Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

FDR Addresses Congress 60 Years Ago: ‘Arsenal of democracy is making good.’

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1943 State of the Union Address

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Sixty years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress. President Roosevelt didn’t lay out any legislative proposals but instead focused on the events and needs of the world war. “I think the arsenal of democracy is making good,” Roosevelt told the 78th Congress and the nation in his January 7, 1943 address.

Just two years before, Roosevelt had delivered his “Four Freedoms” speech. Roosevelt used the occasion of the 1943 State of the Union to remind the country that “freedom from want,” which he defined as the right of employment and the right of assurance against life’s hazards, would be a significant task facing the country in the coming years. Furthermore, the extension of two new rights in the Four Freedoms speech – “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear” – beyond what had been guaranteed by the Constitution promised a significant expansion of the federal government. Roosevelt linked these two freedoms and justified their pursuit as necessary to the future prosperity of the nation in his address to the 78th Congress and the nation in 1943:

In this war of survival we must keep before our minds not only the evil things we fight against but the good things we are fighting for. We fight to retain a great past—and we fight to gain a greater future.
Let us remember, too, that economic safety for the America of the future is threatened unless a greater economic stability comes to the rest of the world. We cannot make America an island in either a military or an economic sense. Hitlerism, like any other form of crime or disease, can grow from the evil seeds of economic as well as military feudalism.
Victory in this war is the first and greatest goal before us. Victory in the peace is the next. That means striving toward the enlargement of the security of man here and throughout the world—and, finally, striving for the fourth freedom—freedom from fear.

Read and listen to the full address here.