The Pittsburgh Press (October 16, 1940)
ROOSEVELT AND WILLKIE URGE DRAFT CO-OPERATION
Washington, Oct. 16 (UP) –
President Roosevelt and his Republican opponent for the Presidency, Wendell Willkie, both appealed for co-operation of all men in the first peacetime draft today by stressing the love of Americans for freedom.
Mr. Roosevelt said in a radio address at 8 a.m.:
Those who have dared to threaten the whole world with war – those who have created the name and deed of total war – have imposed upon us and upon all free peoples the necessity of preparation for total defense… We prepare to keep the peace in this New World which free men have built for free men to live in… This day provides an opportunity… for the continuing creation on this continent of a country where the people alone shall be master, where the people shall be truly free.
Mr. Willkie said in radio address last night:
Remember that you are enlisting among those other millions who have fought for freedom… You are registering one more chance for freedom – your chance for freedom… The deepest reason for this sacrifice (registration for draft) is because here in America we still have freedom. The great cause of freedom lies in that unknown future where free men must and shall exist.
Roosevelt’s Draft Day Speech
Men and women of the United States,
On this day, more than sixteen million young Americans are reviving the three-hundred-year-old American custom of the muster. They are obeying that first duty of free citizenship by which, from the earliest colonial times, every able-bodied citizen was subject to the call for service in the national defense.
It is a day of deep and purposeful meaning in the lives of all of us. For on this day we Americans proclaim the vitality of our history, the singleness of our will and the unity of our nation.
We prepare to keep the peace in this New World which free men have built for free men to live in. The United States, a nation of one hundred and thirty million people, has today only about five hundred thousand – half a million – officers and men in Army and National Guard. Other nations, smaller in population, have four and five and six million trained men in their armies. Our present program will train eight hundred thousand additional men this coming year and somewhat less than one million men each year thereafter. It is a program obviously of defensive preparation and of defensive preparation only.
Calmly, without fear and without hysteria, but with clear determination, we are building guns and planes and tanks and ships – and all the other tools which modern defense requires. We are mobilizing our citizenship, for we are calling on men and women and property and money to join in making our defense effective. Today’s registration for training and service is the keystone in the arch of our national defense.
In the days when our forefathers laid the foundation of our democracy, every American family had to have its gun and know how to use it. Today we live under threats, threats of aggression from abroad, which call again for the same readiness, the same vigilance. Ours must once again be the spirit of those who were prepared to defend as they built, to defend as they worked, to defend as they worshipped.
The duty of this day has been imposed upon us from without. Those who have dared to threaten the whole world with war – those who have created the name and deed of total war – have imposed upon us and upon all free peoples the necessity of preparation for total defense.
But this day not only imposes a duty; it provides also an opportunity – an opportunity for united action in the cause of liberty – an opportunity for the continuing creation on this continent of a country where the people alone shall be master, where the people shall be truly free.
To the sixteen million young men who register today, I say that democracy is your cause – the cause of youth.
Democracy is the one form of society which guarantees to every new generation of men the right to imagine and to attempt to bring to pass a better world. Under the despotisms the imagination of a better world and its achievement are alike forbidden.
Your act today affirms not only your loyalty to your country, but your will to build your future for yourselves.
We of today, with God’s help, can bequeath to Americans of tomorrow a nation in which the ways of liberty and justice will survive and be secure. Such a nation must be devoted to the cause of peace. And it is for that cause that America arms itself.
It is to that cause – the cause of peace – that we Americans today devote our national will and our national spirit and our national strength.
Willkie’s Draft Day Speech
I do very much appreciate this opportunity to speak tonight to the young men of our country. Tomorrow will be one of the most important days in their lives. Tomorrow they are going out to register for compulsory military service.
To every man in the course of his life come a few – a very few – impressively solemn moments. Each such moment stirs his deepest emotions. Each marks the beginning of some new responsibility. Each lies in the solemn realm of the spirit and of the conscience, which we seldom talk about.
A man’s marriage is such a moment; likewise the birth of his child; likewise certain religious sacraments; and likewise his response to some great responsibility that he has undertaken. Those are life’s solemn moments. Such a moment comes when a man puts his life at the service of his country.
Tomorrow that hour will strike for every man in America between the ages of 21 and 36. It will strike alike for all – for rich and poor, privileged and handicapped, those who live in the West and those who live in the East. It will strike for men of every race, religion and color, who, as our Declaration of Independence says, are created equal in the sight of God.
Everyone in this nation realizes what a sacrifice you are being asked to make. Many of you have good jobs that you don’t want to leave, even temporarily. Others have not been lucky enough to find jobs, but would rather be free to look for them than to spend a year without a chance to look.
