor from its old friends.
I got quite a laugh, for example- and I am sure
that you did —when I read this plank in the
Republican platform adopted at their National
Convention in Chicago last July:
"The Republican Party accepts the purposes of
the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and
Hour Act, the Social Security Act and all other
Federal statutes designed to promote and protect
the welfare of American working men and women,
and we promise a fair and just administration of
You know, many of the Republican leaders and
Congressmen and candidates, who shouted
enthusiastic approval of that plank in that
Convention Hall would not even recognize these
progressive laws if they met them in broad
daylight. Indeed, they have personally spent
years of effort and energy-and much money—in
fighting every one of those laws in the
Congress, and in the press, and in the courts,
ever since this Administration began to advocate
them and enact them into legislation. That is a
fair example of their insincerity and of their
The whole purpose of Republican oratory these
days seems to be to switch labels. The object is
to persuade the American people that the
Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929
crash and the depression, and that the
Republican Party was responsible for all social
progress under the New Deal.
Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of
flattery—but I am afraid that in this case it is
the most obvious common or garden variety of
Of course, it is perfectly true that there are
enlightened, liberal elements in the Republican
Party, and they have fought hard and honorably
to bring the Party up to date and to get it in
step with the forward march of American
progress. But these liberal elements were not
able to drive the Old Guard Republicans from
their entrenched positions.
Can the Old Guard pass itself off as the New
I think not.
We have all seen many marvelous stunts in the
circus but no performing elephant could turn a
hand-spring without falling flat on his back.
I need not recount to you the centuries of
history which have been crowded into these four
years since I saw you last.
There were some—in the Congress and out—who
raised their voices against our preparations for
defense—before and after 1939 —objected to them,
raised their voices against them as hysterical
war mongering, who cried out against our help to
the Allies as provocative and dangerous. We
remember the voices. They would like to have us
forget them now. But in 1940 and 1941— my, it
seems a long time ago—they were loud voices.
Happily they were a minority and—fortunately for
ourselves, and for the world—they could not stop
There are some politicians who kept their heads
buried deep in the sand while the storms of
Europe and Asia were headed Our way, who said
that the lend-lease bill "would bring an end to
free government in the United States," and who
said, "only hysteria entertains the idea that
Germany, Italy, or Japan contemplates war on
us." These very men are now asking the American
people to intrust to them the conduct of our
foreign policy and our military policy.
What the Republican leaders are now saying in
effect is this: "Oh, just forget what we used to
say, we have changed our minds now— we have been
reading the public opinion polls about these
things and now we know what the American people
want." And they say: "Don't leave the task of
making the peace to those old men who first
urged it and who have already laid the
foundations for it, and who have had to fight
all of us inch by inch during the last five
years to do it. Why, just turn it all over to
us. We'll do it so skillfully- that we won't
lose a single isolationist vote or a single
isolationist campaign contribution."
I think there is one thing that you know: I am
too old for that. I cannot talk out of both
sides of my mouth at the same time.
The Government welcomes all sincere supporters
of the cause of effective world collaboration in
the making of a lasting peace. Millions of
Republicans all over the Nation are with us, and
have been with us, in our unshakable
determination to build the solid structure of
peace. And they too will resent this campaign
talk by those who first woke up to the facts of
international life a few short months ago when
they began to study the polls of public opinion.
Those who today have the military responsibility
for waging this war in all parts of the globe
are not helped by the statements of men who,
without responsibility and without the
knowledge of the facts, lecture the Chiefs of
Staff of the United States as to the best means
of dividing our armed forces and our military
resources between the Atlantic and Pacific,
between the Army and the Navy, and among the
commanding generals of the different theaters of
war. And I may say that those commanding
generals are making good in a big way.
When I addressed you four years ago, I said, "I
know that America will never be disappointed in
its expectation that labor will always continue
to do its share of the job we now face and do it
patriotically and effectively and unselfishly."
Today we know that America has not been
disappointed. In his Order of the Day when the
Allied armies first landed in Normandy two
months ago, General Eisenhower said: "Our home
fronts have given us overwhelming superiority in
weapons and munitions of war."
The country knows that there is a breed of cats,
luckily not too numerous, called labor-baiters.
