Roosevelt and Churchill: Christmas Eve 1941

Christmas Eve 1941 radio address to the world by FDR and Churchill

Roosevelt and Churchill: Christmas Eve 1941

By: George Noga – December 13, 2020

In addition to our regular fare of politics, economics, current issues and human interest, we publish mostly forgotten speeches that are particularly poignant and/or timely. In our Washington’s birthday post of 2/23/20 (on our website), we published his 1783 speech to Congress returning his commission – arguably the most consequential speech ever delivered. Today we provide the (lightly edited for length) remarks of Roosevelt and the unedited remarks of Churchill delivered at the December 24, 1941 lighting of the national Christmas tree, which coincided with Churchill’s visit to America.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Speech

“There are many sincere and faithful men and women in America who ask themselves this Christmas: How can we light our trees? How can we give gifts? How can we meet and worship with love and uplifted hearts in a world at war, a world of fighting, suffering and death? How can we pause, even for a day, even for Christmas Day, in our urgent labor of arming a decent humanity against the enemies which beset it?

How can we put the world aside, as men and women put the world aside in peaceful years, to rejoice in the birth of Christ? These are natural – inevitable – questions in every part of the world which is resisting the evil thing. Even as we ask these questions, we know the answer. There is another preparation demanded of this nation beyond the preparation of weapons of war. There is demanded also the preparation of our hearts; the arming of our hearts. And when we make ready our hearts for the labor and suffering which lie ahead, then we observe Christmas Day as we should.

The year 1941 has brought upon our nation a war of aggression by powers dominated by arrogant rulers whose selfish purpose is to destroy free institutions. They would thereby take from the freedom-loving people of the earth the hard-won liberties gained over many centuries. The new year of 1942 calls for the courage and resolution of old and young to help to win a world struggle to preserve all we hold dear.

Therefore, I hereby appoint the first day of the year 1942 as a day of prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings, of consecration to the tasks of the present and of asking God’s help in days to come. We need his guidance that his people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right, steadfast to endure the sacrifices and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace. Our strongest weapon in this war is the conviction of dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas signifies.

It is in that spirit, and with particular thoughtfulness of those, our sons and daughters, who serve in our armed forces on land and sea, near and far – those who serve for us and endure for us – that we light our Christmas candles now across this continent from one coast to the other on this Christmas Eve. We have joined with many other nations and peoples in a great cause. Millions of them have engaged in the task of defending good with their life-blood for months and years.

One of their great leaders stands beside me. He and his people in many parts of the world are having their Christmas trees with their little children around them, just as we do here. He and his people have pointed the way in courage and sacrifice for the sake of little children everywhere. And so I am asking my associate and old friend to say a word to the people of America – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain.”

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s Speech

“I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family; yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home. Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother’s side, or the friendships developed here over many years, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here. I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, when added to the kindliness of your welcome, convinces me that I have a right to sit at your fireside and share your Christmas joys.

This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and with the most terrible weapons science can devise, the nations advance on each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field.

Here, in the midst of war, raging over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each home and in every generous heart. Therefore, we may cast aside, for this night at least, the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children a night of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.

Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern tasks and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved, that by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world. And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.”


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