The Ordeal of Wendell Willkie


OUT of long intimacy and the knowledge of certain factors that have never been made public, RUSSELL DAVENPORT has drawn this portrait of a man who helped change America. Some readers will disagree with his estimate of Wendell Willkie, and some will say that his deep, poetic feeling for his friend has carried him beyond the ordinary limits of the historian. Whatever the eventual verdict of history on these points, however, each of us should face two questions squarely: Where did I stand in those times of crisis? And how much did Wendell Willkie, by word or deed, help to clarify my thinking? THE EDITOR


FIVE years ago the United States was an isolationist power. It is true that the American people never actually voted for isolationism, whether in 1920, 1940, or 1944. Yet the doctrine was always in the offing. It was a powerful factor in our national life; it influenced our policy-makers; and it entered into the calculations of other nations in our regard. With the possible exception of Russia —which had, however, favored collective security during the thirties — we were more withdrawn into ourselves than any other major power.

Today that situation has been completely reversed: there has been a bloodless revolution as dramatic as any in history. No longer is America isolationist in comparison with other nations: rather, other nations are isolationist in comparison with us. It is no exaggeration to say that the American people as a whole are now the most world-minded on earth. Even the average Britisher seems to be less keenly aware of his involvement in the affairs of the world —especially those of the Pacific — than the average resident of the Mississippi Valley.

There are, of course, a number of obvious reasons for this profound and dramatic change. The war itself taught us lessons for which no amount of oratory could be a substitute. And the explosion of the atomic bomb, which was not only heard but felt all around the world, reverberated most particularly in American hearts, to the advantage of the internationalist thesis. The revolution in attitude can be credited to no one thing, no one man. It has its roots in millions of humble homes, whose sons went forth, many at the cost of their lives, to repair the errors and misconceptions of the past. It is profoundly democratic in nature.

Yet if we look back with the historian’s eye, we can see that in the process of their change the people were represented pre-eminently by two spokesmen, who saw things very differently, but who were in fundamental agreement concerning the international crisis of their time. These two leaders, who died within six months of each other, were Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. In tracing the causes of our bloodless revolution, the historian of the future will have to understand both of those men.

He will, however, find that they represent very different historical problems. The record of Mr. Roosevelt is basically official, and will certainly be supplemented by copious memoirs and documents from the files of his advisers. Mr. Willkie also made an official record as the Republican candidate in 1940; yet this was in fact only supplementary to his basic contribution. Mr. Willkie played his historic role primarily as a private citizen. As Archibald MacLeish has so poignantly pointed out, he never succeeded in winning election to a major public office — never even held such an office — yet he achieved world-wide influence. He exercised power, not through victory, but through defeat.

And just because the Willkie record is primarily that of a private citizen, there is danger that its significance will be lost. This danger is not merely sentimental. Naturally Mr. Willkie’s friends want him to get full credit for his historic task; yet the real question is not the credit, but an understanding of the time. Wendell Willkie was a product of his time in every sense of the word, and any historian who fails to understand him will fail to understand the crisis out of which he emerged. If the people of the future do not know him, they will not know us; and they will not know how the revolution came about.

Wendell Willkie was a striving American who began life in a small Midwestern town. He believed — as Americans congenitally must — in growth, development, “progress.” And he practiced what he believed. The great truths that he represented so forcefully at the end of his life had always lived within him in potential form, as many who knew him in his younger days will affirm; yet their expression as practical political doctrine required a kind of unfoldment of character, like a tree developing from a seed; and this unfoldment was born of long—but successful — struggle. In this sense he was traditionally American.

Yet Mr. Willkie’s career was not merely a struggle: it was an ordeal. He was the protagonist of a gigantic drama. The dynamic of this drama was that he would not accept, would not stoop to represent, a status quo — whether this was a Hoover status quo or a Roosevelt status quo. Those have been two phases of American history, both of which have failed — and seriously failed — to answer the questions of human freedom pushing up through the bloody soil of the twentieth century. These questions of freedom —of freedom, specifically, in a technological age — were Wendell Willkie’s questions. But they were fatal questions to ask and answer honestly, because so many of the answers lay beyond the political understanding of the American people in the critical years from 1938 to 1944.

