Celebrating the rights of all free laboring Americans

Following is the begining and end of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Labor Day address on Sept. 1, 1941.

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On this day — this American holiday — we are celebrating the rights of free laboring men and women.

The preservation of these rights is vitally important now, not only to us who enjoy them — but to the whole future of Christian civilization.

American labor now bears a tremendous responsibility in the winning of this most brutal, most terrible of all wars.

In our factories and shops and arsenals we are building weapons on a scale great in its magnitude. To all the battle fronts of this world these weapons are being dispatched, by day and by night, over the seas and through the air. And this Nation is now devising and developing new weapons of unprecedented power toward the maintenance of democracy.

Why are we doing this? Why are we determined to devote our entire industrial effort to the prosecution of a war which has not yet actually touched our own shores?

We are not a warlike people. We have never sought glory as a Nation of warriors. We are not interested in aggression. We are not interested — as the dictators are — in looting. We do not covet one square inch of the territory of any other Nation.

Our vast effort, and the unity of purpose that inspires that effort, are due solely to our recognition of the fact that our fundamental rights — including the rights of labor — are threatened by Hitler’s violent attempt to rule the world.

These rights were established by our forefathers on the field of battle. They have been defended — at great cost but with great success — on the field of battle, here on our own soil, and in foreign lands, and on all the seas all over the world.

There has never been a moment in our history when Americans were not ready to stand up as free men and fight for their rights. ...

Yes, we are engaged on a grim and perilous task. Forces of insane violence have been let loose by Hitler upon this earth. We must do our full part in conquering them. For these forces may be unleashed on this Nation as we go about our business of protecting the proper interests of our country.

The task of defeating Hitler may be long and arduous. There are a few appeasers and Nazi sympathizers who say it cannot be done. They even ask me to negotiate with Hitler—to pray for crumbs from his victorious table. They do, in fact, ask me to become the modern Benedict Arnold and betray all that I hold dear — my devotion to our freedom — to our churches — to our country. This course I have rejected — I reject it again.

Instead, I know that I speak the conscience and determination of the American people when I say that we shall do everything in our power to crush Hitler and his Nazi forces.

American workers, American farmers, American businessmen, American church people — all of us together — have the great responsibility and the great privilege of laboring to build a democratic world on enduring foundations.

May it be said on some future Labor Day by some future President of the United States that we did our work faithfully and well.

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