Quotations from the book
The Defining Years 1933-1938
by Blanche Wiesen Cooke
If you have to compromise, be sure to compromise up.
Some people can't stand other people making a decent living.
Peace time can be as exhilarating to the daredevil as war time.
There is nothing more exciting than building a new social order.
It is misery that that drives people to the point where they are
willing to overthrow anything simply because life as it is is
not worth living any longer.
I have never felt people should be grateful for charity. They
should rightfully be resentful, and so should we, at the circumstances
which make charity a necessity.
Some of us have got to learn to be a little more unselfish about
sharing what we have.
[Franklin Roosevelt, 1935 State of the Union speech]
Throughout the world, change is the order of the day.... In
most nations social justice, no longer a distant ideal, has become
a definite goal. We seek it through tested liberal traditions.
We find our population suffering from old inequalities....
In spite of our efforts . . . we have not weeded out the overprivileged
and we have not effectively lifted up the underprivileged. .
We have, however, a clear mandate from the people, that Americans
must forswear . . . the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive
profits, creates undue private power over private affairs and,
to our misfortune, over public affairs as well....
"My first wish is to see this plague of mankind [war] banished
from the earth."
Private profit is made out of the dead bodies of men. The more
we see of the munitions business, of the use of chemicals, of
the traffic in armaments], the more we realize that human cupidity
is as universal as human heroism.... If we are to do away with
the war idea, one of the first steps will be to do away with all
possibility of private profit.
[On the need for a World Court]
We need a court of law to build up a body of international law.
No home is an isolated object . . . All of us buy food, and food
costs vary with conditions throughout the country and the world."
Trouble with sheep in Australia affected the cost of woolens in
Detroit. Wars anywhere touched the lives of our own children in
countless ways. But unless each family was aware and curious about
world conditions, public opinion would be nothing but a reaction
[Breckenridge Long, ambassador to Italy, rhapsodizing about the
achievements of Mussolini's new"corporate state." ]
"Italy today is the most interesting experiment in government
to come above the horizon since the formulation of the Constitution
150 years ago." Mussolini "is one of the most remarkable
persons . . . And they are doing a unique work in an original
manner, so I am enjoying it all.
[George Padmore's Crisis editorial - used in FDR's speech 1935
Where profits are concerned there is no morality among imperialists
To National Student Federation, December 1933]
It is natural to look upon war as glamorous, as showing supreme
love and sacrifice for patriotic reasons. But it is just as patriotic
and just as selfsacrificing to live for one's country in a way
to make it a help to the world and all the people in it....
I have always believed ignorance was a sure way to fall a victim
to propaganda. I do not believe in communism, because I do believe
in freedom and in our form of government, but I did not attain
that loyalty through repression.
The "privileged princes of these new economic dynasties,
thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself.
They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal
sanction...." They erected a "new industrial dictatorship"
which controlled the "hours men and women worked, the wages
they received, the conditions of their labor...."
For too many of us the political equality we once had won
was mean) ingless in the face of economic inequality. A small
group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete
control over other people's property, other people's money, other
people's labor-other people's lives. For too many of us 1ife was
no longer free; liberty no longer real....
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen
could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse
of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election
of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate
it is being ended ...
The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political
freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained
that economic slavery was nobody's business....
Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is
[indivisible]. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity
in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market
These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow
the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that
we seek to take away their power....
"There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some
generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected.
This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny...."
[Harold Ickes, 1936, about an FDR campaign speech]
FDR presented the fundamental issue that must be decided in
this, country . . . whether to have real f eedom for the mass
of people, not only political but economic, or whether we are
to be governed by a group of economic overlords. It is clear that
the President's speech created a profound impression in the country.
[ER's message to women in politics, 1936]
You cannot take anything personally.
You cannot bear grudges.
You must finish the day's work when the day's work is done.
You cannot get discouraged too easily.
You have to take defeat over and over again and pick up and go
Be sure of your facts.
Argue the other side with a friend until you have found the answer
to every point which might be brought up against you.
Women who are willing to be leaders must stand out and be shot
More and more they are going to do it, and more and more they
should do it.
[B]usiness and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking,
class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. hey had begun
to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage
to their own affairs. And we know now that Government by organized
money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
... true democracy is the effort of the people individually to
carry their share of the burden of government."
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering
We have to face the fact that there are economic causes which
bring about war.
I believe that anyone who thinks must think of the next war as
they would think of suicide.
How can we study history, how can we live through the things that
have lived through and complacently go on allowing the same causes
over and over again to put us through those same horrible experiences?
I cannot believe that we are going to go on being as stupid as
that. If we are, we deserve to commit suicide-and we will!
We can establish no real trust between nations until we acknowledge
the power of love above all other powers ....
We must reach a point where we can recognize the rights and
needs of others as well as our own rights and needs.
We will have to want peace, want it enough to pay for it, pay
for it in our own behavior and in material ways. We will have
to want it enough to overcome our lethargy and go out and find
all those in other countries who want it as much as we do...
People of the governing classes think only of their own fortunes
... This creates a perfectly artificial but at present most effective
secret bond between ourselves and Hitler. Our class interests,
on both sides, cut across our national interests.
The power holding group, meaning the capitalists and manufacturers
and business men, are distinctly reactionary ...
[Ambassador to Ireland John Cudahy, 1938]
[The] handling of the Jews.while shocking and revolting is from
any realistic or logical approach a purely domestic matter and
none of our business. It is not stretching the analogy too far
to say that Germany would have just as much warrant to criticize
our handling of the Negro minority if a race war between blacks
and whites occurred in the United States.
If you are in the South someone tells you solemnly that all the
members of the Committee of Industrial Organization (CIO) are
Communists, or that the Negroes are all Communists.... In another
part of the country someone tells you solemnly that the schools
. . . are menaced because they are all under the influence of
Jewish teachers and that the Jews, forsooth, are all Communists.
And so it goes, until finally you realize that people have reached
a point where anything which will save them from Communism is
a godsend; and if Fascism or Nazism promises more security than
our own democracy we may even turn to them.
Every time we shirk making up our minds or standing up for a cause
in which we believe. we weaken our character and our ability to
I think we need a rude awakening, to make us exert all the strength
we have to face facts as they exist in our country and in the
world, and to make us willing to sacrifice all that we have from
the material standpoint in order that freedom and democracy may
not perish from this earth.
... Are you free if you cannot vote, if you cannot be sure that
the same justice will be meted out to you as to your neighbor,
. . . if you are barred from certain places and from certain opportunities?
"Are you free when you can't earn enough, no matter how
hard you work, to feed and clothe and house your children properly?
Are you free when your employer can turn you out of a company
house and deny you work because you belong to a union?"