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you brought some of it with you. A man does not go out to seek the thing that is not in him. A man does not hope for the thing that he does not believe in, and if some of us have forgotten what America believed in, you, at any rate, imported in your own hearts a renewal of the belief. That is the reason that I, for one, make you welcome. If I have in any degree forgotten what America was intended for, I will thank God if you will remind me. I was born in America. You dreamed dreams of what America was to be, and I hope you brought the dreams with you. No man that does not see visions will ever realize any high hope or undertake any high enterprise. Just because you brought dreams with you, America is more likely to realize dreams such as you brought. You are enriching us if you come expecting us to be better than we are.
See, my friends, what that means. It means that Americans must have a consciousness different from the consciousness of every other nation in the world. I am not saying this with even the slightest thought of criticism of other nations. You know how it is with a family. A family gets centered on itself if it is not careful and is less interested in the neighbors than it is in its own members. So a nation that is not constantly renewed out of new sources is apt to have the narrowness and prejuice of a family; whereas, America must have this consciousness, that on all sides it touches elbows and touches hearts with all the nations of mankind. The example of America must be a special example. The example of America must be the example not merely of peace because it will not fight, but of peace because peace is the healing and elevating influence of the world and strife is not. There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.
You have come into this great Nation voluntarily seeking something that we have to give, and all that we have to give
is this: We cannot exempt you from work. No man is exempt from work anywhere in the world. We cannot exempt you from the strife and the heartbreaking burden of the struggle of the day—that is common to mankind everywhere; we cannot exempt you from the loads that you must carry. We can only make them light by the spirit in which they are carried. That is the spirit of hope, it is the spirit of liberty, it is the spirit of justice.
When I was asked, therefore, by the Mayor and the committee that accompanied him to come up from Washington to meet this great company of newly admitted citizens, I could not decline the invitation. I ought not to be away from Washington, and yet I feel that it has renewed my spirit as an American to be here. In Washington men tell you so many things every day that are not so, and I like to come and stand in the presence of a great body of my fellow-citizens, whether they have been my fellow-citizens a long time or a short time, and drink, as it were, out of the common fountains with them and go back feeling what you have so generously given me—the sense of your support and of the living vitality in your hearts of the great ideals which have made America the hope of the world.
PRESIDENT WILSON'S ADDRESS AT THE PAN-AMERICAN
FINANCIAL CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON, May 24, 1915
[The development of trade between North and South Americaboth as a temporary substitute for the uncertain markets of warring Europe and as a permanent asset—had been widely urged. Many and serious were the technical difficulties cited by those in a position to know. To eliminate some of these, and to obtain mutual knowledge of commercial and financial methods, the Secretary of the Treasury (W. G. McAdoo) called a conference of PanAmerican bankers and business men. Delegates came from eighteen of the American republics.] Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen of the American Republics,
Ladies and Gentlemen: The part that falls to me this morning is a very simple one, but a very delightful one. It is to bid you a very hearty welcome indeed to this conference. The welcome is the more hearty because we are convinced that a conference like this will result in the things that we most desire. I am sure that those who have this conference in charge have already made plain to you its purpose and its spirit. Its purpose is to draw the American Republics together by bonds of common interest and of mutual understanding; and we comprehend, I hope, just what the meaning of that is. There can be no sort of union of interest if there is a purpose of exploitation by any one of the parties to a great conference of this sort. The basis of successful commercial intercourse is common interest, not selfish interest. It is an actual interchange of services and of values: it is based upon reciprocal relations and not selfish relations. It is based upon those things upon which all successful economic intercourse must be based, because selfishness breeds suspicion; suspicion, hostility; and hostility, failure. We are not, therefore, trying to make use of each other, but we are trying to be of use to one another.
It is very surprising to me, it is even a source of mortification, that a conference like this should have been so long delayed, that it should never have occurred before, that it
should have required a crisis of the world to show the Americas how truly they were neighbors to one another. If there is any one happy circumstance, gentlemen, arising out of the present distressing condition of the world, it is that it has revealed us to one another: it has shown us what it means to be neighbors. And I cannot help harboring the hope, the very high hope, that by this commerce of minds with one another, as well as commerce in goods, we may show the world in part the path to peace. It would be a very great thing if the Americas could add to the distinction which they already wear this of showing the way to peace, to permanent peace.
The way to peace for us, at any rate, is manifest. It is the kind of rivalry which does not involve aggression. It is the knowledge that men can be of the greatest service te one another, and nations of the greatest service to onc another, when the jealousy between them is merely a jealousy of excellence, and when the basis of their intercourse is friendship. There is only one way in which we wish to take advantage of you and that is by making better goods, by doing the things that we seek to do for each other better, if we can, than you do them, and so spurring you on, if we might, by so handsome a jealousy as that to excel us. I am so keenly aware that the basis of personal friendship is this competition in excellence, that I am perfectly certain that this is the only basis for the friendship of nations --this handsome rivalry, this rivalry in which there is no dislike, this rivalry in which there is nothing but the hope of a common elevation in great enterprises which we can undertake in common.
There is one thing that stands in our way among others --for you are more conversant with the circumstances than I am; the thing I have chiefly in mind is the physical lack of means of communication, the lack of vehicles—the lack of ships, the lack of established routes of trade-the lack of those things which are absolutely necessary if we are to have true commercial and intimate commercial relations with one another; and I am perfectly clear in my judgment that if private capital cannot soon enter upon the adventure of establishing these physical means of communication, the government must undertake to do so. We cannot indefinitely stand apart and need each other for the lack of what can easily be supplied, and if one instrumentality cannot supply it, then another must be found which will supply it. We cannot know each other unless we see each other; we cannot deal with each other unless we communicate with each other. So soon as we communicate and are upon a familiar footing of intercourse, we shall understand one another, and the bonds between the Americas will be such bonds that no influence that the world may produce in the future will ever break them.
If I am selfish for America, I at least hope that my selfishness is enlightened. The selfishness that hurts the other party is not enlightened selfishness. If I were acting upon a mere ground of selfishness, I would seek to benefit the other party and so tie him to myself; so that even if you were to suspect me of selfishness, I hope you will also suspect me of intelligence and of knowing the only safe way for the establishment of the things which we covet, as well as the establishment of the things which we desire and which we would feel honored if we could earn and win.
I have said these things because they will perhaps enable you to understand how far from formal my welcome to this body is. It is a welcome from the heart, it is a welcome from the head; it is a welcome inspired by what I hope are the highest ambitions of those who live in these two great continents, who seek to set an example to the world in freedom of institutions, freedom of trade, and intelligence of mutual service.