And just because people were not then ready for those answers, Wendell Willkie is a tragic figure. His tragedy can be understood not in the secondary sense of sorrow (for he was the most buoyant of men) but in the classical, the primary sense of fate. Like Abraham Lincoln, he represented a struggle in the American soul, a conflict which Americans had not yet resolved in his lifetime. He represented unfulfilled aspirations involving certain decisions that the people had not yet dared to make. Because he faced these aspirations — because he embraced them as his own — his leadership could not materialize in political office in his time. It was his task to be faithful to realities which we, as a nation, were as yet unable to grasp. But his enormous influence lay in the fact that he lived up to that fait h— that he was faithful to the unfulfilled.


EVERYWHERE you turn you hear the comment that Wendell Willkie was not a “practical politician.” Yet this impression of him is wholly false. To speak personally, I have worked with a good many politicians; I have taken instructions from them, and have in some cases even ventured to advise them; and I will say without any reservation that Mr. Willkie was one of the two or three really practical politicians I have ever known. Those who think him “impractical” forget the incredible political feat that he accomplished: to emerge from the public utility industry (the most hated of that day) and capture the nomination of a party which he had only recently joined; to roll up the biggest popular vote in the history of that party; and thereafter, in defeat, to use that party as an instrument for holding the nation on its course through its most perilous crisis. None but the most astute and realistic of politicians could have accomplished that. It is the record, not of a dreamer, but of a shrewd and practical man.

What do people mean, then, when they call Wendell Willkie “impractical” in politics? They mean, essentially, that he was not making the right moves to win office in his time. This was in large measure true. But it was not because he was “impractical”; it was because he did not want to hold office, except on certain terms. And the terms were that the American people must be willing to face those questions of human freedom which they had failed to face, and which their leaders had failed to face. They must be willing and able to vote for the unfulfilled answers to those questions. And Wendell Willkie did not want to be voted into office on any other basis.

And for that matter, by 1944, he did not even want a nomination, he did not even want a chance to run, unless this proposition was first made clear to the politicians who wielded power in the name of the people. He could not appease those politicians — not one of them — and still adequately represent the unfulfilled truths within the people which the people wanted him to represent. And since those politicians were seeking a status quo, Mr. Willkie, and with him the American future, was frustrated.

The same point is illustrated in the riddle of the Wisconsin primary. Almost everybody wonders why Willkie chose to run that race, in which he failed to win a single delegate. Undoubtedly Wisconsin was a political miscalculation; yet the answer to the riddle is not so simple as that. Plenty of politicians had warned Mr. Willkie of defeat; the risk was large and he knew it. The riddle can be understood only if we recognize that there was one indispensable move he had to make in 1944: he had to meet the isolationists head on. He had to show that the isolationists could be defeated, or else — which is what he actually did show — that they were capable of defeating, through the international issue, everything we cherish for the future of America.

It is doubtless true that if Mr. Willkie could have predicted his defeat with certainty, he would have shrewdly devised some other, less costly way to meet his issue. But he had to meet it somewhere, somehow; and he had to meet it, not just with words, but at the risk of total loss. Wisconsin is a riddle if we think of Wendell Willkie as a man seeking office. But it acquires meaning — tragic meaning — when we think of him as he really was: a man engaged in the development of political truths which the people, and more especially their politicians, were not yet ready to grasp.

The principle also emerges — to take a third and final illustration — from his attitude toward the New York gubernatorial election of 1942. There was a concerted move to draft Mr. Willkie for governor of New York in that year. Great pressure was brought to induce him to seize the Republican nomination. But he rejected the idea. There were, of course, certain political risks involved, and many people suppose that his rejection was based on these. But this was not the case. The proposition had almost no political appeal for him. Instead, he chose to take a trip around the world.

