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“This Is No Ordinary Time”

Tensions ran high as Eleanor Roosevelt approached the podium to address the delegates of the 1940 Democratic National Convention. The prior evening’s raucous proceedings, which ledĀ  to FDR’s nomination for an unprecedented third term candidacy, had been long and trying. Now FDR’s subsequent insistence on Henry Wallace as Vice Presidential running mate was unpopular and controversial. The war in Europe loomed threateningly over the American psyche and ideological differences concerning neutrality, and a host of other political issues exposed fissures in the Democratic Party ranks. The Convention was at a standstill and bordered on outright revolt.

FDR (who was in Washington) and Frances Perkins (on the ground in Chicago) encouraged Mrs. Roosevelt to immediately fly to Chicago to bring the party together. She agreed to do so, and when she appeared on stage that night she called for unified action, saying [excerpt]:

“You must know that this is the time when all good men and women give every bit of service and strength to their country that they have to give. This is the time when it is the United States that we fight for, the domestic policies that we have established as a party that we must believe in, that we must carry forward, and in the world we have a position of great responsibility.

We cannot tell from day to day what may come. This is no ordinary time. No time for weighing anything except what we can do best for the country as a whole, and that responsibility rests on each and every one of us as individuals.”

The effect of her words was transformative. A silence marked by respect and admiration followed her message, somberly and palpably shifting the atmosphere. Balloting began immediately after she sat down and the Convention went on to nominateĀ  Henry A. Wallace to run alongside Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

Eleanor Roosevelt delivered this historic speech using only a single page of notes:

Eleanor Roosevelt's notes for the 1940 convention speech

Eleanor Roosevelt's 1940 Convention notes

Read the full speech online by visiting the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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