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Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA, Part 3

April 1, 1950


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

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[James Loeb, Jr.:]

An unusual feature marked the third annual convention banquet of Americans for Democratic Action, held at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington on April 1. We record here three dramatic excerpts from this presentation. The huge banquet hall is in darkness save for a single spotlight trained on the commentators seated on the stage. This presentation originally conceived by Howard Lindsay, chairman of the ADA's arts division, is an attempt to take us back a few years in time for a few highlights of history. The voices you will hear next are voices you all know. These broadcasts all, save the last, are broadcasts you have heard before. Mr. Harold Steppler of station WMAL in Washington is our announcer and conductor on our journey from then 'til now.

[James Loeb, Jr.:]

April 24, 1943, I'm here as today's news and briefs. United States troops have advanced four and a half miles in Tunisia. On the other side of the world, north of Australia, allied planes dropped twenty-two tons of bombs on Japanese positions in the Celebes. And Chung King reports that forty thousand Japanese troops have opened a new offensive in central China, west of the Peking-Hankow railways. And now for our commentary on today's events, here is Mark McGrosky.

[Mark McGrosky:]

This is a report on two American presidents: Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At noon today I was among the crowd of some ten-thousand people who came to hear President Roosevelt dedicate the beautiful new memorial to Thomas Jefferson on this two hundredth anniversary of Jefferson's birth. It was cold at the tidal basin where the memorial stands. Cold and windy. All the early blossoms were stripped off the cherry trees by a spanking breeze which whipped across the water. We all huddled in our coats against the wind. But even the cheerless weather could not take away from the beauty of the classically simple white marble Pantheon which houses the heroic size statue of our third president.


The manner of President Roosevelt's arrival at the memorial was a part of the ceremony which has its own significance. All of us know of the personal, the physical difficulties Mr. Roosevelt must overcome merely to move from place to place. And we all accept without question the unwritten taboo against even the mention of these things. Yet it seems to this reporter that in these days when the courage of Americans is daily tested, the way their President and commander-in-chief demonstrated his own personal courage today is not unimportant. And it needs reporting. The black presidential limousine drew up to the rear of the temporary wooden platform facing the memorial. Standing alongside a Secret Service guard, I watched Mr. Roosevelt swing himself with surprising ease and grace from the rear seat to the ground. Before him then were the wooden steps leading to the platform itself. And there drawn out--drawn up in a top hatted human corridor, the members of the diplomatic core stood in two formal, rigid lines all with their eyes self-consciously averted from the steps where Mr. Roosevelt faced his own physical ordeal. The President wore his familiar old navy cape, fastened at the throat. His grey fedora he had left behind in the car. With a smile that never betrayed the physical effort he put forth, he leaned on the shoulders of the stalwart secret service man and his naval aide to mount the steps. Then the ascent achieved, that first ordeal surmounted, there came a moment that the historians may never record but one that will always live in this reporter's memory. His head lifted high, only a great power betraying the physical strain he endured. His eyes proud and, in a way, fierce, the President of the United States began his slow and painful progress across the platform to the speaker's stand. And somehow, and it seemed to me he willed it, somehow by some transference of his will, the politely averted faces of the diplomats were moved to turn toward his own. The famous smile twinkled. The president's head nodded in greeting. And that awkward progress became in that moment a triumphal procession. There was no man on that platform nor in that audience who was conscious of anything then but of the indomitable will behind that easy smile. At the speaker's stand Mr. Roosevelt stood upright. His strong hands gripped the wooden stand with such intensity that the veins stood out. And he began his speech. Despite their brevity and nobility, his words seemed almost an anticlimax. I repeat in many ways the unwritten rule is right that forbids any mention of the president's physical difficulty. And yet this seems at one time it should be set aside. Americans are entitled to know how entirely whole, how completely undamaged are the spirit and the courage of the man who is this country's commander-in-chief.

[James Loeb, Jr.:]

It is May the eighth 1945 and here is the day's news and briefs. Leopold of Belgium and his family have been taken from their Nazi guard by American troops in Austria. The Seventh War Loan has been launched to aid our men in the Pacific. Cliffs and caves have failed to check American troops on Okinawa. And [Vyacheslav] Molotov has demanded plans for freeing colonial people. And now for our commentary on today's events, here is Charles Collingwood.