It is difficult, even to this day, for many of his friends to understand this; they think he was mistaken. But the idea that he was mistaken is begotten, again, of the fallacy that Wendell Willkie was seeking office. He was indeed seeking office, and seeking it with all the vigor and passion of an ambitious man; yet the office had to have meaning in terms of those inner and unfulfilled aims for which he was working. The governorship of New York, however useful as a means of reaching the White House, had no such meaning.

Mr. Willkie could in fact see two roads to the White House in 1942. One road led through Albany; the other, through Moscow and Chungking. And the Moscow-Chungking route was of necessity his; not because it was the shortest, or the easiest, or the surest — for it was none of these — but because it involved the future; because it dramatized, and so hastened, the arrival of that inevitable time when Americans would think in terms of all the peoples of the earth. Maybe you could not get to the White House that way in 1944. But if you were faithful to the hidden potentialities of America, you could go there no other way.


WHAT were these hidden potentialities which thus dominated the career of one of the shrewdest of American politicians? It is a fair question, but an exceedingly difficult one to answer. Wendell Willkie was not a systematic philosopher. His vision of America is nowhere wrapped up in a package; it is embedded in speeches and papers dealing primarily with the practical issues of the time, and only secondarily or by inference with the future. I should like, however, to take the license of a friend who had the benefit of many long and intimate conversations with him. With a little interpolation for the sake of brevity, I think that the kind of world he looked forward to can be made clear.

There exist on earth today three dominant ideas affecting the political and economic outlook of mankind. These ideas are: the idea of organization, as developed especially by Germany; the idea of community, as developed especially by Russia; and the idea of individual liberty, as developed by Great Britain and the United States. Each of these ideas contains truth; yet each, carried to extremes, is productive of evil. The idea of organization is indispensable to an industrial age; yet the Nazis carried it to such an extreme that it reared itself against us as the anti-Christ. Russia has carried the idea of community to an extreme which excludes individual liberty. And we ourselves have sometimes carried individual liberty so irresponsibly far as to endanger the economic security of millions.

If we visualize these three ideas at issue in the world, we can understand much of what Wendell Willkie was striving to accomplish. He understood all three. But more than this, he understood the interrelation of all three. He knew that an industrial society cannot survive as a democracy if any one of these ideas is lacking. Hence the great task, the task of the future, is to find a kind of synthesis by which they can operate, not only simultaneously, but in combination.

It was because he could see the necessity for combination that Wendell Willkie was so misinterpreted by the politicians. One of the reasons he appealed to Republicans was that he understood industrial organization. But he also baffled Republicans — who accused him of being a New Dealer — because he saw just as clearly that an industrial society cannot survive unless the requirements of the community are met, and that these requirements—of security, of stability, of health and education — involve us inescapably in a strong and extensive Federal government.

But at the same time Wendell Willkie knew that both the idea of organization and the idea of community must be modified by the concept of individualism. He knew that if this modification is not made, our civilization will fall a prey to the state. It is scarcely necessary to stress the intensity of his belief in liberty. Privately, it took the form of an impassioned insistence on personal independence. Publicly, it molded his every policy. “Freedom,” he was fond of saying, “is indivisible.” He hated the word “tolerance.” “If men are equal,” he would ask, “why should one group talk about ‘tolerating’ another?” He took positive joy in the defense of minorities, and was never afraid to carry his ideas to their logical conclusion. In one field this logic led him to the equality of the Negro; in another, to the limitation of the powers of government, however large; in still another, to an insistence on real competition in industry, real enterprise. He never forgot that somewhere along the line, individual liberty involves individual risk; that, without risk, men are not free.

Now, clearly, this idea of individual liberty is in conflict at many points with the other two dominant ideas of our time. The conflict exists, not only beyond our shores, but right here in our midst. Mr. Willkie was deeply involved in it, and he sought constantly for a way to resolve it.

