Franklin D. Roosevelt
State of the Union Address
January 11, 1944
To the Congress:
This Nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the
world's greatest war against human slavery.
We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves
in a world that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.
But I do not think that any of us Americans can be content with mere
survival. Sacrifices that we and our allies are making impose upon us all
a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children
will gain something better than mere survival.
We are united in determination that this war shall not be followed by
another interim which leads to new disaster- that we shall not repeat the
tragic errors of ostrich isolationismthat we shall not repeat the excesses
of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster
which ended in a tragic crash.
When Mr. Hull went to Moscow in October, and when I went to Cairo and
Teheran in November, we knew that we were in agreement with our allies
in our common determination to fight and win this war. But there were many
vital questions concerning the future peace, and they were discussed in
an atmosphere of complete candor and harmony.
In the last war such discussions, such meetings, did not even begin
until the shooting had stopped and the delegates began to assemble at the
peace table. There had been no previous opportunities for man-to-man discussions
which lead to meetings of minds. The result was a peace which was not a
That was a mistake which we are not repeating in this war.
And right here I want to address a word or two to some suspicious souls
who are fearful that Mr. Hull or I have made "commitments" for the future
which might pledge this Nation to secret treaties, or to enacting the role
of Santa Claus.
To such suspicious soulsusing a polite terminologyI wish to say that
Mr. Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek are
all thoroughly conversant with the provisions of our Constitution. And
so is Mr. Hull. And so am I.
Of course we made some commitments. We most certainly committed ourselves
to very large and very specific military plans which require the use of
all Allied forces to bring about the defeat of our enemies at the earliest
But there were no secret treaties or political or financial commitments.
The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each
Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in
one word: Security.
And that means not only physical security which provides safety from
attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security,
moral securityin a family of Nations.
In the plain down-to-earth talks that I had with the Generalissimo and
Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, it was abundantly clear that
they are all most deeply interested in the resumption of peaceful progress
by their own peoplesprogress toward a better life. All our allies want
freedom to develop their lands and resources, to build up industry, to
increase education and individual opportunity, and to raise standards of
All our allies have learned by bitter experience that real development
will not be possible if they are to be diverted from their purpose by repeated
warsor even threats of war.
China and Russia are truly united with Britain and America in recognition
of this essential fact:
The best interests of each Nation, large and small, demand that all
freedom-loving Nations shall join together in a just and durable system
of peace. In the present world situation, evidenced by the actions of Germany,
Italy, and Japan, unquestioned military control over disturbers of the
peace is as necessary among Nations as it is among citizens in a community.
And an equally basic essential to peace is a decent standard of living
for all individual men and women and children in all Nations. Freedom from
fear is eternally linked with freedom from want.
There are people who burrow through our Nation like unseeing moles,
and attempt to spread the suspicion that if other Nations are encouraged
to raise their standards of living, our own American standard of living
must of necessity be depressed.
The fact is the very contrary. It has been shown time and again that
if the standard of living of any country goes up, so does its purchasing
power- and that such a rise encourages a better standard of living in neighboring
countries with whom it trades. That is just plain common senseand it is
the kind of plain common sense that provided the basis for our discussions
at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran.
Returning from my journeyings, I must confess to a sense of "let-down"
when I found many evidences of faulty perspective here in Washington. The
faulty perspective consists in overemphasizing lesser problems and thereby
underemphasizing the first and greatest problem.
The overwhelming majority of our people have met the demands of this
war with magnificent courage and understanding. They have accepted inconveniences;
they have accepted hardships; they have accepted tragic sacrifices. And
they are ready and eager to make whatever further contributions are needed
to win the war as quickly as possible- if only they are given the chance
to know what is required of them.
However, while the majority goes on about its great work without complaint,
a noisy minority maintains an uproar of demands for special favors for
special groups. There are pests who swarm through the lobbies of the Congress
and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups
as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation as a whole. They have come
to look upon the war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves
at the expense of their neighbors- profits in money or in terms of political
or social preferment.
Such selfish agitation can be highly dangerous in wartime. It creates
confusion. It damages morale. It hampers our national effort. It muddies
the waters and therefore prolongs the war.
If we analyze American history impartially, we cannot escape the fact
that in our past we have not always forgotten individual and selfish and
partisan interests in time of warwe have not always been united in purpose
and direction. We cannot overlook the serious dissensions and the lack
of unity in our war of the Revolution, in our War of 1812, or in our War
Between the States, when the survival of the Union itself was at stake.
In the first World War we came closer to national unity than in any
previous war. But that war lasted only a year and a half, and increasing
signs of disunity began to appear during the final months of the conflict.
