Select Page

At the San Francisco Civic Auditorium

March 27, 1943 — San Francisco CA


Because China and San Francisco are only separated by an expanse of water, in speaking to you today I feel very close to my homeland; and because amongst you there live so many of my people, I am particularly touched and gratified at the warm welcome which you have accorded me. I need not tell you how greatly I appreciate and treasure the pledges of friendship which you have given by act and words to China and me.

While flying from Chungking to New York, and again while traversing your great country, I reflected on the changing climate and topography which I experienced and surveyed. I marveled at the varied surface of your beautiful land modeled by the gargantuan hand of plentiful Providence. Your Great Lakes, clustering in the North and covering some sixty thousand square miles, shimmer like gems studded over a vast continent. Through the great center valley flows your Mississippi, a river system of a thousand miles. From a thousand and more miles of rolling prairies and fertile plains; from the cold of the North to the warmth of the Great Gulf, the whole valley gently slopes from east to west like a tilted floor, with the Colorado River tearing its way down to the Gulf of California west of the Mississippi River.

America and China are both blessed with large areas of lands in the Temperate Zone, and yet we have the extremes of cold and heat. Our great Manchurian plains in the northeast, our deserts with their snow-capped mountains rising sheer and straight from the plains of Mongolia, and our rich countryside stretching to the subtropic emerald isles dotted around Canton and its vicinity, present as colorful and as varied a topography as your America. The Yangtze River with its turbulent gorges, and the Yellow River which meanders its way from the west to the east, cover territories as diverse and rich in resources and underground minerals as your vast plains and priairies. The bluffs of the Yangtze gorges, towering in somber majesty, find their parallel in the austerity of your Rockies, and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys have their counterpart in the rolling hills of Hangchow and Fenghua. Spacious skies, spacious earth; thus I found myself comparing your country with mine.

Today we both are threatened by the lowering clouds of evil forces which, if they could, would deprive us not only of our beloved lands, but would uproot from our hearts the traditions we treasure, and erase from our minds the principles we cherish.

But far be it from being necessary that to defend and preserve what we love we must all literally shoulder arms. This would be neither practical nor practicable, for those of us who are holding the home front have a task which is just as important and vital as any being per formed by our armed forces on the battlefields. Our task is to insure that the ideals of justice and freedom for which we are fighting find actuation in deeds now and in the halcyon days of peace.

In this we are not alone. History gives pertinent examples of what we have in mind. I recall that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the powers of absolutism not only gained ascendancy in Europe but were vested with the legal mantle, deriving the authorities of kings from the Godhead. Men, however, like the great Spanish Jesuit, Suarez, and John Pym in England, were not intimidated by the overwhelming forces arrayed against them. They fought for their convictions; they paid the price of unpopularity with the ruling class of the time, but in the end, as we look back, we know that they helped toward achieving the goal.

This is as true of an individual in his unremitting efforts to conquer inertness as it is true of a people. After the defeat of Napoleon III at Sedan, when the Prussian forces were in control of the forts of Paris to the north and east of the city, the French Nation, facing stupendous difficulties, pursued with unquenchable courage the quest for her rightful place in subscribing her effort to the betterment of the world.

You and I realize that the days for financial and territorial conquistadores are over, and that in their place international understanding and good will must be exercised as the lodal star for the future of mankind.

We are aware, too, that genius and creative thought are not delimited by race or creed. Goethe asserted that we are never in a position to draw a line of demarcation between what we have created by our own powers and what we have acquired from others. The impact of truth contained in these words derives greater impetus when we consider how distances are now so abridged by air traffic that the world has shrunk in space and size.

Another German philosopher, Schopenhauer, emphasized and reiterated the importance of the individual, and Lessing advanced the thought that the universal attitude could be the only attitude taken for man’s progress and advancement.

These philosophers were Germans, and the lasting contributions they made to man’s quickened perception were confined not merely to their own culture but extended to that of universal thought and civilization.

How then do we reconcile the pro found and humanitarian ideals of certain German philosophers to the oppression and degradation now being perpetrated by the present-day Germans as personified in the Nazis? My answer is that there is no possible reconciliation, for naziism has become a perverted form of national consciousness. This is true of Shintoism, and equally true of all other forms of narrow nationalism.

The present Nazi and Shintoistic indoctrinations of mendacity and deceit I attribute to the disjunctive reasoning of warped minds and they cannot endure; for only the truth and the convictions of the truth of human postulates can with stand the onslaughts of time and violence.