The conclusion that he finally reached, which very few of his contemporaries have understood, was that, as between the three ideas I have sought to outline, there is no necessary conflict at all. There is no necessary conflict, for example, between a broad social security program (the community idea) and the rights and opportunities of individual liberty. This supposed conflict, on which the Republican Old Guard has based most of its campaigning, is not inherent in the ideas themselves: it is created by men. And it is created, for the most part, by one particular evil: the effort of some men to exclude other men from the benefits of their resources and their labor. In domestic affairs, this exclusion takes the primary form of monopolistic practices — not merely economic, but also political and social. Among nations it takes the form of nationalism. Wendell Willkie knew deep in his bones that the evil of exclusion is the great curse of our time. He knew that only by breaking down artificial barriers, whether economic or political, whether national or racial, can we hope to satisfy the basic requirements of an industrial age — work, security, and freedom, for every individual.


HAD the world been at peace, Mr. Willkie’s main attack might have been directed at monopolies whether private or governmental. But with the world in chaos he swung the attack against nationalism itself, and against imperialism. We must make good note of the fact, however, that his attitude toward nationalism was no sudden realization, born of an emergency; he had battled nationalism all his life. The theory of One World, for example, was the fruit of a lifetime of effort to express, in concrete political form, the universal laws of freedom. There was, however, one special discovery that he made on the One World trip. He discovered, tangibly, the enormous influence of America. It became overwhelmingly evident that if national barriers are to be broken, America must take the lead. The United States, he found, possessed the resources, the good will, and the traditions of political and economic freedom requisite for leadership, and no other nation did. This discovery clarified his life’s work. We in the United States were taking the idea of individual liberty for granted. But it cannot be taken for granted. We must seed it and cultivate it; we must encourage it; we must, where necessary, fight in behalf of those who profess and practice it. The aim of our foreign policy must be an unfoldment of our national will, to spread and strengthen the idea of liberty. For if we do not spread and strengthen it, no one else will; and if no one else does, it will be overcome and superseded elsewhere by other ideas; and if elsewhere, then also here.

A friend of Mr. Willkie’s recently said: “The very phrase ‘One World’ has entered into the language and is no longer even used in quotes. It is used as a kind of shorthand for a whole set of ideas and a whole way of thinking.” That is correct. One World is a complete philosophy. Like all the great concepts of the human mind, it has applications on many levels. It applies to the maintenance of peace, because war anywhere in the world means war for us. It applies economically, because depression anywhere in the world means eventual depression here. And it applies politically, because the maintenance of freedom here requires its maintenance elsewhere. The One World philosophy is thus exceedingly complex; yet its central idea is divinely simple — that one man anywhere in the world is related to, is tied in with, all men everywhere in the world. The political purpose of mankind, with America taking the lead, is to make this inescapable relationship productive of work, security, and freedom, equally and universally.

This doctrine, therefore, envisions a world in which the so-called sovereign powers of nations shall be limited, the absolute power to make war curtailed, the absolute power to levy unilateral tariffs modified, the absolute power to harm other nations denied. It envisions a world that is open to trade and expansion, education and the franchise. It envisions a world in which peoples of all colors and creeds will be guaranteed equal rights and opportunities, free franchise, free speech, and free education. One World is a free world.

To the “realists” among us, all this may seem hopelessly idealistic. But to the man who collected more votes than any other Republican candidate in history, it evidently did not seem hopeless at all. For in pursuit of it he gave his life.

We cannot, indeed, regard Wendell Willkie’s death as a mere failure of the physical heart. His heart failed; yet the ancients, when they used the word “heart,” had a more profound concept than ours. For them, the heart represented the soul: when it was broken, an inner element of a man’s being was broken, and a physical collapse could well follow after. Wendell Willkie’s heart was broken in this way. It was broken by his own friends; by the desertion, after Wisconsin, of associates who had been sharing the load; by the discovery that only a handful were willing to go the long, hard road with him all the way. This was no mere sentimental indulgence: it was a question of his own human resources. In the years between 1940 and 1944the years of Wendell Willkie’s international unfoldment — he reached the limits of his strength.

