May 27, 1941 – A Fireside Chat At The Brink Of War – FDR And The National Emergency
A regular feature during the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt was the Fireside Chat, an informal address to the American people, where matters of national interest were discussed and a sense of transparency with the Oval Office was stressed. The Fireside Chats did a lot to keep America informed and tell it like it was, free of hyperbole and spin. In May of 1941 it was clear we were going to be brought into the fighting with the Axis, it was just a matter of when. The signs were apparent and the situations were bringing us closer to engaging in a shooting war – we were supplying the allied armies with the necessary materials and those countries with food and whatever aid was asked for – short of troops.
On May 27, 1941 President Roosevelt declared a state of national Emergency, in response to Hitler’s vow for world domination. it was this address where FDR echoed those famous lines from his 1933 Inaugural address in that “the only thing we had to fear, was fear itself”:
President Roosevelt: “As the President of a united and determined people, I say solemnly:
We reassert the ancient American doctrine of freedom of the seas.
We reassert the solidarity of the twenty-one American Republics and the Dominion of Canada in the preservation of the independence of the hemisphere.
We have pledged material support to the other democracies of the world—and we will fulfill that pledge.
We in the Americas will decide for ourselves whether, and when, and where, our American interests are attacked or our security is threatened.
We are placing our armed forces in strategic military position.
We will not hesitate to use our armed forces to repel attack.
We reassert our abiding faith in the vitality of our constitutional Republic as a perpetual home of freedom, of tolerance, and of devotion to the word of God.
Therefore, with profound consciousness of my responsibilities to my countrymen and to my country’s cause, I have tonight issued a proclamation that an unlimited national emergency exists and requires the strengthening of our defense to the extreme limit of our national power and authority.
The Nation will expect all individuals and all groups to play their full parts, without stint, and without selfishness, and without doubt that our democracy will triumphantly survive.
I repeat the words of the signers of the Declaration of Independence—that little band of patriots, fighting long ago against overwhelming odds, but certain, as we are now, of ultimate victory: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
In a little over six months, we’d be in the middle of it – but in May we were being prepared.
Here is that complete Fireside Chat from May 27, 1941.