Founders' Day Dinner Address, Roosevelt College

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Founders' Day Dinner Address, Roosevelt College

16 November 1945 [Chicago]

Honorable Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to be here tonight and to dedicate Roosevelt College. I had a most interesting time this afternoon going to the College and seeing education which is being carried on in a really democratic way—a faculty and students working together and equally enthusiastic about democracy in education.5

I could not help thinking that it would have been a most interesting experience to my husband. He used to say that he would like to start a school; and I think that it would have had some things in common with Roosevelt College, as it was evident that they really loved the things that they were doing. And after all, education is at its best when everyone is so enthusiastic about the work that they're doing; that instead of being work, it's pleasure. That was the way you felt, not only the students, but the faculty felt, about their work at the College.

I like to think that when you live democracy, as they are living it there, that you are probably setting a pattern and doing the best kind of teaching because you're showing your city and your state and your nation that actually democracy in education can be a fact. Here it's working; the very things that people tell you won't work do work, and the people who make them work are enjoying it.

One of the boys who introduced me this afternoon was a little nervous, I think, but did a very good job. He had such pride in what his school was doing. And when you get that sense of pride, you know that real democracy is at work. And I think in this country that the best thing we can do today is to show the world that we here can really have in action the ideal that we have talked about and written about and sometimes forgotten, but that we can really have it work. And it can be done by young and old together.

Democracy is something which we have always talked a great deal about. But we've always known that we didn't really have a true democracy in all the things that we believed democracy should represent. But we knew that we had an ideal and that when we were ready, we would work to achieve it. Well, nothing made us hurry.

But now, we have to hurry, because the world has changed. The war has changed the whole world; and from now on we who talked about democracy have got to live it, because we know that unless we prove by our example to the world that democracy is not just words, it's something that through education you can achieve, then the world will have no proof that democracy is a possibility and that the things which make us live in peace together are possible, not only in the United States but in the world as a whole.

Here in this great city you have many, many races, many religions; and in Roosevelt College those races and those religions will meet. They will work together, and it will be an example of what can be achieved by cooperation.

I'm tempted sometimes to think that though we have been strong in the military way, and we have to be strong in the economic way, we also have to be strong, I think, in a spiritual way; because we have to lead the world and we know that we've built up here the strongest production center of the whole world. We know that we have today the greatest military power in the world. But sometimes I think we're a little appalled at the fact that we have to have the spiritual strength to lead the world, that we have to prove here that the world can live in peace. We are the proving ground. If we can do it, then perhaps the world can do it.

And that is something which is going to require education in many, many ways. It's not going to be enough in the future to have people who know how to make war. We're going to have to have people, too, who know how to cultivate an atmosphere in the world which leads to peace; because peace, as we all know, is just as hard to attain as victory in a war. We had to give the best that was in us to win the war.

Sometimes I wonder if we're going to have the courage and the strength to sustain our effort to win the peace. It takes just as much determination to work for peace as it does to win a war. And now we have before us that long-time struggle of teaching our people and teaching the world how we can live together and exemplify the great democratic principles.

I was asked a question the other day in a forum in Walter Reed Hospital,6 and I've talked about it several times since because I can't get it out of my own mind. A wounded boy looked up at me and said: "My wounds are hardly healed, and yet on every hand I hear it said that we will have to go to war again, that one of our allies is likely to be our next enemy. And here at home we men who fought for what we hoped to find, a better world to live in, are seeing nothing but dissension, people quarelling with each other over how they will do this and that. I sometimes wonder, Mrs. Roosevelt, whether it was worth fighting the war."

That's a pretty tough question to have a boy ask you. And all that I could think of was, "You fought and you won the war, so that we and you together might have the opportunity to work to build the better world that you dreamed of as you fought the war." But I think we have to do a little more than just talk about it. I think we have to do some very realistic education. And one of the first things, perhaps, is to face the fact of our own strength. Why should we be afraid of any other nation in the world? Why should we swallow a tale that perhaps we may have to fight one of our allies? Can't we remember that it was our planes and our tanks and our guns and our ammunition that helped all of our allies to stop the Germans, to stop the Japanese?7

We have, it seems to me, very short memories. If anyone should be afraid, it is of us they might well be afraid, for we have proved our strength in war. Now we have to prove that we can work together with all the peoples of the world where they have good will that we can build for peace, that we can educate our young people and that our old people can face a period which required immediate action, can face that period unafraid, can prepare to help the rest of the world and do it without fear, do it with good will; and they sense that our own strength and our own example can give the rest of the world the hope that will lead us all to peace.