Go back in your mind to 1940—that grim and terrible year, with democracy in full retreat before Hitler’s armies. This was a crucial time for the United States, with a Presidential election in the offing and Pearl Harbor just around the corner. The isolationists, growing stronger by the hour, were planning to seize the Republican Party as their political vehicle. In this they had made substantial progress. Many Republicans, of course, were fighting isolationism. But most of the party’s official leadership was following the isolationist line on the lifeand-death issues of foreign policy. Mr. Willkie’s rivals for the Republican nomination at Philadelphia were isolationists. And the Roosevelt administration, which also had its “practical politicians,” was moving with a caution that at times seemed like appeasement of that dangerous doctrine.

In casting up the account for that period, the future historian should ask himself what would have happened had Senator Taft or the then almost frankly isolationist Thomas E. Dewey been nominated at Philadelphia. What would have happened on such issues as Selective Service, the destroyer deal, or Lend-Lease had the titular Republican leader followed his “advisers” in manufacturing negative criticism of all Administration policies ? The answer is not to be found in the size of the Republican vote. The realistic answer is that the Roosevelt administration itself would have been afraid to push those measures, or even (in some cases) to propose them.

Wendell Willkie’s leadership was different. On November 11, 1940, less than a week after his defeat, he went on the air with what has already become a historic speech. “A vigorous, loyal and publicspirited opposition,” he said, is vital to the “balanced operation” of democracy. But such opposition must be constructive and responsible; it must be a “loyal opposition,” working primarily in the interests of the country, rather than in the supposed interests of party. It must be free to agree with the Administration as well as to disagree.

The great test of this theory came a few months later. Would the “loyal opposition” support the hard-pressed British Isles by means of the LendLease bill? There were many crises In Mr. Willkie’s brief political career, but I am satisfied that this one was the most critical of all. During the weeks immediately following the introduction of the bill, he emerged as one of the truly great American statesmen — a citizen of the world. He was never in doubt, of course, about his stand on Lend-Lease; but he did nourish a forlorn hope that the Republicans would not make an issue of it. If they did, he would have only one course; and as a shrewd and practical politician he knew that that course would split his party wide open. While he waited for the situation to develop, his switchboard was jammed with telephone calls; his after-dinner conversations, always brilliant, became tempestuous. Then Dewey and Hoover came out against the bill, and the issue was drawn. Wendell Wilkie brushed aside the politicians and came out for it.

The result was exactly what he had expected. The Republican organization, blind to the overriding issue, branded him as a traitor. Even the Willkie amateurs who had fought so frenetically for him six months previously were split apart. But his course was now clear. During the campaign he had devoted much of his energies to domestic issues; now the international issue absorbed almost all of them. He flew to London to see for himself whether Britain had any chance of surviving; hurried home to testify before the Senate and to stem the rising tide of LendLease opposition within his own party, which the New York Times described as “more and more a strictly party stand.” Today Wendell Willkie’s testimony in the gloomy atmosphere of February, 1941, reads like inspired prophecy. Britain, he said, was not beaten. And democracy would survive.


IN MY perhaps prejudiced opinion, the “loyal opposition” theory saved this country. By breaking up partisan opposition to a series of absolutely critical measures, it gave the Administration its opportunity to mobilize the nation for war. Many observers — and I am one of them — believe that the mobilization was accomplished just in the nick of time. In any case, it is clear that from 1940 to 1943 the cause of democracy depended on the American war measures, which in turn depended very largely on opposition support. Had there been no Lend-Lease it is doubtful whether the Germans could have been stopped at Alamein or at Stalingrad. And it is well to remember that the Congress came within one vote of demobilizing our army four months before Pearl Harbor (renewal of the Selective Service Act).

Through the “loyal opposition” Wendell Willkie set himself up as a kind of immovable fulcrum on which the Administration could set its wartime levers. There was never any “alliance” between Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie —rumors of this were fabrications of a hostile press. Nevertheless, while attacked by the Willkie people on his foreign policy, Mr. Roosevelt astutely understood that Mr. Willkie would fight the isolationists at any political cost, and he learned to lean heavily on his shaggy opponent whenever the life-and-death issues of the nation were involved. The result was that from 1940 through 1944 the United States came closer to having a truly national government than in any of the other major crises in its history. Lincoln had McClellan to cope with; Wilson had Lodge. Franklin Roosevelt’s opponent, however, undertook to combat the destructive forces which always do appear in a crisis, and against which Mr. Roosevelt could have battled only at the risk (which Wendell Willkie took upon himself) of losing all.