Some people maintain that falsity with repeated asseverations acquires that sanctity beyond inquiry and analysis, but you and I would maintain that only truth can stand the test of reality whether in the past, the present, or the future.

There is at present prevailing confusion of thought which must and can be dispelled only by clear, intensive, and analytic thinking, for judgment must be predicated on ideas, and ideas preceded by meaning. This method for the clarification of the mind, reinforced with honesty of purpose and intention, would bring forth an antiphonal concord. Judicious solitude for a thinking mind forms also an essential adjunct in evolving and developing ideas and in the implementation thereof.

During my recent illness in the hospital, I had again what was, for the moment, infinite time to reassess my emotions and convictions in relation to ideas. I asked myself why must the riches of the mind be cultivated only in quietness, solitude, and serenity? Why does the unhurried pace of ripe thinking lend harmony and creative originality to man’s endeavors? Could it be that in unremitting action the achievements of human progress and richness of spirit are thereby battened; or is action often times the substitute for purposeful thinking? For him who reflects, inner beliefs reached through tribulations and soul-searing experiences become profound convictions clarified and integrated.

China has been able to withstand the vicissitudes of ages because her thinking people have learned the wisdom of storing up valuable truths which are to be had if one will take the time and trouble to cultivate the inner self. You, too, realize the importance of the cultivation of the mind and the spirit through harnessing to your bidding the mechanical devices of the age. Industrial development and material comfort need not necessarily imply spiritual bankruptcy; nor leisure for thinking incongruent with vim and vigor for action. It is only when we place the emphasis solely on the material and neglect the development of the mind and the heart that decadence corrodes our being.

Oftentimes we hear learned discourses on the belief that the business of the Nation should not be relegated to the responsibility of a chosen few or, in that sense, the elite; for the elite theory, like the mythical theory of racial superiority, should be challenged by the common man. And the tenet of the common man should be the greatest possible good to the greatest possible number.

While we all agree with this thesis, have we ever thought how we should proceed to put into effect this program so that while casting overboard the elite theory we should, at the same time, offer a novation which would be competent to combat the gale of fallen ideologies?

Washington, on remarking upon the Constitution, wrote: “The warmest friends and the best supporters the Constitution has do not contend that it is free from imperfections but they found them unavoidable and are sensible if evil is likely to arise therefrom. The remedy must come hereafter. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom or possess more virtues than those that will come after us.”

Granting that panaceas and foolproof blueprints of a post-war world do not exist any more than a perfect Constitution, we should not blind ourselves to the peril that confronts us today. This peril is not the winning of the war, but the winning of the peace after this war.

In the fifteenth century, John Huss, who had been promised safe conduct for his return to his people, was burnt on a pyre. The Hussites of Bohemia, a part of present-day Czechoslovakia, inflamed by this dastardly breach of faith, rose against the German Emperor, Sigismund. Under their able and experienced leader, Ziska, they defeated the army that was sent by the German Em peror to compel them to return to ortho doxy against their will. Their aim was proclaimed in the Compact of Prague. But, unfortunately, factional differences developed anew amongst themselves — the Calixtines and Taborites — and were allowed to grow to such proportions that internal strife flamed up and culminated in the murderous self-destruction in the battle of Lipan.

When these two factions had a com mon enemy, they united and were strong against him. When they had defeated the enemy, they flew at each other’s throats. Will we avert similar disaster and again wisdom from this object lesson?

Let me relate to you a Chinese anecdote commonly known as the Peach Garden Oath. In the Han dynasty some two thousand years ago, there lived three men: Liu-Pei, Kuan-Yu, and Chang-Pei. Liu-Pei was of ingenuous birth; the other two of humble origin. They all were motivated nevertheless by a common ambition: To save their country from the corrupt officialdom and lawless elements then rampant.

They met together in a peach garden and took the following oath : “Though we three are of different surnames, today we swear brotherhood. We will work as one man for our common cause: To save our nation. For this we are willing to die. If any breaks this pledge, may he suffer eternal perdition. Heaven be our witness!

These three men portray the spirit of service to their country. We of the United Nations have a greater aim be fore us — the advancement of mankind — toward which voluntary service should be our deepest pride and vicarious pain our highest decoration.


Source: Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Addresses Delivered Before the Senate of the United States and the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 18, 1943, together with Other Addresses Delivered During Her Visit to the United States, (Washington: US Government Printing Office) 1943, pp. 18-21.