A Call To Action
April 13, 1921 — Second Annual Meeting, League of Women Voters, Masonic Hall, Cleveland OH
There is not an audience in this country nor in any other one in all the world where an appeal for peace dos not stir the hearts of the people. There is not an audience before which a speaker may allude to international peace that does not respond. There is not anybody in all the world who is willing to say that he wants another war. There is not anybody who does not want peace, but how are we going to get it? That is the practical question, and it is not only a question fro us to decide in our own country, in our own states and cities, before we can act collectively with other nations, but it is for ourselves individually to think our way through.
We don’t settle the question when we have a million different points of view, or no point of view, but wait for somebody to act.
Everybody at this time is extremely careful about being no-partisan. I don’t care a rap about being nono-partisan. I am for disarmament.
I was for a Democratic League of Nations. I am for a Republican one, or any other kind. I believe in taking action upon questions of this kind and not writing too long. It does not matter what party is in or who is President. Our country is not judged by its parties, it is judged as a nation.
To-day there isn’t anybody in the world that knows what we are going to do; nobody in any other nation and nobody in this nation knows what we are going to do. But I ask you if there is anybody anywhere at this moment with an earnest crusading spirit who is campaigning to arouse America to lead in this matter. Oh, no! We are as stolid and as indifferent apparently and as inactive as though there was not before us the greatest question which was ever presented to the nations of the world.
It is a curious kind of psychology that is upon our nation. We have always been a nation in favor of arbitration. It was this country, I believe, that signed the first treaty of that character. We were leaders in it. We don’t believe in war as a nation. We are a peaceful people, and we are believers in the ideal of the voice of the people settling questions and not force. Well, then, we are the appointed ones to lead in this question.
It is difficult for any one here to believe what has been the result of the war on the other side. It is not possible to quite comprehend it without seeing the effects for oneself. Over there, where they are still war-worn they are trying to pull themselves together, trying to build up their old life on their bad money and bad economic conditions and bad feelings of every kind. We live in paradise over here in comparison; we are disgustingly fat and altogether well-clad.
All this we have. Then it becomes us to lead. How are we going to lead? Not by standing back and eating for somebody else to speak. Not by waiting, waiting. While we are waiting we will get another war. It is only by action. There isn’t anything that can’t be done in this country as a result of popular opinion. It is our government. There never was a President and there never was a whole Congress (I am not so sure about a Senate) that would not yield to popular opinion. It can do anything.
The people in this room to-night, were there no others interested in all the world, could put an to war if they would put themselves into it. One vote is of no value. Two votes are of no value. But a thousand votes standing for a common cause can be a wedge which will set he pace for political parties in the direction of those thousand people.
If we but stand together and know what we want we can get it. We want peace. We all want peace. We want to abolish that antiquated, barbarous, ridiculous method of settling differences by killing each other. We all want peace and yet we all stand back for somebody else to act.
Well, let us make a resolution, each and every one of us, to consecrate ourselves individually and collectively to the business of putting grr out of the world.
It isn’t necessary for a Republican to become a Democrat, nor a Democrat to become a Republican, but it is necessary to rise above the partisanship of either and both of these parties and say: “Here is a national issue, greater than any party or any man.”
Let us work then; let Mr. Harding know; let the Senate know. Let them know that we as a constituency of Congress expect action.
It is a terribly grinding thing to any one of us who has ever so little international interest to know what people abroad say of us. I don’t like to have people say that we are a provincial nation and I don’t like it because I know we are.
The other day a letter came from the President tov the Suffrage Association in France. She said in telling something of the new spirit that has come in France as a result of the difficulties over the reparations that they have withdrawn the invitation for the next Suffrage Congress to be held in Paris because the feeling is such that if German delegates were to come they might not be treated well. She said: “Oh, if we could only know what the United States is doing to do!” I have heard form one, two, three, four nations that nobody knows what we are going to do.
Our aloofness, our isolation, our silence upon the question! Oh, Americans, let us be silent no more; let us send a message across the sea and join hands with the men and women of every land who want to put this terrible thing out of the world. We can do it. but there must be no timidity among us; there must be no cowardice.
You know the most popular thing that anybody can say upon a public platform to-day is to say, “Let us stand fo international peace.” The most unpopular thing that anybody can say is, “Let us stand for it in this particular way.” He who wants to stand for this question and really wants to get behind and boost must do it with the understanding that he can afford to be unpopular; that he can afford to stand against the world; and I tell you it does not matter if there are only four or five together who are in the right, they must stand, and stand fast, and all the world will come to them, and all the world will surrender to them.
Then, let us get this vision; here we are called. How infinitely greater and higher is that call than anything fo all the wonderful things that are being discussed! I say to you women, you know that war is in the blood of men; they can’t help it. They have been fighting ever since the days of the cave-men. There is a sort of honor about it. It seems to me that God is giving a call to the women of the world to come forward and stay in the hands of men and say: “No, you shall no longer kill your fellow men.”
Source: Modern Eloquence, A Library of the World’s Best Spoken Thoughts, Vol. VIII, ed. Ashley H. Thorndike, (New York: P.F. Collier and Sons Corp.) 1925, pp. 77-80.