FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT - THE
THIRD TERM - 1941
The Ballot or the Bullet
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Franklin D. Roosevelt's Third
It follows the full text transcript of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Third Inaugural address,
delivered on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. -
January 20, 1941.
On each national
day of inauguration since 1789, the people have
renewed their sense of dedication to the United
day the task of the people was to create and
weld together a nation.
In Lincoln's day the task of the people was to
preserve that Nation from disruption from
In this day the task of the people is to save
that Nation and its institutions from disruption
To us there has come a time, in the midst of
swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take
stock to recall what our place in history has
been, and to rediscover what we are and what we
may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of
Lives of nations are determined not by the count
of years, but by the lifetime of the human
spirit. The life of a man is three-score years
and ten: a little more, a little less. The life
of a nation is the fullness of the measure of
its will to live.
There are men who doubt this. There are men who
believe that democracy, as a form of Government
and a frame of life, is limited or measured by a
kind of mystical and artificial fate that, for
some unexplained reason, tyranny and slavery
have become the surging wave of the future-and
that freedom is an ebbing tide.
But we Americans know that this is not true.
Eight years ago, when the life of this Republic
seemed frozen by a fatalistic terror, we proved
that this is not true. We were in the midst of
shock-but we acted. We acted quickly, boldly,
These later years have been living
years-fruitful years for the people of this
democracy. For they have brought to us greater
security and, I hope, a better understanding
that life's ideals are to be measured in other
than material things.
Most vital to our present and our future is this
experience of a democracy which successfully
survived crisis at home; put away many evil
things; built new structures on enduring lines;
and, through it all, maintained the fact of its
For action has been taken within the three-way
framework of the Constitution of the United
States. The coordinate branches of the
Government continue freely to function. The Bill
of Rights remains inviolate. The freedom of
elections is wholly maintained. Prophets of the
downfall of American democracy have seen their
dire predictions come to naught.
Democracy is not dying.
We know it because we have seen it revive-and
We know it cannot die-because it is built on the
unhampered initiative of individual men and