It is my determination to pursue a policy of peace. It is my determination to adopt every practicable measure to avoid involvement in war. It ought to be inconceivable that in this modern era, and in the face of experience, any nation could be so foolish and ruthless as to run the risk of plunging the whole world into war by invading and violating, in contravention of solemn treaties, the territory of other nations that have done them no real harm and are too weak to protect themselves adequately. Yet the peace of the world and the welfare and security of every nation, including our own, is today being threatened by that very thing…
War is a contagion [disease], whether it be declared or undeclared. It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original scene of hostilities. We are determined to keep out of war, yet we cannot insure ourselves against the disastrous effects of war and the dangers of involvement. We are adopting such measures as will minimize our risk of involvement, but we cannot have complete protection in a world of disorder in which confidence and security have broken down…
America hates war. America hopes for peace. Therefore, America actively engages in the search for peace.
Questions President Roosevelt said that he wants to “avoid involvement in war,” yet “we cannot insure ourselves against the disastrous effects of war and the dangers of involvement.” Do you think that, in 1937, he could have predicted the US declaring war by 1941? Why do you think so?
If you believe that the US should have entered World War II by 1940, explain how you can use this speech to support your opinion. If you think the US should have remained neutral, explain how you can use this speech to support your opinion.
How would seeing this headline have made you feel if you saw it in America in 1938? Why?
Do you think America has the responsibility to get involved in other countries when the government attacks people in its borders? Why or why not?
German troops parade through Warsaw after the surrender of Poland. Warsaw, Poland, September 28-30, 1939.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, German units, with more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defenses along the border and advanced on Warsaw in a massive encirclement attack. After heavy shelling and bombing, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27, 1939. Britain and France, standing by their guarantee of Poland's border, had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939. What emotions would you feel if you were Polish, watching these German soldiers marching through your country? How would it be different if you were an American seeing this image in a newspaper?
How do this image and the fact that Germany invaded Poland influence your opinion on whether the US should have entered World War II by 1940? Why?