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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA

April 1, 1950


Excerpts from the third annual conference of the Americans for Democratic Action.

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[James Loeb, Jr.:]

This is James Loeb, Jr., National Executive Secretary of Americans for Democratic-of Americans for Democratic Action, reporting on ADA's third annual convention. Here is American liberalism in action. Over seven hundred men and women from forty states convened in the Shoreham Hotel in the nation's capital, as delegates from the state and local chapters of Americans for Democratic Action to thrash out the policies in the program for their activities in the election year of 1950. They were reminded of the importance of their task by a message sent from Key West by President Truman. "We can be proud of our common foes," wrote the president, "as we are of our common ideals, our common aspirations, our common beliefs in the basic goodness and rightness of human beings in our own nation and in the rest of the world. We are on the eve of another test between those who believe as we do and those who would try to lead us back to an unhappy past rather than forward to a glorious future. That test will occur in the congressional elections of 1950," so wrote President Truman. For the specific policy decisions that were adopted, we refer you to your local ADA chapter or to the national office of ADA, 1740 K St Northwest, Washington, DC. 1740 K Street Northwest, Washington, DC. Here we reproduce for you some of the memorable highlights of one of the most impressive liberal meetings in many years. The next voice you will hear is that of the National Vice Chairman of ADA, Representative Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. of New York.

[Franklin Roosevelt, Jr.:]

Senator Humphrey, Governor Bowles, my mother, fellow members of ADA and delegates, I am very pleased and honored to call this plenary session to honor this morning.

[James Loeb, Jr.:]

After a moving invocation by Father George Higgins, Assistant Director of the Social Action Committee of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Congressman Roosevelt presents to the delegates their National Chairman.

[Franklin Roosevelt, Jr.:]

So I take great pleasure in introducing to you, a longtime personal friend not only of myself but of all of you. An inspiration to us all, yes an inspiration to America, the honorable Senator from Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey.

[Hubert Humphrey:]

Thank you. Thank you so much, my good friend Frank Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, Governor Bowles, Father Higgins, and my friend and associate Joe Rao. Now facing this magnificent convention today and making this final report as your retiring National Chairman, it is difficult indeed to believe that any organization could have left so sure an imprint on American political history in so short a space of time. But it's true, we've made our imprint and it had to be done in a very brief space of time. There were only two hundred of us at the start; now we number our chapters in the scores, our members in the thousands, and we number our friends here and in the Democratic forces abroad in the millions. No matter what segment of American life you find yourself in today, whether it be labor, the profession, farming, the business community, the arts, or the cooperative, you'll find yourself in the company of some good upstanding, dues-paying member of ADA. And that includes the United States Senate and that coordinate branch of the government, the House of Representatives.

[James Loeb Jr.:]

After analyzing the growth of ADA, and some of the tasks it now faces, Senator Humphrey takes a look at the opposition.

[Hubert Humphrey:]

Every time you know the--that the going looks especially tough, and believe me sometimes it does look tough, I suggest that you do just what I had the chance to do. Look across the aisle, come on up to the United States Senate galleries or the House galleries. And look across the aisle and see what's left of the Grand Old Party. The liberals are in the majority in the Democratic Party, even in the Senate. There and everywhere else in the party the liberals are gaining strength. At every election the Republican Party is where it is today because its liberal wing-because its liberal wing is being reduced in size and influence in every election. And not only because its liberal wing is being reduced in size in every election but because it's being trimmed down to size in the policy committee of the Republican Party in the Congress of the United States. And because the Tory Wing of that party has taken over completely with empty promises, empty slogans, and now believe it or not even empty [unclear term]. Their sole aim in the Congress for the past two terms has been to block the legislative program of the Fair Deal. In order to do that they will stoop to anything and stop at nothing. As a final desperate last stand, these Tory brain-rusters are looking towards 1952 when they hope to work out a presidential ticket, which will also be the spontaneous choice of the Dixiecrats. In order for all of this work-all of this to work out "spontaneously" in quotes, in time for 1952, the Tories and the Dixiecrats have to exchange a lot of political signals. And there's one interesting theory in town to explain those flying disks seen so regularly lately, especially in the South. It has been rumored, and I only repeat this not as an observation of my own but it is one of those ugly rumors that seems to be based upon a reasonable degree of fact. It has been rumored that Guy Gabrielson of the Republic National Committee is signaling with flying saucers and Jimmy Burns is answering him with trial balloons [applause]. Now I hope things work out and that they can make this illicit love affair of theirs a legal union [laughter]. The Dixiecrats, the [unclear] Gabrielson, McCarthy wing, they all belong together. Why spoil two political parties [laughter]? Now when we first came together three years ago, the need for a resurgent American liberalism seemed almost overwhelming. Our accomplishments in that time have been monumental. But all the while our problems, our total challenge, has multiplied. While Senator McCarthy and his playmates harass the State Department, damage our prestige abroa-abroad, undermine our defenses, we teeter dangerously on the edge of losing the Cold War. While Mr. Gabrielson raises the completely false alternative of liberty or socialism, the real dangers to our liberty multiply and go virtually unchecked. (8:20) While Mr. Gabrielson confuses the meaning of democracy with a profit-loss statement and double entry bookkeeping, the communist threat abroad makes an appeal to the underprivileged millions by promising them bread and land. While all of this is going on, fair employment practices legislation is blocked or watered down. Unemployment mounts, discrimination thrives and thrives let me say in abundance in the nation's capital. The housing shortage plagues our middle income families. The Tories stage a grandstand fight against the commies and at the same time block a positive job of social and economic construction here and abroad which would cut away the very ground in which communism and communists thrive [applause]. So I think you'll see that in the words that I've given you, that there is a job to do. Never let the question be asked: Why an ADA? Believe me, my friends, if ever there was a need for this organization it is now. It is now. The flush of victory that we had in 1948 is fading away and the hard, cruel facts of how difficult it is to get liberal progressive legislation through this Congress are right up on us. So our work for the next year is cut out for us. Cut out in bold reliefs so that even the most blind can see us. So as your retiring national chairman I say just this to you: let's get on with the job. Thank you.