I know that there are labor baiters among the
opposition who, instead of calling attention to
the achievements of labor in this war, prefer to
pick on the occasional strikes that have
occurred—strikes that have been condemned by
every responsible national labor leader. I ought
to say, parenthetically, all but one. And that
one labor leader, incidentally, is certainly not
conspicuous among my supporters.
Labor-baiters forget that at our peak American
labor and management have turned out airplanes
at the rate of 109,000 a year; tanks—57,000 a
year; combat vessels—573 a year; landing
vessels, to get the troops ashore- 31,000 a
year; cargo ships- 19 million tons a year—and
Henry Kaiser is here tonight, I am glad to say;
and small arms ammunition- oh, I can't
understand it, I don't believe you can either—23
billion rounds a year.
But a strike is news, and generally appears in
shrieking headlines—and, of course, they say
labor is always to blame. The fact is that since
Pearl Harbor only one-tenth of one percent of
man-hours have been lost by strikes. Can you
But, you know, even those candidates who burst
out in election-year affection for social
legislation and for labor in general, still
think that you ought to be good boys and stay
out of politics. And above all, they hate to see
any working man or woman contribute a dollar
bill to any wicked political party. Of course,
it is all right for large financiers and
industrialists and monopolists to contribute
tens of thousands of dollars—but their
solicitude for that dollar which the men and
women in the ranks of labor contribute is always
They are, of course, perfectly willing to let
you vote- unless you happen to be a soldier or a
sailor overseas, or a merchant seaman carrying
the munitions of war. In that case they have
made it pretty hard for you to vote at all—for
there are some political candidates who think
that they may have a chance of election, if only
the total vote is small enough.
And while I am on the subject of voting, let me
urge every American citizen—man and woman- to
use your sacred privilege of voting, no matter
which candidate you expect to support. Our
millions of soldiers and sailors and merchant
seamen have been handicapped or prevented from
voting by those politicians and candidates who
think that they stand to lose by such votes. You
here at home have the freedom of the ballot.
Irrespective of party, you should register and
vote this November. I think that is a matter of
plain good citizenship.
Words come easily, but they do not change the
record. You are, most of you, old enough to
remember what things were like for labor in
You remember the closed banks and the breadlines
and the starvation wages; the foreclosures of
homes and farms, and the bankruptcies of
business; the "Hoovervilles," and the young men
and women of the Nation facing a hopeless,
jobless future; the closed factories and mines
and mills; the ruined and abandoned farms; the
stalled railroads and the empty docks; the blank
despair of a whole Nation—and the utter
impotence of the Federal Government.
You remember the long, hard road, with its gains
and its setbacks, which we have traveled
together ever since those days.
Now there are some politicians who do not
remember that far back, and there are some who
remember but find it convenient to forget. No,
the record is not to be washed away that easily.
The opposition in this year has already imported
into this campaign a very interesting thing,
because it is foreign. They have imported the
propaganda technique invented by the dictators
abroad. Remember, a number of years ago, there
was a book, Mein Kampf, written by Hitler
himself. The technique was all set out in
Hitler's book, and it was copied by the
aggressors of Italy and Japan.
According to that
technique, you should never use a small
falsehood; always a big one, for its very
fantastic nature would make it more credible, if
only you keep repeating it over and over and
Well, let us take some simple illustrations that
come to mind. For example, although I rubbed my
eyes when I read it, we have been told that it
was not a Republican depression, but a
Democratic depression from which this Nation was
saved in 1933, that this Administration this one
today, is responsible for all the suffering and
misery that the history books and the American
people have always thought had been brought
about during the twelve ill-fated years when the
Republican party was in power.
Now, there is an old and somewhat lugubrious
adage which says: "Never speak of rope in the
house of a man who has been hanged." In the same
way, if I were a Republican leader speaking to a
mixed audience, the last word in the whole
dictionary that I think I would use is that word
You know, they pop up all the time. For another
example, I learned, much to my amazement, that
the policy of this Administration was to keep
men in the Army when the war was over, because
there might be no jobs for them in civil life.
Well, the very day that this fantastic charge
was first made, a formal plan for the method of
speedy discharge from the Army had already been
announced by the War Department, a plan based on
the wishes of the soldiers themselves.