I have favored asking this sacrifice of you. I have favored it publicly. I believe, therefore, that it is my duty to tell you what my reasons are:
You are familiar with the terrible events that have been happening in the rest of the world. You are aware that huge armies have been built up in Europe and in Asia. Those armies are commanded by dictators who do not hesitate to attack other countries whenever it is to their advantage to do so.
My reason for favoring this sacrifice was not that you should go to war against those dictators. I do not contemplate for you a task so cruel as that. We must avoid it if we can.
What I would ask of you is that you form yourselves into an army – the best and most efficient army on earth. I believe that if the U.S. has such an army, joined by a navy and an air force, those dictators will not dare to strike at us.
That is my first reason for this sacrifice. But there is another reason also. There is a reason which all of us must understand so clearly that we shall never forget it.
When you are in the army, you must think of that reason often. And I shall think of it often. It will be like a bond between us. Because of it, whatever is given me to do, I shall not let you down.
The reason for this sacrifice – the second and deepest reason – is because here in America we still have freedom. We still have freedom to speak and freedom to worship; we still have freedom to vote and to move about; we still have freedom to work at what we please and to own what we please.
In no other major country can this freedom be found. Even Britain has had to give it up because she is at war. It is here, and here alone, and if we do not guard it – with our lives if necessary – it will perish from the earth.
When you register tomorrow, remember this. Remember as you write your name that you are enlisting among those other millions who have fought for freedom, generation after generation.
You are enlisting in a great invisible army. In that army are the men who opposed tyranny in the Old World several centuries ago. In that army are the men who opened up this New World here in America.
In that army are the men who fought to bring forth our United States of America, under George Washington and under Abraham Lincoln. Those are the men whom you will join tomorrow when you register your names for service to this country.
And I hope that everyone of you, when he registers, will know what freedom means. I hope that everyone of you will realize that it was freedom that enabled us to build America; to make for ourselves here beyond the oceans a better life, a happier, a more hopeful life than mankind has ever had before.
And this is what I want to talk to you about most seriously of all – this life that we have had here in America.
Many of you, I know, have not had your full share of this life, or even an opportunity to share in it. Many of you are skeptical of it. Many of you, being skeptical, will even resent the sacrifice you are being asked to make for it.
Believe me I recognize the problem that confronts you. I realize the injustice that has been done to you. I know that the roots of your trouble lie in stony ground. They lie in the mistakes of my generation.
Let us recognize the simple truth. You, the young men, have not yet failed us. It is the other way around. We have failed you.
And I want to plead with you tonight not to judge this cause to which you have been called – this great cause of freedom – by the mistakes that my generation has made, whether in private life or in office.
Do not judge this cause by our failure to give you jobs. Do not judge it by our idle factories, our shabby houses, our stagnant markets, our squabbles and dissensions among ourselves.
These are not freedom. These are not the cause in which I would ask you to enlist.
The cause I mean lies yet ahead of you. The cause lies in that unknown future where free men must and shall exist. You who have so justly turned away from my generation; you who have in your thoughts abandoned our American doctrines for other doctrines and other creeds – I plead with you to judge us, not by what we have been, but by what you can make us become.
These unhappy days through which we have passed, when free men became the slaves of idleness; these grim days through which we must now pass to make ourselves strong and to keep ourselves free – these are not like the future days to which I call you. These are not like the days which, if you preserve freedom on this earth, you will be able to build for yourselves.
When you register your names tomorrow you are registering one more chance for freedom – your chance for freedom.
And if you thud dedicate yourselves to that new chance I make you this promise. I make it not alone for myself but those who stand with me.
We promise you, young men of America, that we shall bend all our efforts, that we shall employ all our skill and knowledge, to release our gigantic industries to build the things that you will need. We shall waken America, the whole vast continent of America, to build you armaments.
Those who stand with me desire that you should never have no fight. They know that the more quickly armaments are built, the greater also is the chance for peace. Therefore, they will work with a prayer upon their lips that God may speed their hands.
Those who hold those beliefs will back you up – yes, we shall stand behind you, to make you strong, to arm you with whatever you can use to guard freedom on this earth.
Tomorrow you will commit yourselves to make a sacrifice for us. Tonight – this very night – we dedicate ourselves to sacrifice for you.
We shall make our sacrifices because we want so much to keep freedom – your freedom – established on this earth; because we can surmise the new and boundless world that you will build with freedom.
I say to you, and I say to all Americans, our hope lies in our determination to be free. Thank you and good night – and God bless everyone of you.