That this struggle cost Mr. Willkie his life, there can be no reasonable doubt. Almost nobody really knows the magnitude of the load that he had to carry. Some people know the load that he carried at the office — the intense interviews, one pushing against the other; the incessant telephone calls ringing in from all parts of a continent; letters at the rate of thousands a day; requests for speeches at the rate of five or six hundred a month. Still others know the story of his mind, the probing of the future, the weighing of issues — the load of responsibility that his leadership entailed. Still others are familiar with the political load — the shrewd decisions, the granting of his support here, the raising of his opposition there, the rallying of forces at some fardistant point to undermine an intrenched isolationist. Each of his associates knows that particular part of the load he or she helped to carry. Almost no one knows it all.

But of course the biggest single load was the load of the party. On issue after issue he was forced to oppose his own people first. The list is long and massive: the destroyer deal and aid to Britain; Selective Service; Lend-Lease; the occupation of Iceland; the extension of Selective Service; the revision of the Neutrality Act; increased aid to Russia and China, and a better understanding of those essential partners; the definition of war aims; the drive for an international organization with power to act. On all these, and more, he had to overcome the Republican “leaders” before he could challenge his official opponent, Franklin Roosevelt, on the real, the far-reaching issues of America’s destiny.

And in the end the party was his undoing. The motto for his life might be “Et tu, Brute”; for it was the desertion of self-styled friends and associates that hastened, if it did not actually cause, his death. He was not “disillusioned” by these desertions; he was shrewd enough to know that few men are capable of sacrificing their own interests for the principles that they profess. But he was practical enough to see that each defection from the cause merely added to the impossible load that he was carrying. Immediately before and after the nomination of Thomas E. Dewey, when hundreds of professed One Worlders were yielding to the forces of political expediency, the tragic little scene was re-enacted almost every day: “Why, so-and-so was one of the best friends I had in the world. He went all-out for the limitation of sovereignty. How can he do this now?" The complaint was not merely personal. It was the complaint of a giant dedicated to a cause which he recognized as greater than himself: a cause that was too big to carry all alone.


WENDELL WILLKIE has won more since his death than he won during his lifetime. The San Francisco Conference convened — as he advocated, and as the Administration promised in the campaign of 1944 — before the end of hostilities. A United Nations organization has been created and is now offored to the peoples of the world for their ratification. Above all, the spirit of America has changed. We are no longer hanging back. The power of public opinion in the United States has become — as Wendell Willkie always believed it would — the greatest single force working for international action.

Yet this is after all only the first battle of the peace. The real objectives of One World lie far ahead of us, and the constant danger is that we shall fall short of those objectives without realizing it. There is here involved a point that gave Mr. Willkie endless difficulty. Because both Roosevelt and Willkie had an international view, people carelessly assumed that they were in agreement on foreign policy. The assumption was encouraged by the isolationist press seeking to embarrass Mr. Willkie. Yet the foreign policy of One World is very different from the foreign policy promulgated by the White House in the critical years. The Roosevelt administration was internationally-minded: it was not One World-minded. And in this regard the Truman administration is still a question mark.

The difference lies in a definition of American interests. The Roosevelt administration always tended to fall off in the direction of power politics, or what Mr. Willkie called “expediency,” with the idea that our interests could best be served by entering into the old game of balance and control. As a practical man, Wendell Willkie knew well enough that power politics cannot be entirely excluded from the affairs of mankind, whether at the personal, the occupational, the national, or the international level. He believed in strong men — and strong nations.

Yet he insisted that the United States must rise above the level of power politics, as the term is generally understood, in those critical situations in which the future destiny of men is at stake. The United States, he believed, must represent not merely a power but a doctrine. Specifically, it must represent the doctrine on which this nation was founded, in which we have always believed, and through which alone our long-range interests can be served—the doctrine of indivisible freedom, the very core of One World.

