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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches
Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA, Part 4
April 1, 1950
Excerpts from the third annual conference of the Americans for Democratic Action.
To the final session of the third annual convention of Americans for Democratic Action, held at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington on April second, ADA's retiring national chairman, Senator Hubert Humphrey, read a message from President William Green of the American Federation of Labor. Regretting his inability to be present on this occasion, President Green recalled with a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction my attendance at the two previous conventions of ADA. This organization, he wrote, has become a very vital force in the promotion of progressive policies and in the realization of progressive ideals. Then Senator Humphrey presented to the convention the president of the United Automobile Workers CIO and a member of the ADA national board, Mr. Walter P. Reuther, whose voice you now hear.
Mr. Chairman, fellow workers, and friends, we meet in democracy's greatest hour of crisis. In the last couple of years the world has learned at great cost that the challenge of peace is as compelling as was the challenge of war. We're living in sort of a twilight period in the world. We have neither peace nor war, and at home we have neither prosperity nor depression. Never was the future more filled with hope and promise and never was the future more pregnant with disaster than today. And into this world scene of fear and uncertainty, we at the ADA and our democratic liberal counterparts throughout the world, we've got to demonstrate the faith and the strength in basic democratic and human values because that's more imperative today than at any other time in the history of mankind. [applause] And that question of finding the positive approach to our basic problems is the key to the future of America. It's the key to our foreign policy needs. On many of our basic problems we're still playing it the negative way. On juvenile delinquency, our kids get into trouble because they've got bad homes, slums, without decent recreational facilities. We always appropriate money to build new jails to put them in. What we've got to do is get on the positive of these things. I've been saying that if we are going to fight this thing, we'd better build fewer and fewer houses of correction and more and more correct houses for our kids to live in. [applause] But what do we find in Congress? You find the stupid mentality that says we can't afford the price of peace. We say give us three-hundred million dollars for federal aid to education and they raise the economy banner. They talk about finance deficit financing. Three-hundred million dollars is less than one-third the cost of paying for the war for one day. Yet we haven't got it. The Middle Income Housing Bill, we asked for two billion dollars as a loan. That's just the cost of two and a quarter days of operating the war. Take TVA and that didn't-that wasn't a cost that was an investment. Seven-hundred fifty million dollars, that's twenty hours cost of the war, twenty hours. I say that part of the positive offensive to save democracy in the world is a TVA in the Columbia Valley, in the Missouri Valley, in the Saint Lawrence Valley. These are the things we've got to do in America.[applause]
On foreign policy we've got to take the offensive on the positive beat there. The communists didn't succeed in China, we failed in China. We made the tragic mistake- [applause]- we made the tragic mistake of believing that freedoms fight in China could be won in the battle fields, when we should have known it had to be won in the rice fields because people were hungry. [applause] We've got the problem of India, and as Ms. Roosevelt said so well last night that civil rights is inseparably tied together with our basic foreign policy needs. We will lose India if we don't move positively and if we don't meet the problems of civil rights in America. Because you can't sell the people of Asia our brand of democracy when they know that we still have second-class citizens right here in the shadow of our capital dome. We've got to meet these problems. [applause] I'll take the class to point four. The president said give us forty-five million. Forty-five million dollars represents the cost of the war for sixty-five minutes. If you took the total cost of the war on the basis of spending forty-five million dollars for point four into the future, it would finance point four for thirty thousand years. But they cut it to twenty-five thousand. And who do you think cast the last two votes? None other than those strange bedfellows, John Rankin and Mr. Martin [unclear term] [laughter] It's the right and the left getting together against the democratic middle. It's that common denominator that runs through the pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Worker. It's the thing that made possible the Hitler-Stalin Pact. That's the fight. We've got to fight hard against that because if we don't we're in trouble. You can't put a price tag on peace. The only thing that we can afford in America is depression and war. We can't afford peace. But we've got to begin the fight for it. (6:55) If we put our unemployed to work it would pay for all the social services and we could give countries that need help the kind of help that they ought to have not doled out with a congressional eye dropper. And I say when we fight for these positive social things we aren't doing it because we are lost liberals in the sky. We are doing it because we are the practical