Speech Delivered in Canberra, Australia (1943)
Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am deeply grateful for your welcome, and for this gift, which is unique and will be a welcome addition to our Congressional Library, where it will repose. I shall ask the American Minister, Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, to take charge of it and send it home for me, because I should like it to go in the safest possible way. I know that it will be treasured by us, as a symbol of that link across the Pacific which is growing constantly stronger. The Pacific used to seem to me a very large ocean, and I never expected to cross it; yet now I am here, and so far as actual traveling is concerned I crossed it in a very brief time. In the future, because of this rapid means of transport, many people will cross the Pacific between our two countries.
I come to you, not in any sense as an official ambassadress. I came for two purposes—to see our boys who are in this theatre and to learn as much as I can of the work which your women have been and are doing in the war effort, so that I may take home that knowledge to our women in America. We all are in this war together. As I walked through your War Memorial this morning and looked at many of the pictures and little statues, I felt something of what you, Mr. Prime Minister, have expressed—that if there be such a thing as an Australian type, then the men of Australia and the men of the United States of America have a strange similarity, at all events in their youth: for many of the boys there depicted could have been some of our boys. You have been so kind to our boys that I believe that, as time goes on, the little differences that may exist between them will no longer be noticeable. We have superficial differences of language for instance, even within the boundaries of the United States of America. When I was in Great Britain, I learned of a few differences of language with which our boys have difficulty. Almost invariably, I found that boys who had been there for more than a month, had made friends; even if a boy had gone there not feeling very sure of his friendship for Great Britain, that feeling had vanished as he had made friends. I know that you people of Australia have been most kind, that you have taken the boys into your homes, and have done everything you could to make them happy so far away from their homes, and have done everything you could to make them hapy so far away from their own homes. I found that same spirit in New Zealand. I know that the women of my country will be extremely grateful to the women of all the countries in which their boys have been made to feel at home. I only hope that we have done as well by your boys when they have been passing through the United States of America. Most of them have probably been in New York and the other big cities and their stay has been brief. I imagine that they have been in fewer homes than have those boys who have had the opportunity to stay longer in other countries. I wish that your boys could have stayed longer with us; but they have been needed in other parts of the world. I hope, however, that even their brief visits have enabled them to take away a feeling of friendship.
We are fighting the war together, and today we are fighting it, I believe with victory in sight. I do not mean that we have not many hard days before us, and many difficult things to do. I do not mean that we can relax in our efforts for greater production, or in the training of our men, or in the building of more transportation. Those things must go on until victory is actually ours. But I do think that both the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who was with us in Washington for a few days before I left, and my husband, believe that everywhere the tide has turned in our favour. Russia seems to be doing magnificently along its entire front. I think that every one of us feels that Russia and China will always deserve the great gratitude of all the United Nations. [Applause.] The time has come, perhaps, when every straw in the wind signifies something that strengthens our conviction of ultimate victory. Your Prime Minister has told me that he has seen the letters which Mr. Churchill brought to us, taken from prisoners in the Tunisian campaign, and uncensored. They express a feeling of defeatism which, apparently, is growing inside Germany. I shall not read all of them to you—that would take too long—but I shall read one brief extract from the letter of a mother to her son; because, when that kind of thing is being written from the homefront, I doubt whether the best trained army in the world can continue fighting for long. The strength of Russia, of China, of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and of the Untied States of America, lies in the fact that our people believe in victory. This letter, remember, was written away back in March or April, before the Americans had started to bomb the continent of Europe; therefore, the letter refers to bombings by the British. It reads—
'Try and hold out, dear son. This year, too, will come to an end some day. When you cannot do anything else, then permit yourself to be captured, because the main thing is to remain alive, and there must be an end to this, because things just cannot continue this way if the air raids are permitted to go on like this.'
Every letter speaks of defeat. There is not a letter which says, 'If we endure, we will win in the end. We are the master race.' That spirit seems to have gone, inside Germany. That, I believe, is one of the straws which gives to us faith that victory will ultimately be ours.
When victory is ours, we shall have won a war. Then, we shall have to win a peace. Last time, we lost the peace. Perhaps my nation was partly to blame. I doubt whether any of us in the nation was really prepared last time to think and act in a way that might have united the world. Today, we know that each war we fight is more destructive than the last. We know that, while some inventions promote the good of mankind, others may be devised to exterminate the human race. So it seems essential, if we wish our civilization is to survive, to find ways in which to work together for the future good of all the world. I do not think that leaders alone can do what is required, without the people understanding what are the objectives at which they are aiming, and willingly cooperating with their leaders.
This, I believe, is the great test which lies before democracy—whether individuals can forget themselves sufficiently to think of the good of the world as a whole and, through their constant activity as citizens, ensure that their governments will truly represent them in thinking of ways and means by which peoples will no longer be exploited but will be brought to the point where they themselves can help to make the world a better place in which to live. If that be done, all the sacrifices that have been made by youth in every country will seem worth while; everywhere those who mourn for youth that will never return will feel that their loss not in vain; and those who welcome youth back again to the next phase of the struggle will feel that they will have a united people, working with the other peoples throughout the world who love freedom. [Applause.]