DECEMBER 9, 1941
WASHINGTON, Monday—At noon today, at the Capitol, I had a curious sense of repetition, for I remembered very vividly the description of the same gallery, when Mrs. Woodrow Wilson listened to President Wilson speak to the assembled members of Congress. Today she sat beside me, as the President spoke the words which branded a nation as having departed from the code of civilized people.
Everyone in this house was up late last night. Early this morning the President was on the telephone and, with every bit of information, the situation in the Pacific showed more clearly what damage had been done by surprise.
Some will think that the people of Hawaii and the Philippines and our other islands should not have been taken by surprise. They have to think back to yesterday, however, to realize how impossible actual war seemed to us. Even today, I heard people say: "Oh well, those islands are vulnerable, but we here on this Continent have nothing to fear."
How hard it is for human beings to learn that the only safety there is, lies in being prepared for any eventuality. When people are making desperate efforts, they will try things which seem foolhardy to more secure people. If you are going to die anyway, you might just as well die with a grand gesture which stands a chance of winning high stakes for you. That is what Germany has planned today, for this attack is German strategy.
If you live along the East Coast, don't be too sure that you are out of the danger zone. Sign up today and do a job, because if you have a job to do, that responsibility will see you through any situation.
I opened our staff meeting in the Office of Civilian Defense this morning, by saying that I thought this was no moment for any of our able women to accept the invitation of Great Britain to go over and visit them. There was no one in the room who was not alert to the fact that their work had ceased to be the work of preparation and was now work which required action immediately.
After the short time spent at the Capitol, Director La Guardia held his staff meeting. Since then I have been contacting regional directors and obtaining all the information I need for the work which we hope to get done on the West Coast during the next few days. I am leaving tonight and hope to be in Los Angeles tomorrow morning.