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Editorial: Vote!

The following is an excerpt from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s final campaign radio speech of the 1936 presidential campaign.

November 02, 1936 

Tomorrow fifty-five million Americans are eligible to vote. I hope that all of those fifty-five millions will vote.

I like to think of these millions as individual citizens from Maine to the southern tip of California, from Key West to Puget Sound – farmers who stop their fall plowing long enough to drive into town with their wives – wage earners stopping on the way to work or the way home –business and professional men and women – town and city housewives – and that great company of youth for whom this year’s first vote will be a great adventure.

Americans have had to put up with a good many things in the course of our history. But the only rule we have ever put up with is the rule of the majority. That is the only rule we ever will put up with. Spelled with a small “d” we are all democrats.

In some places in the world the tides are running against democracy. But our faith has not been unsettled. We believe in democracy because of our traditions. But we believe in it even more because of our experience.

• • •

When you and I stand in line tomorrow for our turn at the polls, we shall stand in a line which reaches back across the entire history of our nation.

Washington stood in that line and Jefferson and Jackson and Lincoln. And in later days Cleveland stood there and Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. All these – in their day-waited their turn to vote. And rubbing elbows with them – their voting equals – is a long succession of American citizens whose names are not known to history but who, by their vote, helped to make history.

Every man and every woman who has voted in the past has had a hand in the making of the United States of the present. Every man and woman who votes tomorrow will have a hand in the making of the United States of the future. To refuse to vote is to say: “I am not interested in the United States of the future.”

We who live in a free America know that our democracy is not perfect. But we are beginning to know also that, in self-government as in many other things, progress comes from experience. People do not become good citizens by mandate. They become good citizens by the exercise of their citizenship and by the discussions, the reading, the campaign give-and-take which help them make up their minds how to exercise that citizenship.

Not only are people voting in larger numbers this year. They also know more this year than ever before about the real issues. They are thinking for themselves. They listen to both sides. They no longer accept at face value opinions or even statements from newspapers, from political spokesmen and from so-called leaders of their communities. They insist on checking up.

I doubt if there was ever more downright political intelligence at the average American fireside than there is today.

• • •

Whoever is elected tomorrow will become the President of all the people. It will be his concern to meet the problems of all the people with an understanding mind and with no trace of partisan feeling.

Any President should welcome any American citizen or group of citizens who can offer constructive suggestions for the management of government or for the improvement of laws.

Society needs constant vigilance and the interest of individual men and women.

And when you go to the ballot box tomorrow, do not be afraid to vote as you think best for the kind of a world you want to have. There need be no strings on any of us in the polling place.

In the polling booth we are all equals.

• • •

Sometimes men wonder overmuch what they will receive for what they are giving in the service of a democracy – whether it is worth the cost to share in that struggle which is a part of the business of representative government. But the reward of that effort is to feel that they have been a part of great things, that they have helped to build, that they have had their share in the great battles of their generation.

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