Albert Hall Speech

views updated

Albert Hall Speech

17 January 1946 [London]

Draft Second

(Information as to appropriate beginning … who is to be mentioned … will be furnished by W.W. Chaplin.)

I need hardly say that as one of the Delegates to this first United Nations Assembly meeting I am deeply moved by the welcome which the British United Nations Association has extended to us. This Association has a history. It did much to acquaint its people with the work of the League of Nations and arouse their interest in it, and it will continue its work for the United Nations.

{The United States has always wanted peace. It wants peace today and as a people we will work for the success of the United Nations Organization.}

Wodrow Wilson, who believed so whole-heartedly that an association of nations could be successfully formed and could keep the peace of the world, is being vindicated today since we are meeting again to carry on his idea. We have as a background the knowledge which we gained through the work done by the League of Nations. I hope we shall profit by the successes and failures of the League but that now we will not concentrate on looking backwards but will look forward and attempt to build an organization which truly shall represent the United Nations of the World.{5} My husband often said that first the war must be won but when that was done then all our efforts must be centered on building an organization through which all men could work for peace.

This first meeting is setting up the machinery. It has chosen the people who shall serve as representatives of their nations in the Assembly and the Security Council. Eighteen individuals representing the economic and social interests of the world have been elected to serve in the Economic and Social Council. They will all in the future take up the problems that must arise between nations and try to find solutions before they reach a point where the use of force is necessary. We must not forget that everyone who represents the people of one nation also represents the people of all nations for we now know that what happens to people in any part of the world is of concern to people in every part of the world.

The Secretary-General and the permanent secretariat will be taking a new organization … a new idea in fact … and making it a living, vital, functioning body which will grow from year to year and reflect their vigor, their imagination and their foresight. No organization, however, no matter how active its staff may be, even though its representatives come from every nation in the world, can accomplish anything unless the peoples make it their instrument. They must know their representatives and follow their activities with understanding and with constant interest. It is important that this organization and its representatives be a part of the consciousness of every citizen, and that every citizen feel a personal responsibility to face the problems which face his representatives. By his interest he will bring strength to his representative's actions. It is sometimes hard to arrive at the collective thought of any people but today we have more methods for spreading information and for keeping in touch with people than we have ever had before. All these methods of communication, I think, should be used to arouse and keep aroused the feeling among the people of the world that our problems must find peaceful solutions. The great destructive forces which man has now discovered make it imperative for the sake of the future of mankind that we grow in moral consciousness and in social understanding as rapidly as we have grown in scientific, industrial and mechanical knowledge.

In the hearts of men and women all over the world I am sure there are prayers, daily, that the war which we have just been through may be the last war which any young generation will have to engage in. On Memorial Day 1945 in this great city of London the Rev. A.C. Don preached at St. Margaret's Westminster.6 He said of those who died in this Second World War: "They died that we might live; may we so live that they shall not have died in vain. Let us then go forward into the unknown future with far-seeing vision and in the fear of God. So shall we keep faith with the gallant dead."

The King, in his address to the Chief Delegates, stressed the great opportunity before us.7 We, as delegates here, can look back upon a long line of men who have tried to bring peace on earth; who have labored singly and together for the brotherhood of man. I believe that if we keep before us and before our peoples the main objective which is that there shall be built an organization whose aims shall be to keep the peace of the world, we can succeed. As Delegates we shall have to remember that often our own special interests may have to be subordinated to the interests of the world as a whole. Human nature is sometimes greedy; sometimes selfish; but always, somewhere, there is a spark of the divine intelligence, and we may do well all of us to remember the injunction that "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it but whosoever will lose his life for my sake the same shall save it."8 Those are the words of one of the world's great teachers. We must be willing to learn the lesson that cooperation may imply compromise, but if it brings a world advance it is a gain for each individual nation. There will be those who doubt the ability of human beings to rise to these new heights but the alternative is not possible to contemplate. We must build faith in the hearts of those who doubt, we must re-kindle faith in ourselves when it grows dim, and find some kind of divine courage within us that will make us keep on till on Earth we have Peace and Good Will among Men.


