We come tonight to the eve of an election that may be the most fateful in our history. It is a test for each of us of our devotion to the American system of government. The great test is whether, knowing we need a new administration, we will make the change necessary to speed victory and to build the peace to come.
These years 1945 to 1949 will be important, difficult years. They will require vigorous, hardworking, harmonious leadership, with abiding faith in America. But there has arisen in this campaign an argument that the people dare not change administration because our country is in the midst of a great ordeal.
Of course, there is nothing new in that argument. It was used four years ago, when we were at peace. In other countries, this same argument has been the pretext upon which men, originally voted into power by the people, have suspended popular government and maintained themselves indefinitely in power.
Long ago, Thomas Jefferson pointed out that “there will never be a time when real difficulties will not exist and furnish a plausible pretext” for not making a change.
In our own lives, we have seen a nearly unbroken period of crisis after crisis for 30 years. We have known war and depression and boom and depression and war again. During much of that time, it could have been argued that the state of the nation and the world was so critical that we ought not risk a change in administration, in the last analysis, the whole argument comes down to a bald plea for the reelection – so long as he lives – of whoever happens to be President.
But that, we know, is the opposite of a free system of government. So, it is clear that if we are going to do our duty tomorrow, we must lay aside every other consideration and decide how best our country can be served these next four years.
In the course of this campaign, I have honorably and to the best of my capacity presented the reasons why I believe so earnestly that the welfare of our country requires a new administration.
Now, for a few minutes, I should like to talk to you not as a candidate, but as a fellow citizen who is privileged by your courtesy in listening, to come into your home and talk with you.
You are concerned, as I am, about the progress of the war. You are thinking day and night of someone who is facing death and hardship on the far-off battlelines of this war. And so, as you prepare to cast your vote tomorrow, the first question you ask yourself is this: What is the best way to make sure of a speedy and victorious end of the war? Will it help to shorten the war and assure quicker return of our fighting men if we have a change of administration?
I deeply believe that it will. I would have refused the nomination of my party for President if I did not believe so, with all my heart and soul. I have made it altogether clear from the beginning, that a change in our civilian government will mean no change in the military conduct of the war. Our Chiefs of Staff, Adm. King and Gen. Marshall, are doing a magnificent job. They are directing the movement of troops and of supplies and the grand military strategy that will carry our armies and navies to victory. The other commanders – Eisenhower, Nimitz, Arnold, MacArthur, Halsey – and all the others are carrying on to their objectives. Their hands will be strengthened by the end of civilian confusion in Washington.
We all know that the war is being fought, not only on the fighting front, but also on the home front everyone has had a chance to see the administration’s part in the war effort at home – to watch the operation of the scores of agencies that have to do with the daily lives of our people.
Everyone has been sickened by the constant conflicts and shifting policies of these agencies, as well as in the handling of war production, of transportation, the problem of rubber, and of other strategic supplies. Let me ask you one simple question: Do you believe the job at home is being handled as well as possible?
I think everyone, from the housewife who struggles with a new rationing problem every week, to the industrial executive who struggles with priorities and allocations – everyone will agree that we need improvement – and need it badly.
The things we can see and know about are only a fraction of the confusion and contradiction that exist in our whole civilian war effort. Multiply these a million times and it becomes clear why it is that the war is not coming to an end more rapidly.
Gen. Eisenhower has told us twice that the war in Europe would be ended in 1944 if everyone at home would do his part. Gen. Eisenhower has never changed that statement. It is Mr. Roosevelt who now tells us that the war has still a long way to go.
Plainly things have not been going in Washington as well as Gen. Eisenhower expected and had a right to expect. That is the basic reason why we should install in Washington a vigorous and competent administration that will out into the war effort at home a purpose and unity equal to that of our military leaders on the fighting fronts.
