Archive for March 23rd, 2022


Some have spoken of the “American Century.” I say that the century on which we are entering—the century which will come into being after this war—can be and must be the century of the common man.

Perhaps it will be America’s opportunity to—to support the Freedom[s] and Duties by which the common man must live. Everywhere, the common man must learn to build his own industries with his own hands in practical fashion. Everywhere, the common man must learn to increase his productivity so that he and his children can eventually pay to the world community all that they have received. No nation will have the God-given right to exploit other nations. Older nations will have the privilege to help younger nations get started on the path to industrialization, but there must be neither military nor economic imperialism.

–Vice-President Henry Wallace, May 8, 1942

The excerpt above is from a speech,  The Century of the Common Man, given by American Vice-President Henry Wallace to the International Free World Association, a diverse group of 33 nations from around the world including all the nations of Latin America. It took place in New York City in May of 1942, in the aftermath of the USA’s entry into World War II.

In his speech, which was widely and wildly celebrated, Wallace espoused a belief that the defeat of the invasive forces of fascism at that time would lead to a new century ahead in which the common man and woman would exist in a free world filled with the same liberté, égalité, fraternité liberty, equality, fraternitythose themes drove the  French Revolution.

Those particular forces of fascism were defeated and there are still about twenty years left in Wallace’s Century of the Common Man but I am not sure that we ever reached the heights to which he aspired. Fascism and authoritarianism have regained footholds around the world and there is less of the liberté, égalité, fraternité than we would like to believe.

But there is still time left in the Century of the Common Man and we are currently united in a struggle against fascist rulers and authoritarians.

Let’s hope Wallace was right after all.

One thing that came out of the speech was a request made by the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, to composer Aaron Copland. He asked Copland and several other composers to create fanfares to open the symphony concerts during that year, 1942, to mark our participation in the global conflict.

18 fanfares were written and performed but only Copland’s is remembered and still celebrated. It borrowed from the title and spirit of Wallace’s speech. It is his Fanfare for the Common Man.

I love this piece of music and am always moved greatly upon hearing it. Below is a sort of orchestral flash mob version from 2012 that took place in the Dublin Airport. It is performed by members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Watching it reminds me how much the world has changed in that short span of time and how little time we have to fulfill Wallace’s vision.

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