Remarks to the Americans for Democratic Action on Individual Liberty (1950)

April 2, 1950, Washington, DC


    Ladies and gentlemen, it is a very inspiring thing these days to come to a meeting such as this and find so many people coming together to discuss and make plans for an organization which is devoted to really obtaining, in our country, as good a government as we can have.

    There's one thing always frightens me, and that is that our communist representatives in the United Nations never talk about liberty. They never mention it. On one occasion, when Mr. Vishinsky was forced to do so he said that was a foolish thing to talk about because no one could have liberty. But you and I know quite well that everyone's liberty is conditioned by the rights of other people. But we must think about liberty because that is really one of the basic reasons why we prefer democracy to communism.

    And somehow we must keep ourselves free from fear and suspicion of each other. I sit with people... [Applause] I sit with people who are representatives of communist countries, and to sit with them is a lesson in what fear can do. Fear can take away from you all the courage to be an individual. You become a mouthpiece for the ideas that you have been told you must give forth. I have no feeling of real antagonism toward these representatives because, poor things, they can do no other. [Laughter] They must do that, their lives depends on it!

    Now it seems to me that the ADA is an organization that has thinking people in it. And we must preserve the right to think and to differ in the United States. We must be able to disagree with people and to consider new ideas and not to be afraid. The day that I am afraid to sit down in a room with people that I do not know-because perhaps five years from now someone will say: "You sat in the room and five people were communists, you are a communist"-that day will be a bad day. [Applause] It will be a bad day for democracy.

    So I am grateful that the ADA prods us to thinking, that it has an opportunity to bring before us the ideas that seem important, that it also has the opportunity of backing people in elections that promise to be good public servants. I am grateful that it is representative of people in both political parties, and I am grateful for the numbers that have come today because I think it shows that we as a nation are waking up to the need to preserve our basic ideals in our republic. That we are waking up to the fact that we have to live those ideas, and that we have to improve our democracy by the way we live day by day, and that to do that we must come together, and consult together, and get other people to help us where we need help. We must help each other everywhere in this nation. There must be no one who fights the battle of good government, of freedom of thought, of real democracy with the sense of doing it alone. That is the value of ADA. You do not have to be alone.



[Recording from the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York]