We want to bring this war to a speedy, victorious conclusion, to save unnecessary loss of life, unneeded hardship, and sorrow. The question is no longer – do we care to make a change in administrations? The question is: Do we dare not to make a change when our own everyday experience, and the testimony of our eyes and ears cry out that a change is desperately needed.
Now there is another thing that you and I want. We want to make sure that this war shall be the last war; that this tragedy shall never happen again. Like a great light in a darkened world shines the nearly unanimous determination of our people to join together with the people of other nations in setting up a world organization for peace.
Much has been done to prepare the general principles that will govern the establishment of such an organization. I have been happy to contribute to our unity for this cause by lifting it above partisan debate. But the hardest part of the task is still ahead. So far as American participation is concerned, the difficult details must be worked out between the Congress and the President.
I have unlimited faith that it can be done by a President and a Congress working together, in harmony. It will take hard work, patience, and understanding upon all sides.
In the name of those who are fighting and dying in the cause of freedom, we dare not risk leaving this vital labor in the hands of those who have grown tired and quarrelsome from 12 years in office. History must not repeat itself.
And history must not repeat the breadlines and soup kitchens to which our soldiers returned after the last war, under another tired, war weary administration. After this war is over, 11 million men in our fighting forces will come home. They are entitled to find here an opportunity to realize in peace the things for which they are fighting.
How can we best make sure that they will have those opportunities? We cannot – we must not return to leaf raking and doles. We cannot forget that under the New Deal it took a war to get jobs. Here again the question is not whether we dare to make a change. It is clear that we must not risk failing to make a change.
These, then, are the simple tests that must govern the decision of every American tomorrow. When you step into the secrecy of the polling booth, ask yourself these questions:
How can I help shorten the war?
How can I help secure lasting peace?
How can I help give us jobs and opportunity in the years that lie beyond our victory?
If you will soberly ask yourself these questions and will think the answers thru in the light of your own knowledge, I have no doubt of the outcome.
And let us agree on one more thing. No matter how you vote – it is the duty of every American to vote tomorrow.
Let no one say: My vote will never be missed.
Your vote does count – it counts mightily in the result – and to you. Your secret ballot is your badge of citizenship. Keep it bright – and secure. If you neglect to vote, you leave your destiny to the decision of others; only you can preserve your own freedom.
If everyone will vote, there can be no danger to our country. Of that I am sure – because I firmly believe in the eternal rightness of the people.
And now, may I read you a letter I have just received from a brave American woman whose son will never return. It is brief. This is the entire letter:
Dear Governor Dewey: I am giving you my support and I hope it will help you to win.
You cannot bring back my son, lost in the South Pacific, but you can and will, I think, bring back the kind of America he would have wanted to come home to.
It is to that cause that we are dedicated.
We stand today on one of the strange promontories of human history, with the shadows of a dismal stormy night behind us, and the first grey streaks of dawn in the sky beyond us. For thirty years since 1914, nearly half the span of human of life, we have seen a series of wars, revolutions, depressions, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, cruelty and suffering, and finally another conflagration that has engulfed the world.
At home, we have had twelve unhappy years of turmoil and dissension, of group conflict and class strife. Of divisions, and hatreds and antagonisms. Half a generation has grown up knowing no other atmosphere. I believe our children, our whole country, can again live in a world where peace, friendship and mutual respect, abide.
After we’re through with the war and get our boys back home, then we must have a period of peace and calm within our own country. Only in that way can we build the unit and strength to meet our problems at home – to support our labors abroad, for the peace of the world.
Let us resolve to put aside these years of cynicism and of conflict. Let us resolve to put aside every antagonism, to throw off the nightmare of past years and breathe once more the atmosphere of courage and goodwill. Our people then can have a chance once more to build, to create and get ahead.
Under Divine guidance, the people of America are stirring with awakening faith – faith in our country – in our future – in our unity.
There is awakening a renewed sense of the dignity of the individual, of trust in the morale law. Once again, may we have and always keep that faith in ourselves and in our neighbors – faith of our fathers – living faith in Almighty God.