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FOREIGN RELATIONS: The Great Challenge

3 minute read

After 31,000 miles’ travel about the world at war, Wendell Willkie reported to the people of the U.S. The speech contained little of the color many had expected, little of the big Indianan’s personal experiences with the geography and the big & little people of the world. The speech drove mainly at the single outstanding world-fact that Willkie came back with:

The peoples of all the world look toward the U.S. with hope and a feeling of affection. There is a great “reservoir of good will” toward the U.S. But that reservoir is leaking because: 1) U.S. performance has not measured up to promises and 2) there is doubt about Anglo-American war aims.

The speech was direct and plain. Clearly and exactly Willkie told the people why the U.S. was highly regarded; bluntly he told them why that massive good will was endangered.

The greatly promised flow of war materials from this country is “tragically small.” Example: “I saw a warehouse that was supposedly an important distribution center for American materials. . . . The warehouse was about the size of my house in Rushville, which has ten rooms. But when I came to examine the goods in it, I found there were only enough to fill about one room of such a house. From this infinitesimal supply, materials would . . . finally trickle into the hands of those who so desperately need them—people who sometimes do not know whether to laugh or to weep when these crates and packages arrive. … If I were to tell you bow few bombers China has received from us you simply wouldn’t believe me. . . .”

On the matter of nonperformance he concluded: “Each of these countries [China and Russia] has lost as many men as we have in our entire Army. We owe them more than boasts and broken promises.”

The second great failure cited by Willkie was the failure “to define clearly our war aims.” Rightly or wrongly, people in the Middle East, in Russia, in China were not satisfied with the Atlantic Charter. People asked him: “Is there to be no charter of freedom for the billion people of the East?” All the peoples of the world, said he, are not ready yet for freedom. Many cannot defend it. “But today they all want some date [of self-government] to work toward, and some guarantee that the date will be kept.”

Finally Willkie stated the vast challenge the war, and the times that made the war, now present to the U.S. “Our Western world and our presumed supremacy are now on trial. Our boasting and our big talk leave Asia cold.” They—the peoples of the world—expect, said Willkie, that the U.S. will use its enormous power now to “promote liberty and justice … to accept the most challenging opportunity of all history—the chance to help create a new society in which men &. women the globe around can live and grow invigorated by freedom.”

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