This callous and brazen falsehood about
demobilization did, of course, a very simple
thing. It was an effort to stimulate fear among
American mothers and wives and sweethearts. And,
incidentally, it was hardly calculated to
bolster the morale of our soldiers and sailors
and airmen who are fighting our battles all over
But perhaps the most ridiculous of these
campaign falsifications is the one that this
Administration failed to prepare for the war
that was coming. I doubt whether even Goebbels
would have tried that one. For even he would
never have dared hope that the voters of America
had already forgotten that many of the
Republican leaders in the Congress and outside
the Congress tried to thwart and block nearly
every attempt that this Administration made to
warn our people and to arm our Nation.
them called our 50,000 airplane program
fantastic. Many of those very same leaders who
fought every defense measure that we proposed
are still in control of the Republican
party, look at their names, were in control of
its National Convention in Chicago, and would be
in control of the machinery of the Congress and
of the Republican party, in the event of a
Republican victory this fall.
These Republican leaders have not been content
with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons.
No, not content with that, they now include my
little dog, Fala.
Well, of course, I don't
resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent
attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know,
Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as
he learned that the Republican fiction writers
in Congress and out had concocted a story that I
had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and
had sent a destroyer back to find him, at a cost
to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or
twenty million dollars, his Scotch soul was
furious. He has not been the same dog since.
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT AND FALA, AT
VAL-KILL, HYDE PARK, N.Y. - 1951
Roosevelt Library and Museum
am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods
about myself, such as that old, worm-eaten
chestnut that I have represented myself as
indispensable. But I think I have a right to
resent, to object to libelous statements about
Well, I think we all recognize the old
technique. The people of this country know the
past too well to be deceived into forgetting.
Too much is at stake to forget. There are tasks
ahead of us which we must now complete with the
same will and the same skill and intelligence
and devotion that have already led us so far
along the road to victory.
There is the task of finishing victoriously this
most terrible of all wars as speedily as
possible and with the least cost in lives.
There is the task of setting up international
machinery to assure that the peace, once
established, will not again be broken.
And there is the task that we face here at home,
the task of reconverting our economy from the
purposes of war to the purposes of peace.
These peace-building tasks were faced once
before, nearly a generation ago. They were
botched by a Republican administration. That
must not happen this time. We will not let it
happen this time.
Fortunately, we do not begin from scratch. Much
has been done. Much more is under way. The
fruits of victory this time will not be apples
sold on street corners.
Many months ago, this Administration set up the
necessary machinery for an orderly peacetime
demobilization. The Congress has passed much
more legislation continuing the agencies needed
for demobilization, with additional powers to
carry out their functions.
I know that the American people, business and
labor and agriculture, have the same will to do
for peace what they have done for war. And I
know that they can sustain a national income
that will assure full production and full
employment under our democratic system of
private enterprise, with Government
encouragement and aid whenever and wherever that
The keynote of all that we propose to do in
reconversion can be found in the one word -
We shall lease or dispose of our
Government-owned plants and facilities and our
surplus war property and land, on the basis of
how they can best be operated by private
enterprise to give jobs to the greatest number.
We shall follow a wage policy that will sustain
the purchasing power of labor, for that means
more production and more jobs.
You and I know that the present policies on
wages and prices were conceived to serve the
needs of the great masses of the people. They
stopped inflation. They kept prices on a
relatively stable level. Through the
demobilization period, policies will be carried
out with the same objective in mind, to serve the
needs of the great masses of the people.
This is not the time in which men can be
forgotten as they were in the Republican
catastrophe that we inherited. The returning
soldiers, the workers by their machines, the
farmers in the field, the miners, the men and
women in offices and shops, do not intend to be
No, they know that they are not surplus. Because
they know that they are America.
We must set targets and objectives for the
future which will seem impossible, like the
airplanes, to those who live in and are weighted
down by the dead past.
We are even now organizing the logistics of the
peace, just as Marshall and King and Arnold,
MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Nimitz are organizing
the logistics of this war.
I think that the victory of the American people
and their allies in this war will be far more
than a victory against Fascism and Reaction and
the dead hand of despotism of the past. The
victory of the American people and their allies
in this war will be a victory for democracy. It
will constitute such an affirmation of the
strength and power and vitality of government by
the people as history has never before
And so, my friends, we have had affirmation of
the vitality of democratic government behind us,
that demonstration of its resilience and its
capacity for decision and for action, we have
that knowledge of our own strength and power, we
move forward with God's help to the greatest
epoch of free achievement by free men that the
world has ever known.