Eleanor Roosevelt on Causes and Cures of War


This audio is part of the larger project The First Family of Radio: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Historic Broadcasts. You can download the entire radio hour from our podcast feed (iTunes).

January 9, 1938

ER was a guest star on the popular Sunday afternoon program “The Magic Key,” presented by RCA. She had long been an opponent of war. As war with Germany loomed, ER argued for economic boycotts and international cooperation to combat fascism. She also warned that military force might become necessary. -Stephen Smith


ANNOUNCER BEN GRAUER: In radio and television, it’s RCA all the way!


ANNOUNCER MILTON CROSS: The Radio Corporation of America presents: The Magic Key!


CROSS: The Magic Key turns. One hundred and three leading radio stations from coast to coast in the United States, in Canada, Cuba, and Hawaii, are linked in one network to bring you this program in the interest of the family of RCA, whose members include RCA Victor, RCA Institutes, Radiomarine, RCA Communications, and the National Broadcasting Company. Today, the Radio Corporation of America presents Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking from Washington in a two-way interview with Linton Wells, in New York; the sensational new tenor of the Metropolitan Opera, Carl Hartmann; the popular rhythm stylist Joan Edwards; and Frank Black, who opens the program conducting the Magic Key Orchestra in the Andalusian dance “Ritmo,” by Manuel Infante.




CROSS: Living in the White House at Washington is an American wife, mother, and grandmother whose life is bound by special ties to the very fabric of our country’s welfare. Today, international amity seems more difficult of achievement than ever before. But this discouraging outlook has served only to inspire this distinguished woman, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, to express her sincere beliefs on the subject of world peace. The family of RCA is honored to present the eminent author of a thoughtfully written new book, This Troubled World. Speaking from Washington, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt will discuss the question of permanent world peace with Linton Wells, Magic Key commentator, in New York. The Magic Key turns to Linton Wells.

LW: Good afternoon, Mrs. Roosevelt.

ER: Good afternoon, Mr. Wells.

LW: Mrs. Roosevelt, being realists, we know that suspicions and hatreds among nations have brought this world of ours to the verge of chaos. Now, as never before, rational men and women search desperately for ways to reestablish international concord and advance the cause of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. America is acknowledged to be the world’s most peace-loving nation. Yet we seem unable to inspire other countries to peaceful pursuits. Why do you think this has happened?

ER: The answer is simple. The causes of war are varied. Sometimes nations find themselves in restricted areas with growing populations. They must expand. This means conquering their neighbors and obtaining new territory, if not actually nearby, at least some territorial possessions in a more distant land. Or, nations lack raw materials. They are unable to produce certain necessary articles and this drives them to war in order to control the sources of materials which they consider necessary to their existence. Hereditary fear of other nations will force nations into a belligerent attitude, keep them constantly looking for trouble. This is good preparation for war but certainly no way to ensure peace.

In addition, internal conditions in nations can grow so bad that the people themselves will feel that life is so little worth living they might just as well go to war on the chance that they may improve their situation if they live through the war.

LW: History most certainly is filled with shocking examples of such international conduct.

ER: We are, fortunately, situated with enough land for our needs at present and an amazing amount of natural resources. We need comparatively little from other nations. We have few traditional fears. We are a self-confident and self-reliant people, and on the whole self-sufficient. Our fortunate situation, however, does not mean that we can persuade others to have the same sense of security that we have ourselves. And a sense of security is vital to a peaceful world. That is why we haven’t been successful in making other nations adopt our own attitude. Their circumstances are different; they cannot very well see our point of view.

LW: Mrs. Roosevelt, you have said that it is easier to keep out of situations which lead to war than it is to bring about peace once war is going on. We also understand that you have been asked to consider idealistic permanent peace plans without number. Undoubtedly you must have evolved a plan of your own which would safeguard the peace of the world, if it could be sincerely tried out. Won’t you please tell us about it?

ER: In writing my book, This Troubled World, I stated that I thought there was no plan which could, at the present time, ensure peace. For we must have a real change in human nature as a basis for any permanent peace plan. I think, however, that we should work toward the getting together of representatives of different nations, either in sectional groups or in a central group. Gradually, nations will come to feel that they can bring their grievances and problems to these groups for discussion. In that way they can get world opinion to help them solve their difficulties before they actually come to using force.

LW: Granted that the present League of Nations has failed to maintain world peace, why do you think a reconstituted international body with a strong police force would be any more successful?

ER: The present League of Nations does not represent every nation in the world. And whether we like to acknowledge it or not, the fact that we are not in it has militated against its success. We are a strong and peace-loving nation, and can, because of our position, hold to an objective and disinterested point of view. An international body which was truly representative, and which devoted itself to research and discussion, would be very helpful in preventing wars. It would have to be backed, however, by peoples who truly wanted peace and tried to exercise the kind of self-discipline and self-restraint and unselfishness which the maintenance of peace requires. A police force will be essential, I think, for a time, just as it is essential in communities to enable us to restrain the elements which insist on the use of force in opposition to the will of the majority of nations.

LW: Admittedly, the preservation of our civilization seems to demand a change in the attitude of humans toward each other. But this means changing human nature, and how do you think that can be done?

ER: By education and by spiritual growth. Admittedly, if all of us lived according to the doctrines of Christ, many of our internal problems would solve themselves. As well as external problems. But we are not accustomed to regarding questions that come up from the point of view of the Nazarene. It will take time to educate people to the realization that this point of view is an eminently practical one, which we were meant to live by.

LW: Do you really believe, Mrs. Roosevelt, that people can be taught the meaning of brotherly love and be persuaded to practice it?

ER: Why, of course I do. Certainly.

LW: We of the older generation know that there is no such thing as glory in war. But how can we strip war of its aura of heroic fiction and convince the adventurous youth of our country that, at best, it is a ghastly, useless struggle of destruction and extermination?

ER: Again, by education. And by an effort on the part of our generation to keep before youth a real picture of war, and the futility of the belief that wars have really settled the questions over which they were fought.

LW: One final question, Mrs. Roosevelt. Is it your belief that the United States could restore stability to the world by maintaining its land, sea, and air forces on a basis of second-to-none on Earth?

ER: Certainly not. No one nation can be arrogant enough to believe that if they build up a tremendous war machine they will not have the same temptation to use it as other nations have in the past. We, like other nations, must have adequate forces for defense. Of course, this does not mean that any one nation, by itself, can achieve world peace by being the world’s policeman. This can only be achieved by an honest desire on the part of all the nations concerned, and by mutual cooperation.

LW: Thank you very much, Mrs. Roosevelt, for the encouragement you have given us today. We sincerely hope that what you have said and written will aid materially in solving the problems of this troubled world. Good-bye, Mrs. Roosevelt.

ER: Good-bye, Mr. Wells.

GRAUER: You have just heard Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking from Washington in a two-way interview with Linton Wells in New York, on the subject of world peace, as discussed in her recently published book, This Troubled World. This is the National Broadcasting Company.