President Roosevelt’s address at Ottawa, Canada
August 25, 1943, 11:30 a.m. EWT
Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament, and all my good friends and neighbors of the Dominion of Canada:
It was exactly five years ago last Wednesday that I came to Canada to receive the high honor of a degree at Queen’s University. On that occasion – one year before the invasion of Poland, three years before Pearl Harbor – I said:
We in the Americas are no longer a far-away continent, to which the eddies of controversies beyond the seas could bring no interest or no harm. Instead, we in the Americas have become a consideration to every propaganda office and to every general staff beyond the seas. The vast amount of our resources, the vigor of our commerce and the strength of our men have made us vital factors in world peace whether we choose it or not.
We did not choose this war – and that “we” includes each and every one of the United Nations.
War was violently forced upon us by criminal aggressors who measure their standards of morality by the extent of the death and the destruction that they can inflict upon their neighbors.
In this war, Canadians and Americans have fought shoulder to shoulder – as our men and our women and our children have worked together and played together in happier times of peace.
Today, in devout gratitude, we are celebrating a brilliant victory won by British and Canadian and American fighting men in Sicily.
Today, we rejoice also in another event for which we need not apologize. A year ago, Japan occupied several of the Aleutian Islands on our side of the ocean, and made a great “to-do” about the invasion of the continent of North America. I regret to say that some Americans and some Canadians wished our governments to withdraw from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean campaigns and divert all our vast supplies and strength to the removal of the Japs from a few rocky specks in the North Pacific.
Today, our wiser councils have maintained our efforts in the Atlantic area, and the Mediterranean, and the China Seas, and the Southwest Pacific with ever-growing contributions; and in the Northwest Pacific a relatively small campaign has been assisted by the Japs themselves in the elimination of that last Jap from Attu and Kiska. We have been told that the Japs never surrender; their headlong retreat satisfies us just as well.
Great councils are being held here on the free and honored soil of Canada – councils which look to the future conduct of this war and to the years of building a new progress for mankind.
To these councils Canadians and Americans alike again welcome that wise and good and gallant gentleman, the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Mr. King, my old friend, may I through you thank the people of Canada for their hospitality to all of us. Your course and mine have run so closely and affectionately during these many long years that this meeting adds another link to that chain. I have always felt at home in Canada and you, I think, have always felt at home in the United States.
During the past few days in Québec, the Combined Staffs have been sitting around a table – which is a good custom – talking things over, discussing ways and means, in the manner of friends, in the manner of partners, and may I even say in the manner of members of the same family.
We have talked constructively of our common purposes in this war – of our determination to achieve victory in the shortest possible time – of our essential cooperation with our great and brave fighting allies.
And we have arrived, harmoniously, at certain definite conclusions. Of course, I am not at liberty to disclose just what these conclusions are. But, in due time, we shall communicate the secret information of the Québec Conference to Germany, Italy, and Japan. We shall communicate this information to our enemies in the only language their twisted minds seem capable of understanding.
Sometimes I wish that that great master of intuition, the Nazi leader, could have been present in spirit at the Québec Conference – I am thoroughly glad that he wasn’t there in person. If he and his generals had known our plans they would have realized that discretion is still the better part of valor and that surrender would pay them better now than later.
The evil characteristic that makes a Nazi a Nazi is his utter inability to understand and therefore to respect the qualities or the rights of his fellow men. His only method of dealing with his neighbor is first to delude him with lies, then to attack him treacherously, then beat him down and step on him, and then either kill him or enslave him. And the same thing is true of the fanatical militarists of Japan.
Because their own instincts and impulses are essentially inhuman, our enemies simply cannot comprehend how it is that decent, sensible individual human beings manage to get along together and live together as good neighbors.
That is why our enemies are doing their desperate best to misrepresent the purposes and the results of this Québec Conference. They still seek to divide and conquer allies who refuse to be divided just as cheerfully as they refuse to be conquered.
We spend our energies and our resources and the very lives of our sons and daughters because a band of gangsters in the community of nations declines to recognize the fundamentals of decent, human conduct.
We have been forced to call out what we in the United States would call the sheriff’s posse to break up the gang in order that gangsterism may be eliminated in the community of nations.
We are making sure – absolutely, irrevocably sure – that this time the lesson is driven home to them once and for all. Yes, we are going to be rid of outlaws this time.
Every one of the United Nations believes that only a real and lasting peace can justify the sacrifices we are making, and our unanimity gives us confidence in seeking that goal.
It is no secret that at Québec there was much talk of the postwar world. That discussion was doubtless duplicated simultaneously in dozens of nations and hundreds of cities and among millions of people.
There is a longing in the air. It is not a longing to go back to what they call “the good old days.” I have distinct reservations as to how good “the good old days” were. I would rather believe that we can achieve new and better days.
Absolute victory in this war will give greater opportunities to the world, because the winning of the war in itself is certainly proving to all of us up here that concerted action can accomplish things. Surely we can make strides toward a greater freedom from want than the world has yet enjoyed. Surely by unanimous action in driving out the outlaws and keeping them under heel forever, we can attain a freedom from fear of violence.
I am everlastingly angry only at those who assert vociferously that the four freedoms and the Atlantic Charter are nonsense because they are unattainable. If those people had lived a century and a half ago they would have sneered and said that the Declaration of Independence was utter piffle. If they had lived nearly a thousand years ago they would have laughed uproariously at the ideals of Magna Charta. And if they had lived several thousand years ago they would have derided Moses when he came from the Mountain with the Ten Commandments.
We concede that these great teachings are not perfectly lived up to today, but I would rather be a builder than a wrecker, hoping always that the structure of life is growing – not dying.
May the destroyers who still persist in our midst decrease. They, like some of our enemies, have a long road to travel before they accept the ethics of humanity.
Some day, in the distant future perhaps – but some day, it is certain – all of them will remember with the Master:
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Monsieur le Premier: Ma visite a la ville historique de Québec rappelle vivement a mon esprit que le Canada est une nation fondee sur l’union de deux grandes races. L’harmonie de leur association dans l’egalite peut servir d’exemple a l’humanite toute entiere – un exemple partout dans le monde.