The weakness of our present position in world affairs is that the other great powers are far more certain of their aims than we. But why are they more certain? It is because we have failed to declare, because we have failed strongly to assert, this doctrine of freedom — the only doctrine in which we, as Americans, can believe. In a game of power politics the American people will never have clear aims, because they seek no goal that powder politics can win. That game is merely a means of evading the fundamental issues of the world, which Americans must eventually meet if they are to survive on their own terms of freedom. In so far as we indulge in it, we fail to work for our own ultimate survival.

Therefore, while it is true that since Mr. Willkie’s death we have made great progress, have indeed won the first battle in the struggle for One World, we must be careful not to make the same error that so many made during his lifetime. We must be careful not to confuse a well-meaning internationalism, based on “coöperation” between wholly sovereign powers, with the great vision embodied in the doctrine of One World. The former was achieved to the credit of all concerned at San Francisco; the latter still lies before us, demanding the lifelong labor and devotion of those who understand what it means. But what was merely a hope when Wendell Willkie was alive has now, with the atomic bomb, become a necessity.

The danger is that, having achieved so much, we shall lapse into self-satisfied contemplation of our own progress. This danger was well illustrated in the recent Syrian affair. In that unhappy incident we permitted ourselves to be dragged down to the level of sheer power politics by giving our unqualified backing to Great Britain in a struggle for empire in the Middle East. And simultaneously, by refusing to back de Gaulle in his demand for an international conference on Middle Eastern affairs (to include both Russia and the Arabs), we failed to represent the doctrine of freedom as Americans know it. We had, of course, good and “expedient,” reasons for giving a blank check to Britain. Yet we had similar reasons for setting up the appeaser Darlan in 1942 — and against that move Mr. Willkie thundered with all his might. The fact is that, in Syria, we muffed an opportunity to take a first step in the formulation of an American world policy that would work to our interest. As a result, we still stand before the world without any real policy of our own.

One World is a proposed world policy, and it is genuinely American. During Mr. Willkie’s lifetime we were not sufficiently developed as a people to give it our confidence, and the result was that Wendell Willkie died without witnessing the fruits of his labor. Yet in a profounder sense those fruits are not ripe even yet. If he were alive today, Mr. Willkie would be highly gratified by the enormous change in the American attitude —yet he would be the first to warn us against self-satisfaction.

Were he in the thick of political affairs, the overwhelming vote of the Senate in ratifying the United Nations Charter would constitute a personal victory for him in his struggle with his own party. Yet he would surely have pointed out the danger of leaving further progress to the Senate. For this we have his own words: “Unless ... the people ... of all the United Nations fundamentally agree on their purposes, fine and idealistic expressions of hope such as those of the Atlantic Charter will live merely to mock us, as have Mr. Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The four freedoms will not be accomplished by the declaration of those momentarily in power. They will become real only if the people of the world forge them into actuality.”

The era in which that actuality must be forged has now dawned. We must do it — or be destroyed. And to this end, those of us who have been indoctrinated into the principles and aims of One World will do well to remember Wendell Willkie’s ordeal. For now it is our turn. In Wendell Willkie’s death our cause has suffered a terrible loss. American leadership is still weak; our steps toward peace are still uncertain; the recognition of human liberty on a world-wide basis is a goal that lies far in the future, and between us and that goal rise many years of heartbreak. The responsibility for coping with all this now fails upon the shoulders of those who could once afford the luxury of waiting to see what Wendell Willkie would do. His ordeal is now ours.

Yet if we will also remember the nature of that struggle, we shall in the end, inevitably, succeed. For it is neither a struggle for power nor a struggle for office. It is a struggle that surpasses power and office, and therefore surpasses defeat. It is a struggle to realize the deepest aspirations of mankind. It is a struggle to raise above the earth a banner emblazoned with the battle cry: “Freedom is indivisible.”

And — as Wendell Willkie demonstrated — even to make this struggle is to win it.