Guarding the Gift of Freedom

Lucius D. Clay - Chatham, Massachusetts
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, November 6, 2009
Lucius D. Clay
Truman Library photo

From the 1950s series, General Lucius D. Clay believes freedom is a privilege given by God, and one that must be carefully guarded by all citizens. And he calls upon Americans to make this country one that provides equal opportunities for all.

Themes: war
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In the middle of the war against Hitler, if somebody had told me that I would one day be standing in the heart of Berlin before several hundred thousand of its citizens demonstrating their desire to be free, I would have said that person was crazy. Yet that very thing happened to me recently when I returned to the former German capital with the Freedom Bell, the symbol of the American campaign to pierce the Iron Curtain with the propaganda of truth. In open and dangerous defiance of the Russians and their East German puppets, thousands of West and East Berliners gathered in the middle of the city in a moving demonstration against tyranny. If they had believed in tyranny a few years before, they believed in it no longer. They had seen what democracy could mean and they wanted it.

I cite this incident to support my conviction that, given the proper circumstances, and some hope, man as an individual, wherever he may live, will demonstrate that he is inherently honest and decent. He wants little more than to live in friendship with his neighbor, in reasonable security, and to raise his children so they may find opportunity before them.

I think the troubled world in which we live should not dismay us. I believe the world today is historically a better world than the world of the past. Though ruthless men still maintain power through force and would extend power through conquest, people everywhere are becoming more tolerant and understanding than ever before. More peoples and more governments are willing to cooperate, to work together for peace and freedom, than at any time in history. At home we are more tolerant and understanding with each other, more willing to help our less fortunate neighbor here and abroad.

This, to me, is hopeful progress. It stems, I think, from the spread of freedom in which I believe and which I hold God gave us as a privilege. Like all precious possessions, freedom must be guarded carefully. I ask myself how I can best help guard it and the answer I find is in citizenship. In my view, to be a good citizen does not require the holding of public office, the achievement of either political or financial success. But it does require that I vote from conviction, that I participate in community activities to the extent that I am able, that I be honest with myself and with others.

God has been good to us as a people. As I see it, we can return thanks for the position of leadership which we now hold in world affairs, only as we exercise this leadership to bring about freedom and peace. We can lead abroad only as we continue to improve our life at home, to truly become a land in which there is equal opportunity for all. This brings me back to the personal responsibility of the individual. I believe I can improve my life here and, perhaps, help others, only as I show pride in my country by finding the time to try to be a good citizen and by being grateful to God for His goodness.

During World War II, General Lucius D. Clay was Director of Materiel for the Army and then Deputy Director for War Mobilization and Reconversion. After the war he was U.S. Military Governor of Germany. Clay ordered and organized the massive air-lift to feed people in Soviet-blockaded Berlin.