Fourth Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt
January 20, 1945 :
Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President,
my friends :
You will understand and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration
be simple and its words brief.
We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of
supreme test. It is a test of our courage, of our resolve, of our wisdom, of our essential
democracy. If we meet that test, successfully and honorably, we shall perform a service of
historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time. As I
stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my
fellow countrymen, in the presence of our God, I know that it is America's purpose that
we shall not fail.
In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable
peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war. We can and we will
achieve such a peace.
We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately, but we still shall
strive. We may make mistakes, but they must never be mistakes which result from faintness
of heart or abandonment of moral principle.
I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said in days that seemed to us then
to be secure and untroubled, things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes
we will be rising toward the heights; then all will seem to reverse itself and start
downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever
upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries
always has an upward trend.
Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument;
it is not perfect yet. But it provided a firm base upon which all manner of men, of all
races and colors and creeds, could build our solid structure of democracy.
And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons, at a fearful
cost, and we shall profit by them.
We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well being is
dependent on the well being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live
as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.
We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.
We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that the only way to have a
friend is to be one. We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion
and mistrust or with fear.
We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence and the
courage which flow from conviction.
The almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout
hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has
given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished
So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly; to see the way that leads
to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men; to the achievement of His will
to peace on earth.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1945