FDR Dedicates Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Sept. 2, 1940 – Past Daily Reference Room
Dedication of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this September 2nd in 1940. FDR, as well as Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and many notables were on hand for the dedication, with the hopes it would serve to benefit the American people for generations to come:
President Roosevelt: “There is, moreover, another enemy at home. That enemy is the mean and petty spirit that mocks at ideals, sneers at sacrifice and pretends that the American people can live by bread alone. If the spirit of God is not in us, and if we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction.
It is good and right that we should conserve these mountain heights of the old frontier for the benefit of the American people. But in this hour we have to safeguard a greater thing: the right of the people of this country to live as free men. Our vital task of conservation is to preserve the freedom that our forefathers won in this land, and the liberties that were proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and embodied in our Constitution.
In these centuries of American civilization, greatly blessed by the bounties of nature, we succeeded in attaining liberty in Government and liberty of the person. In the process, in the light of past history, we realize now that we committed excesses which we are today seeking to atone for.
We used up or destroyed much of our natural heritage just because that heritage was so bountiful. We slashed our forests, we used our soils, we encouraged floods, we overconcentrated our wealth, we disregarded our unemployed—all of this so greatly that we were brought rather suddenly to face the fact that unless we gave thought to the lives of our children and grandchildren, they would no longer be able to live and to improve upon our American way of life.
In these later years we have tried sincerely and honestly to look ahead to the future years. We are at last definitely engaged in the task of conserving the bounties of nature, thinking in the terms of the whole of nature. We are trying at least to attain employment for all who would work and can work, and to provide a greater assurance of security throughout the life of the family.
From hard experience we know that the process is a long one, but most of us realize that if we can continue our effort without serious setbacks, the ideals of the American way of life can and will be attained by working everlastingly for the good of the whole and not for the good of any one privileged group.
So, from within our own borders, liberty through democracy can, I believe, be preserved in future years if we want to preserve it.
But there is a second danger—a danger from without. I hope, for example, that one hundred years from now the Great Smoky National Park will still belong in practice, as well as in theory, to the people of a free nation. I hope it will not belong to them in theory alone and that in practice the ownership of this Park will not be in the hands of some strange kind of Government puppet subject to some strange kind of an overseas overlord. I hope the use of it will not be confined to people who come hither on Government specified days and on Government directed tours. I hope the trees will not be slaughtered by the axe in order that a Government may conduct wars of aggression against other nations. I hope that roads and paths and trails will still be built in the cause of the liberty of recreation, and not confined to the ulterior purposes of a war machine controlled by an individual or by an oligarchy.”
Here is that complete address at the Dedication of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park – in addition to addresses by Interior Secretary Ickes, Governor Hoey of Tennessee and Governor Maybank of South Carolina, as heard nationwide on September 2, 1940