Monday, October 10, 2005

Harold Ickes: What is an American?

A speech given by Ickes in New York City, May 1941, before the United States joined Britian in the Second World War. Read it all, but here is the flavor...
I say that it is time for the great American people to raise its voice and cry out in mighty triumph what it is to be an American. And why it is that only Americans, with the aid of our brave allies--yes, let's call them "allies"--the British, can and will build the only future worth having. I mean a future, not of concentration camps, not of physical torture and mental straitjackets, not of sawdust bread or of sawdust Caesars--I mean a future when free men will live free lives in dignity and in security.

This tide of the future, the democratic future, is ours. It is ours if we show ourselves worthy of our culture and of our heritage.

But make no mistake about it; the tide of the democratic future is not like the ocean tide--regular, relentless, and inevitable. Nothing in human affairs is mechanical or inevitable. Nor are Americans mechanical. They are very human indeed.

What constitutes an American? Not color nor race nor religion. Not the pedigree of his family nor the place of his birth. Not the coincidence of his citizenship. Not his social status nor his bank account. Not his trade nor his profession. An American is one who loves justice and believes in the dignity of man. An American is one who will fight for his freedom and that of his neighbor. An American is one who will sacrifice property, ease and security in order that he and his children may retain the rights of free men. An American is one in whose heart is engraved the immortal second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

Americans have always known how to fight for their rights and their way of life. Americans are not afraid to fight. They fight joyously in a just cause.

1 comment:

Kayla said...

I have been doing some research on Harold Ickes, and I am most inspired by his persistance and courage throughout his interesting reputation and the lack of credit being given to him.
He was "Horrible Harold" and deemed the bogie-man, and other fanticiful horrors. His message however, was not fictional in the least. He was a great advocate in the civil rights movement, and was very dedicated to the morality in the decision to join Britain in WWII. Partialy beacuase of his colorful character, Harold L. Ickes was given little retribution in giving the great speech. In fact, on that day he gave this speech TIME magazine wrote an article about how Ickes was right, and that he was ingnored at this crucial time.