[Charles Collingwood:]

Germany surrendered at 2:45 on the morning of May 7, 1945. The news has just been officially released. At that moment General Jodl, Chief of Staff of the German army, signed the last document. He sat there very straight with his head bent over the papers and when he had signed the last one, he put the cap back on the pen, and looked up at the men sitting across the plain wooden table. Opposite him sat General Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's Chief of Staff. General Smith looked tired. He'd been negotiating for thirty three hours but his mouth was hard and so were his eyes. As he looked to his right General Jodl could see a big powerful man in the uniform of a Russian Major General sitting next to General Smith. He was General [unclear term] the Russian delegate. Over his shoulder peered the extraordinary head of another Russian. The head was as bald as a gourd with fierce, unwavering eyes whose bright and sinister gaze did not for an instant leave the drawn face of General Jodl. Jodl did not meet his eyes for long but looked around the table. He said, "I would like to say something." General Smith nodded. (7:54) Jodl rose stiffly to his feet like a man holding himself in against some unbearable pain and in a strangled voice he said, "With this signature the German people and the German armed forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the victors' hands. I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity." When General Jodl sat down after that it was all over. At a sign from General Smith the Germans stood up, clicked their heels, bowed again and quickly left the room. The most terrible war in human history had come to an end. The mad dog of Europe was put out of the way. The strange, insane monstrosity that was Nazi Germany had been beaten into submission. To millions of people this was the end of suffering. To them it seemed perhaps the best news the world had ever known.

[James Loeb, Jr.:]

It is April 1, 1950, and here is the day's news and briefs. The seventeenth decennial census of the United States, the greatest statistical operation of all time, started today. Washington's cherry blossom festivities were cancelled because of the cold weather and rain. And the three billion dollar foreign aid bill moved to the Senate after passing the House yesterday, saved at the last minute from two crippling amendments. Americans for Democratic Action moved into the second day of its third annual convention here in Washington. For a direct report from the convention headquarters, we bring you America's distinguished news commentator Elmer Davis.

[Elmer Davis:]

Americans for Democratic Action, assembled in Washington for their third annual convention, had to deal with the problems raised by their own success; success as a liberal organization, or as some prefer to call it a hybrid and nefarious organization. Not the least of these problems in many states is the tendency to regard ADA as merely the mobile and aggressive wing of the Democratic Party. A view perhaps even more prevalent among democratic state chairmen and among republican state chairmen and apparently shared by the retiring national chairmen of ADA. [laughter] To many of its members, however, ADA is a pleasured root supporting candidates of any party who share their views. [applause] Not many of these candidates have been Republicans, and if Guy George Gabrielson has his way there won't ever be any more of them than there are now. (10:51) [laughter and applause] But there are Republicans who don't want their party to go the way of the Federalists. And few in people though they be, ADA ought to encourage them. After the primaries ADA will have to pitch in to hold and if possible to extend the gains made a year ago last fall. The problem there is that ADA doesn't know what the opposition's issue is going to be, and neither does the opposition. They tried the welfare state and that backfired on them. They tried statism but nobody knew what that meant, including apparently most of the people who used that slogan. They never applied it to the protective tariff or to any other governmental measure that served the interest of the rich. Then they tried liberty versus socialism but that didn't take either. Perhaps because too many people had noticed that the British conservatives were fighting socialism with a program considerably to the left of the Fair Deal. Then they tried Formosa [Taiwan] but the great crusade to save Formosa [Taiwan] failed to set the country aflame. So now they're back where they started from, waving the same old bloody shirt that John Tabers waved in every session for years past- communism in the State Department. It looks as if Formosa [Taiwan] is going to be the principle casualty of Joe McCarthy's holy war. If they can only find one employee in the State Department, however humble, whose embittered ex-wife says he has a cousin who's a communist [laughter] why then they have their issue and Formosa [Taiwan] will have to stew in its own juice. (12:39) [laughter] Well-- [applause] That's- That's not a healthy thing for the county. Three years ago when ADA was founded its founders were standing in the need of prayer. Any of them who are good at prayer now had better pray that they have an intelligent opposition. For there will always be some kind of opposition. And for the sake of the country, as well as for the party in power, it should be an opposition that has some brain. This nation will be fortunate indeed on the day when it has a genuine conservative movement which understands what the principles of conservatism are, tries to lay them down and defend them, and which can match ADA in intelligence and definition of the issues. Perhaps then we may have a definition of conservatism as challenging as the definition of liberalism, which ADA presented to the American public when it was organized three years ago; a definition I now quote:

“Liberalism is a demanding fate. It rests neither on a set of dogmas nor on a blueprint, but it is rather a spirit which each generation of liberals must look to fit the needs of its own time. The spirit itself is unchanging - a deep belief in the dignity of man and an awareness of human frailty; a faith in human reason and the power of free inquiry; a high sense of individual responsibility for oneself and one's neighbor; a conviction that the best society is a brotherhood that enables the greatest number of its members to develop their potentialities to the admiral. The triumph of American liberalism in our day will mean a society in which the resources of mankind liberated for the tasks of peace from the shadow of tyranny and of atomic war will provide freedom and abundance on a scale more vast than the world has ever known. It is to this triumph that Americans for Democratic Action devotes itself.”

This is Elmer Davis reporting from Washington.


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About this document

Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA, Part 3

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
  • : Arquette, Arianna
  • : 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