1. The British United Nations Association, like its American counterpart, the American Association for the United Nations, was a successor to an organization that had been formed to promote pub-lic understanding of and support for the League of Nations. The earlier organization (the British League of Nations Union) had been headed by Lord Robert Cecil from 1923 to 1945 (DNB). See also n7 Document 80.

2. Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander (1891–1969) was deputy commander-in-chief to General Eisenhower of the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean theater in World War II, and led the Allies to many decisive victories. After the war, he was appointed governor-general of Canada. Sir Walter Citrine (1887–1983) was general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress. Lady Megan Lloyd-George (1902–1966), the daughter of former Prime Minister David Lloyd-George, was a Liberal Party member of the House of Commons. Lord Fisher of Lambeth (1887–1972) was archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 to 1961 ("Lord Citrine," TL, 26 January 1983, 14; "Lady Megan Lloyd-George: A Fiery Particle of Radicalism," TL, 16 May 1966, 12; "Lord Fisher of Lambeth: Former Archbishop of Canterbury," TL, 16 September 1972, 14).

3. MD, 21 January 1946.

4. ER preferred, when possible, to speak extemporaneously. Minutes of the first meeting of the US delegation record that:

Mrs. Roosevelt inquired regarding the clearance necessary for Representatives who were asked to make addresses before groups in London. She said that she had been asked to address a meeting in Albert Hall. Mr. Stettinius suggested that it would be wise to adopt the procedure followed at San Francisco whereby any member of the Delegation who was asked to speak would clear arrangements with Mr. McDermott and furnish Mr. McDermott a copy of the speech. This would insure that several Delegates were not speaking repetitiously on the same subjects. Mr. Vandenberg said that that would also make sure that the Delegation did not differ publicly. Mr. Connally said that the procedure was necessary to see that the Representatives did not take positions contrary to those of the Delegation. Mrs. Roosevelt asked for guidance on whether she must write out such short welcoming speeches as she expected to be called upon to give. She said she did not intend to speak regarding policy. She pointed out that there would be a great waste of time involved if all the speeches had to be written out in advance. Senator Connally thought it would be necessary to have advance written copies only as a matter of policy were involved. Mr. Stettinius said that he did not think it was necessary to write out all brief addresses, and said that the Delegation had full confidence in Mrs. Roosevelt's good discretion ("British Welcome to UNO: Delegates at the Albert Hall," TL, 18 January 1946, 2; United States Delegation to the General Assembly, First Delegation Meeting, USGA/Ia/Del. Min./1 (Chr), 2 January 1946, US Mission File, NARA II).

5. ER's notes indicate that she wanted the {} paragraph moved to this point in the text.

6. The Very Reverend Alan Campbell Don, dean of Westminster (1885–1966) ("Dr. Alan Don: Former Dean of Westminster," TL, 4 May 1966, 14).

7. George VI (1895–1952) reigned as king of England from 1936 until his death. On January 9 he hosted a banquet for the chief delegates at St. James's Palace. In his speech before the group, the king emphasized that the work of all three executive bodies of the UN, while difficult and challenging, remained the direct route to sustaining world peace (DNB; "The King's Welcome," TL, 10 January 1946, 5).

8. ER is quoting Jesus Christ speaking to his disciples, Luke 9:24 (King James Version).

On Jews, Relocation, and Palestine

ER told the press after the Senate confirmed her appointment to the US delegation, that she hoped she would "hear from people … about the various things which come up. It is important for the American delegation to realize the true feelings of the people at home." January 13, Aline May Lewis Goldstone responded to ER's request, objecting to her depiction of Jews as "only miserable, wretched human beings about whom something must be done." Calling her description a "discriminatory and prejudicial policy," she urged ER to move beyond seeing Jews in Europe as "objects of pity and charity" to seeing them as human beings with the rights of self-determination, "specific, ethno-political identity," and "their national territory, Palestine." "Regardless of how noble and important charity is," she concluded, "it has never solved any great problem in the history of mankind."1

About this article

Albert Hall Speech

Updated About content Print Article