What Are We Fighting For?

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What are we fighting for? My answer to mothers and fathers is -- enviable, even glorious is your lot if you give your sons or bless their self-dedication to the highest and holiest of causes in which a people was ever engaged. Remember that you American men and women give your sons to no ordinary war, though outwardly it be war and nothing more. Remember that America is not in war for the sake of war. Grimly mocking paradox though it be, we have taken up the burden of war not for the sake of war, but for the sake of peace, which we would fain have bless victor and vanquished alike. We have taken up arms which we shall never ground until the world be made safe in the only way in which the life of nations dwelling together can be made safe, by democracy with peace and healing on its wings.

Remember this is not a war -- it is the war. It is the contest of the ages, which we and our allies together can make the last human holocaust, if we be mighty in war and even mightier in the generosities and magnanimities of peace. Your sons have taken up arms not to slay, but to bring the hope of unbroken life to countless generations unborn. As your sons bear fault to battle, be strong mothers and fathers in the knowledge that the sacrificial task unto which they are bent is nothing less than to make the world free. If suffering and agony be your and their lot, call to mind the little children of Armenia, the wronged women of Belgium, the enslaved men of Serbia, and know that these things can never again come to pass, if your sons, our younger brothers, be equal to the challenge which a free world cannot refuse to meet.

And when you join in the act of sacrifice, let your spirit be willing and even joyous as befits the task that summons. Forget not that the sacrifice is to be for that which is more precious than life, even as holy as love -- the liberty of men, the security of peace, the faith of nations. Your readiness to sacrifice may make sacrifice unasked hereafter, and your children's children, yea, all the children of men, shall dwell amid peace and security if the nobleness of the fathers be equal to the heroism of the sons. It is not too late to save the world, to make and keep the world free, to rebuild an order of life that shall be just and righteous altogether. That shall come to pass if you claim for your sons something better than life, remembering to a man's perdition to be safe, when for the truth he ought to die.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1959, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.