Editor's note: Roosevelt gave this address over radio from the Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York, on July 4, 1941. That day he proclaimed the holiday as a beacon for the world in its fight for freedom. Little did the nation know that only a few months later on December 7, Pearl Harbor would be bombed and the nation would be at war. (Source of speech text: New York Times, 5 July 1941, 6.)
My fellow Americans:
In 1776, on the Fourth day of July, the representatives of the several States in Congress assembled, declaring our independence, asserted that a decent respect for the opinion of mankind required that they should declare the reasons for their action. In this new crisis, we have a like duty.
In 1776 we waged war in behalf of the great principle that government should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed. In other words, representation chosen in free election. In the century and a half that followed, this cause of human freedom swept across the world.
But now, in our generation in the past few years a new resistance, in the form of several new practices of tyranny, has been making such headway that the fundamentals of 1776 are being struck down abroad and definitely, they are threatened here.
It is, indeed, a fallacy, base on no logic at all, for any American to suggest that the rule of force can defeat human freedom in all the other parts of the world and permit it to survive in the United States alone. But it has been that childlike fantasy itself that misdirected faith which has led nation after nation to go about their peaceful tasks, relying on the thought, and even the promise, that they and their lives and their government would be allowed to live when the juggernaut of force came their way.
It is simple I could almost say simple-minded-for us Americans to wave the flag, to reassert our belief in the cause of freedom and to let it go at that.
Yet, all of us who lie awake at night all of us who study and study again know full well that in these days we cannot save freedom with pitchforks and muskets alone after a dictator combination has gained control of the rest of the world.
We know that we cannot save freedom in our own midst, in our own land, if all around us our neighbor nations have lost their freedom.
That is why we are engaged in a serious, in a mighty, in a unified action in the cause of the defense of the hemisphere and the freedom of the seas. We need not the loyalty and unity alone, we need speed and efficiency and toil and an end to backbiting, an end to the sabotage that runs far deeper than the blowing up of munitions plants.
I tell the American people solemnly that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship.
And so it is that when we repeat the great pledge to our country and to our flag, it must be our deep conviction that we pledge as well our work, our will and, if it be necessary, our very lives.
This page last updated March 2011. Go back to the Fourth of July homepage