Speech Delivered in Sydney, Australia (1943)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Before I begin my speech to you tonight I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have so kindly sent me letters and telegrams and many other remembrances. You will I know appreciate that it is impossible for me to thank you all individually while I am in Australia. Therefore I am taking this opportunity to say "thank you" collectively to all of you who have been such hospitable hosts and when I am home again I hope I may be able to send individual notes to each and every one of you.
You will appreciate that I have spent only a few days in Australia and that what I have seen may not as yet be a comprehensive picture of the women's activities. I have however already formed a great respect for the work which women here are doing. I have seen them at work in your munitions factories, I have seen the hostels which the Y.W.C.A. is running for girls in the military services and I know that they are also doing this service for girls who go into industry. I have seen a number of the things which are being done by your girls in the military services and in every case I think you must be proud of their achievement. I have asked whether here in Australia the same thing holds true as in New Zealand and whether women who have before simply helped their husbands run big farms or stations as I believe you call them, are now carrying the full responsibility themselves in many cases and I am sure that this is so. I think there can be no question but that the women of Australia have fought at home and won laurels for themselves just as their men have fought in Egypt and the Near East. I know that my husband would want me to bring a greeting to both the men and women of this Commonwealth. We in America feel that we are still a young enough country to have an understanding of the pioneer spirit prevalent in Australia and I think my husband has felt a deep admiration for the achievements of your military forces and a great interest in your accomplishments in the political field. Being a young country with a very much smaller population than we have in the United States we can watch your developments and achievements and hope that at some time we may attain some of the good results which you apparently have achieved. I have yet to see a real slum district in the cities which I have visited and I hope that you will never permit them to grow up.
Up to a very short time ago both Mr. Churchill and my husband always insisted that the war must be won before we begin to think of any plans for the post-war period. It is perfectly obvious of course that until the war is won there is no freedom in the world for anyone and no assurance that they can carry out any plans. But now the time seems to have arrived when even these two eminent gentlemen are making post-war plans and so perhaps the rest of us should be following suit. They laid down certain broad principles in the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms to which all the Untied Nations have given their support. But this does not mean that the peoples of the various countries involved have thought through what adherence to the Four Freedoms would really mean.
Freedom of Religion all over the world; freedom for all peoples to worship as they see fit. Freedom from Want all over the world; great masses of people are still suffering from hunger, in lands which might be producing ample food for all their population. Why were we able to use food and white cotton cloth as weapons of war in North Africa? Only because the Arabs have so long furnished others with that which they needed themselves that food had become a scarce commodity and white cotton cloth had vanished entirely. To them that was important for in it they bury their dead and they clothe themselves. What has been used for a weapon of war can also be used as a weapon for peace. To help people to help themselves is perhaps the basis of an economic policy which has as its objective freedom from want throughout the world, but governments cannot undertake this unless the peoples that they represent actually decide that this is the policy they wish to follow and that the future will be safer and perhaps even more prosperous if for a time we devote ourselves to the task of helping people to help themselves even though it may mean continued restrictions and curtailments within our own nations for a time. It is often said that peoples are primarily activated by self-interest and this may be entirely true. So perhaps we have to prove to the people of the world that freedom from want is really a policy of enlightened self-interest. To do that we must consider our own economic situation.
We have at present built up the greatest industrial productive power of any nation in the world. We have added enormously to the factories which we had at the beginning of this war. If we do not want them to stand idle, with unused machinery and smokeless chimneys, then we must plan now what they are going to produce when the war is over, how they are going to be refitted for this production and how people are going to be retrained, because people have lost certain skills. They have worked on one kind of a machine; they may have to work on another. We know that after the last war when we drew away from the rest of the world and thought that if we did not actually interfere with other people's business we would be clever enough to provide them with things they needed so that we would have the markets that we needed. But we did not take any responsibility beyond our own shores. We know that gradually our farmers began to meet hard times largely because they could not sell their goods outside the country at the same price that the rest of the world was selling its goods. That was because in the rest of the world the standard of living had dropped away down. Men were working for lower pay than they were before the war because they were faced with starvation. Much of our own country paid no attention to its farmers' troubles and farm after farm became the property of banks because the owners could not pay the interest on their mortgage. And then one day the depression hit the industrial centers because the farmer was unable to buy the industry made goods and the whole of our economy was askew and all of our people were living through years of hardship. We can do that again and have exactly the same results or we can make up our minds that the time has come for world thinking, and see to it that we use every bit of ingenuity and invention that we have to make our new peacetime economy an economy of abundance and employment for all people, with low prices on our goods so that the people who are just beginning to struggle upward in the rest of the world and who need our goods well be able to buy them. Those are the world markets that we need but we must remember that at the same time we must try to help the people to whom we wish to sell to produce such things as we desire to buy because a one-sided economy where only one side profits is never in the long run of permanent value. That clause 'freedom from want' is going to require very constant thought and work over a long period of time but it is one of the Freedoms that we have subscribed to and it can only be achieved if all of us work together.
Freedom from Fear can of course mean many things. The man who is hungry is never free from fear. The man who is afraid that his neighbor who because he is stronger than himself will take away his possessions is never free form fear. The man who is afraid because his neighbor in some strange way considers himself granted a superiority over other human beings is never free from fear. To accomplish freedom from fear we will have to meet world economic problems not once but many times through future years. To accomplish freedom from fear we will have to find a collective way of making the weak secure against the strong and to accomplish freedom from fear we will have to find a way whereby each one of us will learn to respect other human beings not for what they are at the moment if opportunity has not been open to all but for what they are intended to be and for what they may possibly accomplish if given the opportunity. That is a rather tall order because it means facing our prejudices which have not rhyme nor reason and therefore are not to be dealt with as a rule on a basis of logic. Perhaps it means that if we are ever going to achieve freedom from fear each individual will have to make the effort to remember day by day that the things which Christ taught the disciples were the qualities which made men blessed. Those may be the only qualities which will ever create a world such as the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms pledge to work for.
Our final freedom is Freedom of Expression and is the guarantee that people all over the world shall have the right to say what they think and act according to their own beliefs. No people can ever be enslaved as long as they have a free ballot and preserve their freedom of expression.
These are the things which we have fought for. These are the things which we must continue to plan for in the days to come. Without continuous work as citizens we may find ourselves again losing the peace. Each war that we fight is more destructive than the last because our inventions which may be used for constructive purposes may also be used for destructive purposes. The day is rapidly approaching when some scientist will discover how to exterminate fairly quickly whole populations so that the path of peace in the future would seem to be recommended by that enlightened self-interest we talked about where a world economy was concerned. But none of these things will become real in the lives of the people, will become things for which they fight day in and day out, will become concrete objectives which they understand and demand to see achieved by their governments, unless we talk about them now and make sure that they are the objectives which lie in the hearts of the people.
Your young men and our young men and the young people of many other countries are making great sacrifices today. Quite aside from the loss of life or physical handicaps that may come to them, they are sacrificing years of their lives, giving up the things which they like to work for, the people they love, the recreations they enjoy. I have talked to young Russians, young British, young Poles, young Dutchmen and it is always the same. If nothing permanent can be built then it is always the same. If something permanent can be built then it is worthwhile. Nothing permanent can be built in one document or by one group of leaders who meet together on a special occasion, but something permanent can be built if we once get the conception of what we are trying to build and that it requires constant effort and cooperation between all the people everywhere.
In closing I wish you the courage to carry through the task that must be yours 'til victory is won. I am sure that you can count upon the people of the United States to be with you to the end. May victory come before too long a time but remember that victory comes as a result of the full and free gift of all that we have within us in whatever work we may be engaged in.