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Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, 1936

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FDR's Speech at the Cotton Bowl, June 12, 1936

FDR's Speech at the Cotton Bowl, June 12, 1936

"I have come here to bear the tribute of the Nation to you on your 100th birthday. You are 100 years young."

"I am here also because I conceive it to be one of the duties and the privileges of the presidency to visit, from time to time, every part of the United States."

"When I was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Wilson in 1913 I had visited, as I recall, only about twenty States, but during the next few years I had the fortunate opportunity of going into all the others."

"Seeing things at first hand is a good habit. I have been fortunate indeed. For as a result of personal contacts with every part of the United States during many years past I have tried honestly to visualize the problems of every part of the land in their relationships to every other part, and to the unity of the whole."

"This great Centennial Exposition is not for Texans alone - it is for the people of the other forty-seven States as well."

"I hope they will take full advantage of it."

"During the past three years, with the return of confidence and the great increase in prosperity, the excellent custom of getting acquainted with the United States has asserted itself. We see a great tide of travel by rail, by plane, by ship and by automobile. We are indeed seeing things at first hand - may the habit spread."

"Coincident with the return of better days, we have witnessed three great expositions - The Century of Progress in Chicago, so popular that it was kept open for a second year; the California International Exposition in San Diego, which is open today in its second successful year, and the third is this fine exposition commemorating the centenary of the independence of Texas. May you have all the good luck you so well deserve."

"It is not mere acres that count in this world - it is rather, the character of the people who dwell upon them. You, the people of Texas, have been tried by fire in these hundred years. You have commenced a war for independence. You have been apparently defeated, and then you have won out. You have gone through the difficult days of the War Between the States and the trials of reconstruction. You have had to fight against oppression from within and without."

"Your farmers were among the first to rebel against exploitation by the railroads. In a period of monopoly, combinations, overcapitalization, high rates, poor service and discrimination against the small shipper, you established a landmark in the regulation of public utilities for the good of their users."

"Later, when industrial development came to Texas, you were confronted by corporations that got out of hand. Here again you called into play the old Texas spirit of freedom for the individual, and out of it came your anti-trust laws, preceded by only one other State in the Union."

"It is, as I recall in my history, a fact that during this period there were many prophets of evil who foretold the ruin of Texas by the enactment of legislation to curb these abuses. Yet it is a matter of record that several years later an authoritative survey reported this: 'No part of the Union is more prosperous, no other State has so systematically pursued a policy of corporation regulation, and no other State is so free from the domination of special interests.'"

"Why did the people of Texas do this more than a generation ago? They believed in democracy in Government. But they discovered that democracy in Government could not exist unless, at the same time, there was democracy in opportunity."

"You found that certain forms of monopoly - the combinations of public utilities and their businesses which sought their own ends - were un-Democratic because they were bearing down heavily on their smaller competitors and on the people they served, because of this they were taking away opportunity."

"Today we have restored democracy in Government."

"We are in the process of restoring democracy in opportunity."

"In our national life, public and private, the very nature of free Government demands that there must be a line of defense held by the yeomanry of business and industry and agriculture. Not the generalismos, but the small men, the average men in business and industry and agriculture - those who have an ownership in their business and a responsibility which gives them stability. Any elemental policy, economic or political, which tends to eliminate these dependable defenders of Democratic institutions, and to concentrate control in the hands of a few small, powerful groups, is directly opposed to the stability of Government and to Democratic Government itself."

"If the tendency in the dozen years following the World War had been permitted to continue, the inevitable consequences would have been the destruction of the base of our form of Government. For its splendid structure there would have been substituted as a natural result an autocratic form of Government."

"I have spoken of the prophets of evil who plagued your great reforms in Texas. They were blood brothers of some who seek to operate on a national scale. After you in Texas had done so much to restore democracy in opportunity, you found as we in other States found, that the evils we had sought to eradicate had merely jumped over the boundary into some other State. The old abuses of the railroads were finally curbed only after teeth were put into the interstate commerce law and a Nation-wide regulation was made effective. Banking reforms were tried in many States, but here again reform became effective only when the Federal Government was enabled to operate throughout the union. First by the Federal Reserve act, and finally by means of the splendid legislation of the past three years. Individual States attempted courageously to regulate the sale of securities or the control of exchanges, but you and I know that from the point of view of the Nation as a whole, the effective curbing of abuses was made possible only when the Congress of the United States took a hand by passing the securities act and the stock exchange act."

"So it goes with the constructive reform of many other abuses, which, in the past, have limited or prevented democracy in opportunity. The more progressive of the States may do their share, but unless the action of the States is substantially uniform and simultaneous, the effectiveness of reform is nullified, and crippled by chiselers, so, like many other evildoers, are, alas, still with us."

"The net result of monopoly, the net result of economic and financial control in the hands of the few, has meant the ownership of labor as a commodity. If labor is to be a commodity in the United States, in the final analysis it means that we shall become a Nation of boarding houses, instead of a Nation of homes. If our people ever submit to that they will have said 'goodby' to their historic freedom. Men do not fight for boarding houses. They will fight for their homes."

"I have spoken of the interest which all the country should take in this great exposition - I mean this as symbol for the concern which every locality should have in every other locality in every other State. The prosperity which has come to Texas through the products of its farms and ranches, the products of its factories, has been made possible chiefly because other parts of the Nation were in possession of the buying power, the consuming power, to use what you have produced. On the other side of the picture, thousands of factories and thousands of farms in the North and in the East have been enabled more greatly to sell their wares, because of the prosperity of you, the people of Texas. I have spoken not once but a dozen times of the necessity of interdependence of each State on every other State - it is a lesson which cannot be driven home or preached too often."

"I have taken great happiness in these past three years in the lessening of sectionalism which is apparent on every hand. More and more we have been thinking nationally. That in itself is good. But it would not have been good if at the same time we had not come to understand more deeply that the national good-neighbor policy must extend also to those neighbors who lie outside our national boundaries. You in Texas whose boundaries extend for hundreds of miles along those of our sister Republic of Mexico can well understand what the good-neighbor policy means throughout the Americas. We seek to banish war in this hemisphere; we seek to extend those practices of good will and closer friendship upon which itself is based."

"I salute the Empire of Texas."

Source: Dallas Morning News, June 13, 1936, p. 9

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