Address Delivered by the Secretary of State (Hull) at Washington, September 7, 1936

It is a great satisfaction to me to be able to welcome in the name of the Government of the United States the distinguished members of the Third World Power Conference and the Second Congress of the International Commission on Large Dams. I assure you that it affords us genuine pleasure to have you as our guests in the Nation's capital.

The subject of the development and use of power, the harnessing of the forces of nature to make them work for man, is of tremendous and increasing importance. Your meeting here in Washington is convincing proof of that assertion. Engineers in every specialized field, producers of fuel, operators of plants and distributors of power, and prominent Government officials have come here from more than 50 nations for the purpose of meeting together to exchange technical knowledge, experiences, and opinions. Power represents one of the largest single factors in any nation's economic structure; for upon power depend to a large extent industry, transportation, communications, and, to a growing degree, agriculture. And as the uses of power are extended to millions of people throughout the world, the influence upon society of this great expansion must have the careful consideration of us all. Those of you who are concerned with the development of power technology, and those of you who are interested in the organization and use of power resources, have before you almost unlimited opportunities for great service to mankind. Inventive and engineering genius have brought many of the luxuries of two decades ago within the reach of all today. Power and mechanical appliances conceived and produced by men of your training and experience are able to provide an even greater abundance of good things.

But, they also are capable of producing machines of destruction-engines of war. Unfortunately, a vastly disproportionate share of the skill and energy of scientists and statesmen alike is being devoted now, in many parts of the world, to the creation and organization of forces of destruction. Shall we allow this application of genius and energy to be dissipated in the agony of armed conflict, or shall we insist with all the determination at our command that they be employed objectively in the pursuits of peace? Shall the brains of the world be used to lighten the burdens of man, or shall they be used for the grim purposes of war?

The responsibility of maintaining peace in a world fraught with suspicion and fear, and torn by dangerous ambitions and conflicting political philosophies, rests not upon governments alone. This responsibility rests to even greater degree upon the shoulders of the thinking people of each land-people such as you who meet here to consider important matters common to every country. You meet in a spirit of friendly cooperation with no thought of chauvinism or political jealousy. You thus not only make progress in your own field of endeavor; you also advance the cause of peace. And the cause of peace is the cause of civilization: religion, science, culture, and social betterment only go forward in a world without war. Every war of the past has retarded the progress of civilization in direct proportion to the vigor with which it was pursued and the number of days, months, or years it has endured. Yet we find today a lamentable absence of appreciation by many responsible and influential statesmen that these present warlike tendencies can only lead to a world holocaust. Are we in this supposedly enlightened age so stupid that we cannot read this awful lesson of history? I refuse to believe that we are. I am convinced that once this lesson is fully learned by the people of the world, the unanimity of their response will secure to us the blessings of permanent peace.

And it is your duty as well as mine to teach this lesson. The people of the world must learn that war is a cruel mill whose stones are the misled hope of national aggrandizement and the selfish ambitions of unscrupulous persons. The oil and fuel of that mill are furnished by the fear and hate which come from distrust and suspicion. The grain for that mill is the valiant, patriotic youth of the world, ready to carry out the orders of the leaders who are too often reckless or ruthless. The grist from that mill is death-death to youth, death to hope, death to civilization!

Accustomed as you are, as men of science or men of affairs, to deal with tangible things and with exact facts, you are essentially realists I think the definition of realism as applied to international relations has greatly changed in the recent past. From the end of the World War up to a short time ago, those who labored to bring about the settlement of differences among nations by peaceful means were termed impractical idealists. The realists were those who put no faith in those efforts for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. They refused to believe in the possible effectiveness of this work for peace and held that it was futile to attempt to settle differnces between nations except by the judgment of the sword. But today the true realist in international affairs knows that, in the face of present threats, our efforts to devise ways and means of preserving the peace must be redoubled. The true realist is he who knows that the fabric of peace has been worn perilously thin; that if it is again torn asunder by the bloody hands of war it may never be repaired.

I spoke a moment ago of the great responsibility of governments and peoples to preserve the peace. In all history the weight of that responsibility has never been so great as at this hour. The world has countless times in the past known the horror and destruction of war. In each case it has labored back to the sanity of peace, sometimes quickly, sometimes only after long dark years of struggle. But the wars of the past, with the exception of the world conflict which began in 1914, give us no basis for judging the effects of a war of the future. If war comes upon us, it will be fought not alone by uniformed armies and navies but by the entire populations of the countries involved. Airplanes, poison gas, and other modern fighting equipment of which we can only conjecture would make the world a veritable inferno.

A general war now would set loose forces that would be beyond control-forces which might easily bring about a virtual destruction of modern political thought, with all its achievements, and possibly a veritable shattering of our civilization. Our one hope is that the governments and peoples of the world may fully realize the solemn responsibility which rests upon them all, and that realistic envisaging of the inevitable consequences will prevent their flying at each other's throats no matter how great may be their impulses and the fancied incentives. There exists today an unparalleled opportunity for those nations and groups which look forward with clear vision to bring about an early return to sane perspectives and relationships based upon full comprehension that the members of the family of nations must live together amicably and work together in peace or be broken in an utterly destructive misuse of the power and the instruments which, properly used, bear beneficial witness to the amazing constructive capacity of mankind.

I cannot too strongly urge that, with the great capacity which you possess and the influence which you can wield, you, the members of this congress, and your associates in every land, bend your efforts unceasingly toward perfecting programs of methods for the preservation and promotion of peace. I urge that you insist that the products of your constructive thought and efforts be devoted to constructive ends.

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 330-33.

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