[James Loeb Jr.:]

Congressman Roosevelt then introduced his Co-Vice Chairman of ADA, Governor Chester Bowles of Connecticut. Governor Bowles defined the problems facing America at the present time, and outlined those issues on which genuine conservatives and genuine liberals can find agreement. He then turned to the specific role of the liberals and of ADA.

[Chester Bowles:]

When we move on to the positive development of our domestic and our international policies then we and the uh conservatives are apt to part company. Because he does not hold the faith that we hold in the ability of a free people to develop its housing, to clear away slums, to raise the national health, to lick these domestic problems that must be licked, and still maintain its freedom of the individual in which we all agree is part of our fundamental inheritance. And when we move into the fear-the field of foreign affairs, the conservative is less interested than we in the poverty and malnutrition out of which communism grows. Our conservative friends will go part way, we must go the rest of the way alone. Now as we meet-meet this responsibility, naturally we'll agree that ADA has a peculiar role to play. ADA back in 1946, following that disastrous election, did more to pick the liberal movement up off its back where it was reclining, as I remember in November 1946, than any other force by far. We breathed new conviction and new beliefs into the liberal movement throughout America. We made our share of mistakes then, we were learning. I think one of the greatest mistakes perhaps we've made, was to underestimate the basic liberal convictions of the American people and their ability to see through such fantastic operations as the [unclear term] congress. We just didn't quite have enough faith that they would understand that. Well they did understand it, and the 1948 election was the result. ADA played a very real part in that election in many sections of the country. But I think all of us in ADA will say with conviction and respect that the liberal movement of America, the liberal movement that began with Jefferson and went right on down through Franklin Roosevelt, owes a terrific debt to Harry Truman for the job that he did in '48. In-- [applause]. The courage that he showed, the grasp of the fundamental issues, his willingness to go to bat on those issues, and the victory-that miracle victory- that none of us could quite believe until it happened will always place him very high in the liberal history of this country. And since then his consistent support for the Fair Deal program whenever the chips were down, continues in that same tradition. I believe in ADA lies a tremendous opportunity yet untapped in the whole area of ideas and solid, courageous, bold thinking in the terms of our American liberal tradition [applause]. There are big questions confronting us, let us not take the hand-me-down answers of the past. We in our generation have a responsibility for creative and imaginative ideas and thinking. We can only develop policies and plans through the form of democratic action, the form of democratic discussion. Many different ideas coming seething up through. Discussing them, arguing about them, trying them out here or there to see how they work. Let's have more than that. Civilization today is playing for very high stakes-the highest stakes perhaps in the whole history of mankind. And the American liberal movement carries an infinite responsibility for the success of this struggle. Thank you.

[James Loeb Jr.:]

You've been listening to recorded highlights of the national convention of Americans for Democratic Action.


Program Participants

  • : Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986
    Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
    Loeb, James I. (James Isaac), 1908-   [ LC | VIAF | SNAC | FAST ]
    Roosevelt, Franklin D., Jr. (Franklin Delano), 1914-1988

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced


About this document

Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA

April 1, 1950


Eleanor Roosevelt

Project Editors
  • National Endowment for the Humanities

Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Transcript Editors
  • : Lewis, Britanny
  • : Grondin, Olivia
  • : Cummings, MacKenzie
  • : Alhambra, Christopher   [ ORCID: 0000-0002-6299-793X | VIAF ]

Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library