1. Roosevelt College merged with the Chicago School of Music in 1954, reorganizing itself as Roosevelt University. Five years later, the university rededicated the institution to honor both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (Lynn Weiner, "Roosevelt University," Encyclopedia of Chicago,, accessed 22 September 2005).

2. Gross, Roosevelt University, 4.

3. "Mrs. Roosevelt to Dedicate New College," Roosevelt College News, 15 November 1945, vol. 1, 1, Roosevelt College Archives, RUA, ICRC.

4. ER's friends Marian Anderson, Pearl Buck, Ralph Bunche, Albert Einstein, Gunnar Myrdal, and Albert Schweitzer also served as early members of the Board of Directors ("History of Roosevelt University,", accessed 25 May 2005).

5. The college pioneered democratic decision making within its various governing bodies. Faculty, students, and alumni held voting positions on the University Senate and the Board of Trustees; faculty elected deans and the president. Not only did it admit anyone who applied and maintained academic standing, it also modeled its class meeting times around the work schedules of its students by holding small classes from early morning to late evening hours as well as on weekends. Refusing to build classes around lectures, the college preferred to use experimental learning practices and Socratic discussion models ("History of Roosevelt University,", accessed 25 May 2005).

6. October 23, ER attended an open forum with wounded army veterans at Walter Reed Hospital, the military's premier medical facility, in Washington, DC (MD, 26 October 1945).

7. During World War II, the Lend-Lease program supplied arms and munitions to Great Britain and the Soviet Union who fought as allies against Nazi Germany (OCAMH).

Assessing the Truman Administration

By late November, in addition to widespread labor unrest and consumer dissatisfaction with rising housing and rent prices, Truman, who received conflicting advice on price controls from OPA director Chester Bowles and OWMR director John Snyder on how best to manage prices and ration supplies, now had to manage conflicting demands on American farm products while deciding how best to administer foreign aid. Should price controls remain on farm staples? If not, how would the public, many of whom resented controls on their wages, react when they had to pay more for food? Furthermore, if rationing continued, how could America respond to the cries for humanitarian aid from Europe, where deprivation bordered on starvation, when the public questioned whether or not there was an adequate food supply for the United States? Lastly, how much debt should the United States assume as it lent funds to Great Britain, France, Yugoslavia? In short, the problems confronting Truman clearly showed "the difficulties of satisfying domestic consumers while meeting larger national obligations and moral imperatives" and the difficulties of questioning "liberal efforts at economic management that generally had served the country well in depression and war."1

November 4, ER's good friend Bernard Baruch released his letter to Representative Albert Gore (D-TN), who had requested the financier's advice on how best to evaluate the conflicting demands on the American economy. Baruch argued that the only way to "win the race between price and living costs" occurring at home and abroad was "to get an over-all picture of the balance sheet of the country—a kind of inventory that would show" the national debt and monies committed to Bretton Woods and UNRAA agreements, estimate the nation's productive capabilities, and "survey all our mineral, agricultural and other natural resources." Once this survey was completed, the nation could best decide how to manage wage, price, and production controls and the increasing international demand for American financial aid.2

ER thought this recommendation so vital that she devoted much of her November 14 column to Baruch's "very sensible suggestion" that "before we make loans to other nations, we should know exactly what our own resources for the future are going to be." A survey of this kind seems to me important," she wrote, "but it is difficult to estimate what you can do in the future, since the work of our engineers and scientists is one of the unpredictable elements in the picture. None of us knows what might be worked out by cooperation with other nations." She thought "the suggestion … that a world conference be held, at which world resources would be considered and future plans made" a smart one because it could lead to "better production in many lands and better trade facilities … planned to increase the prosperity of many nations. That is almost like world pioneering," she concluded, "and ought to appeal to the adventurous spirit in our own county"3

The following week she made the same suggestion to President Truman.

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Founders' Day Dinner Address, Roosevelt College

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