people. We know something about fighting the communists. The fellows I talked to in Berlin in the German UGO Trade Union Group, they know something about it because they went to concentration camps under Hitler. And if the Iron Curtain moves and encompasses their part of Berlin they will go uh to the concentration camps under Stalin, if they are fortunate enough to escape the firing squad. They know something about fighting these forces. And when you talk to these kind of people they say, "If you're going to save democracy in the world this is the way you've got to save it." And I think they're right. We've got to be bolder, more determined than ever before. And that's especially true because there's been a great deal of damage done America's position in the world in the last several months [pause] by these irresponsible utterances, by people in high congressional positions. You know, we talk about America as the land of opportunity. Well two of the McCarthy boys both made a name for themselves in the entertainment world. [laughter and applause] Charlie McCarthy scored his biggest hit in Hollywood. But Joe McCarthy scored his biggest strike out in Washington [laughter and applause]. Now there are a number of very fundamental differences between the two McCarthy boys [laughter] and in justice to Charlie I think they ought to be pointed out. [laughter and applause] Edgar Bergen is completely responsible for everything that Charlie McCarthy says. [laughter] No one is responsible for what jumping Joe McCarthy says. [laughter and applause] There is still a further difference. I think it can be said in good conscience that Charlie McCarthy, even in his weaker moments, has never consciously or unconsciously stooged for Joe Stalin and that can't be said of the other entertainer. [laughter] Now this thing is serious. McCarthy's madness has a method behind it. He is being used in an organized campaign of smear directed to the attempt to immobilize our kind of people. That's what this is for. And I say we've got to meet the McCarthy campaign for what it is. By showing him that when they take on a person in America who is fighting the fight that we believe in, that we don't slink back into our carn-corners and worry if we are going to be next. Let's stand up! Let's demonstrate more unity, more solidarity, and a more determined voice than we've ever had in America! That's the way to carry it back to them. [applause] (10:50) When the communists-when the communists call you a social fascist and the reactionaries call you a communist, you can wake up in the morning and look yourself in the eye in the mirror when you shave and say as long as they're after me that way I must be on the right democratic road down the middle. [applause] Now there's a big job to be done but we can do it. But we can't do it unless we got the courage to stand up and take the brick back no matter where they've come from and fight for our convictions. We've got the practical job, the way I've been putting it, of mobilizing people to fight for the positive ends of peace. The same as we mobilize in the fight for the negative ends of war. If you can get people marching and working and sacrificing because they share common hate and fear in war, why can't you mobilize people to make the same sacrifice because they share the common hope and aspirations in peace? I say it can be done. The-
As its national chairman for the critical election year ahead, the delegates with enthusiastic unanimity elected the honorable Francis Biddle, Attorney General in the cabinet of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Biddle accepted the chairmanship of ADA with these words, with which we close this report of the most successful convention in ADA history.
It will be a hard task to take Hubert Humphrey's place. His courage, his imagination, his concentrated purpose and hard work have indicated what the Americans for Democratic Action can do under the leadership of a liberal statesman. But I take courage when I remember that the men on the staff with whom I shall be associated, Charlie Lefollet, Joe Rowe, Jim Loeb, and the others, will continue their good work. The role of the ADA is not easy in this unquiet world. It can be suggested in the telling phrase which is the title of author Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s recent brilliant book, The Vital Center. Our role repudiates fascists on the right and communists on the left. It lies along the center but along a center not of compromise with these two extremes of coercion or a wave of resolute and conventional acceptance of things as they are, but an insistence that we can meet and solve the problems of a twentieth century industrialist-uh-industrialism even as we wage a cold war. In that war I do not believe that it is necessary to sacrifice our liberties on this area that we are defending them. Security has no value to Americans without freedom, nor can freedom survive unless we are strong. And we are strong. Yet we need the leadership that will reaffirm that strength, the strength of the spirit. And we'll state again that passionate creed of our own democracy, the faith in our institutions, and in the public servants we have chosen to defend and sustain them. We need once more to remember what Franklin Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
You've been listening to recorded highlights of the National Convention of Americans for Democratic Action.
About this document
Excerpts from the third annual conference of the ADA, Part 4
April 1, 1950
- 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
Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27
Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library