In this war, we have been compelled to learn how interdependent upon
each other are all groups and sections of the population of America.
Increased food costs, for example, will bring new demands for wage increases
from all war workers, which will in turn raise all prices of all things
including those things which the farmers themselves have to buy. Increased
wages or prices will each in turn produce the same results. They all have
a particularly disastrous result on all fixed income groups.
And I hope you will remember that all of us in this Government represent
the fixed income group just as much as we represent business owners, workers,
and farmers. This group of fixed income people includes: teachers, clergy,
policemen, firemen, widows and minors on fixed incomes, wives and dependents
of our soldiers and sailors, and old-age pensioners. They and their families
add up to one-quarter of our one hundred and thirty million people. They
have few or no high pressure representatives at the Capitol. In a period
of gross inflation they would be the worst sufferers.
If ever there was a time to subordinate individual or group selfishness
to the national good, that time is now. Disunity at homebickerings, self-seeking
partisanship, stoppages of work, inflation, business as usual, politics
as usual, luxury as usual these are the influences which can undermine
the morale of the brave men ready to die at the front for us here.
Those who are doing most of the complaining are not deliberately striving
to sabotage the national war effort. They are laboring under the delusion
that the time is past when we must make prodigious sacrifices- that the
war is already won and we can begin to slacken off. But the dangerous folly
of that point of view can be measured by the distance that separates our
troops from their ultimate objectives in Berlin and Tokyoand by the sum
of all the perils that lie along the way.
Overconfidence and complacency are among our deadliest enemies. Last
springafter notable victories at Stalingrad and in Tunisia and against
the U-boats on the high seasoverconfidence became so pronounced that war
production fell off. In two months, June and July, 1943, more than a thousand
airplanes that could have been made and should have been made were not
made. Those who failed to make them were not on strike. They were merely
saying, "The war's in the bag- so let's relax."
That attitude on the part of anyoneGovernment or management or laborcan
lengthen this war. It can kill American boys.
Let us remember the lessons of 1918. In the summer of that year the
tide turned in favor of the allies. But this Government did not relax.
In fact, our national effort was stepped up. In August, 1918, the draft
age limits were broadened from 21-31 to 18-45. The President called for
"force to the utmost," and his call was heeded. And in November, only three
months later, Germany surrendered.
That is the way to fight and win a warall outand not with half-an-eye
on the battlefronts abroad and the other eye-and-a-half on personal, selfish,
or political interests here at home.
Therefore, in order to concentrate all our energies and resources on
winning the war, and to maintain a fair and stable economy at home, I recommend
that the Congress adopt:
(1) A realistic tax lawwhich will tax all unreasonable profits, both
individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our
sons and daughters. The tax bill now under consideration by the Congress
does not begin to meet this test.
(2) A continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contractswhich
will prevent exorbitant profits and assure fair prices to the Government.
For two long years I have pleaded with the Congress to take undue profits
out of war.
(3) A cost of food lawwhich will enable the Government (a) to place
a reasonable floor under the prices the farmer may expect for his production;
and (b) to place a ceiling on the prices a consumer will have to pay for
the food he buys. This should apply to necessities only; and will require
public funds to carry out. It will cost in appropriations about one percent
of the present annual cost of the war.
(4) Early reenactment of. the stabilization statute of October, 1942.
This expires June 30, 1944, and if it is not extended well in advance,
the country might just as well expect price chaos by summer.
We cannot have stabilization by wishful thinking. We must take positive
action to maintain the integrity of the American dollar.
(5) A national service law- which, for the duration of the war, will
prevent strikes, and, with certain appropriate exceptions, will make available
for war production or for any other essential services every able-bodied
adult in this Nation.
These five measures together form a just and equitable whole. I would
not recommend a national service law unless the other laws were passed
to keep down the cost of living, to share equitably the burdens of taxation,
to hold the stabilization line, and to prevent undue profits.
The Federal Government already has the basic power to draft capital
and property of all kinds for war purposes on a basis of just compensation.
As you know, I have for three years hesitated to recommend a national
service act. Today, however, I am convinced of its necessity. Although
I believe that we and our allies can win the war without such a measure,
I am certain that nothing less than total mobilization of all our resources
of manpower and capital will guarantee an earlier victory, and reduce the
toll of suffering and sorrow and blood.
I have received a joint recommendation for this law from the heads of
the War Department, the Navy Department, and the Maritime Commission. These
are the men who bear responsibility for the procurement of the necessary
arms and equipment, and for the successful prosecution of the war in the
field. They say:
"When the very life of the Nation is in peril the responsibility for
service is common to all men and women. In such a time there can be no
discrimination between the men and women who are assigned by the Government
to its defense at the battlefront and the men and women assigned to producing
the vital materials essential to successful military operations. A prompt
enactment of a National Service Law would be merely an expression of the
universality of this responsibility."
I believe the country will agree that those statements are the solemn
National service is the most democratic way to wage a war. Like selective
service for the armed forces, it rests on the obligation of each citizen
to serve his Nation to his utmost where he is best qualified.
It does not mean reduction in wages. It does not mean loss of retirement
and seniority rights and benefits. It does not mean that any substantial
numbers of war workers will be disturbed in their present jobs. Let these
facts be wholly clear.
Experience in other democratic Nations at warBritain, Canada, Australia,
and New Zealand- has shown that the very existence of national service
makes unnecessary the widespread use of compulsory power. National service
has proven to be a unifying moral force based on an equal and comprehensive
legal obligation of all people in a Nation at war.
There are millions of American men and women who are not in this war
at all. It is not because they do not want to be in it. But they want to
know where they can best do their share. National service provides that
direction. It will be a means by which every man and woman can find that
inner satisfaction which comes from making the fullest possible contribution
I know that all civilian war workers will be glad to be able to say
many years hence to their grandchildren: "Yes, I, too, was in service in
the great war. I was on duty in an airplane factory, and I helped make
hundreds of fighting planes. The Government told me that in doing that
I was performing my most useful work in the service of my country."
It is argued that we have passed the stage in the war where national
service is necessary. But our soldiers and sailors know that this is not
true. We are going forward on a long, rough road- and, in all journeys,
the last miles are the hardest. And it is for that final effortfor the
total defeat of our enemies-that we must mobilize our total resources.
The national war program calls for the employment of more people in 1944
than in 1943.
It is my conviction that the American people will welcome this win-the-war
measure which is based on the eternally just principle of "fair for one,
fair for all."
It will give our people at home the assurance that they are standing
four-square behind our soldiers and sailors. And it will give our enemies
demoralizing assurance that we mean business -that we, 130,000,000 Americans,
are on the march to Rome, Berlin, and Tokyo.
I hope that the Congress will recognize that, although this is a political
year, national service is an issue which transcends politics. Great power
must be used for great purposes.
As to the machinery for this measure, the Congress itself should determine
its naturebut it should be wholly nonpartisan in its make-up.
Our armed forces are valiantly fulfilling their responsibilities to
our country and our people. Now the Congress faces the responsibility for
taking those measures which are essential to national security in this
the most decisive phase of the Nation's greatest war.
Several alleged reasons have prevented the enactment of legislation
which would preserve for our soldiers and sailors and marines the fundamental
prerogative of citizenshipthe right to vote. No amount of legalistic argument
can becloud this issue in the eyes of these ten million American citizens.
Surely the signers of the Constitution did not intend a document which,
even in wartime, would be construed to take away the franchise of any of
those who are fighting to preserve the Constitution itself.
Our soldiers and sailors and marines know that the overwhelming majority
of them will be deprived of the opportunity to vote, if the voting machinery
is left exclusively to the States under existing State lawsand that there
is no likelihood of these laws being changed in time to enable them to
vote at the next election. The Army and Navy have reported that it will
be impossible effectively to administer forty-eight different soldier voting
laws. It is the duty of the Congress to remove this unjustifiable discrimination
against the men and women in our armed forces- and to do it as quickly
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy
for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American
standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content,
no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction
of our peoplewhether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed,
ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under
the protection of certain inalienable political rightsamong them the right
of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable
searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our Nation has grown in size and stature, howeveras our industrial
economy expandedthese political rights proved inadequate to assure us
equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual
freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous
men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff
of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.
We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new
basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless
of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops
or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return
which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere
of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and
enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age,
sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must
be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to
new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon
how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for
our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be
lasting peace in the world.
One of the great American industrialists of our daya man who has rendered
yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave
dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen
share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should developif history were
to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the
1920'sthen it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our
enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit
of Fascism here at home.
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic
bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress
so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress
in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate
with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event
that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the
Nation will be conscious of the fact.
Our fighting men abroad- and their families at home- expect such a program
and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this
Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish
pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are
The foreign policy that we have been followingthe policy that guided
us at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheranis based on the common sense principle
which was best expressed by Benjamin Franklin on July 4, 1776: "We must
all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war.
There is only one front. There is one line of unity which extends from
the hearts of the people at home to the men of our attacking forces in
our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the
factory and the field, and the mine as well as of the battleground- we
speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his Government.
Each and every one of us has a solemn obligation under God to serve
this Nation in its most critical hourto keep this Nation great to make
this Nation greater in a better world.