Presidential Holiday Greetings, 1933

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

{This is a revision of an earlier post.}

In late October 1933, as the end of the first year of his Presidency drew near, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent the following note to Secretary of State Cordell Hull.  The Great Depression was in full swing and was having a serious negative impact on the situation of American diplomatic and consular officials overseas and the President clearly wanted to help raise morale.[i]

Memo from President Franklin Roosevelt to Secretary of State, 15 Oct, 1933

Ten days after the President’s request, Secretary Hull sent him a draft.  In a cover letter, the Secretary of State noted that the holiday greeting could be addressed to the head of all American diplomatic missions – Ambassadors, Ministers, Ministers Resident, Diplomatic Agents, and Charges d’Affaires – who would communicate the message to consular officers over whom they had jurisdiction.  Because there were a number of consular officers not under the jurisdiction of a diplomatic officer, Hull suggested that a circular instruction be sent in such cases.  Ultimately, to ensure that all consular officers received the greeting, the Department sent the greeting to all consular officials under cover of a circular instruction.

After approval by the President, the Department prepared the letters for his signature and then staggered their dispatch in the diplomatic pouch so that they would arrive before Christmas.

The President’s message read:

As the year draws to a holiday pause before its close, I take much pleasure in sending out to you and through you to your personal and official family, and to the Foreign Service staffs in [name of country], my heartiest good wishes.  Your loyal and intelligent cooperation with us in Washington has made these recent months of our association a source of great satisfaction and encouragement to me in this important period of our country’s development.

In offering my best greetings for Christmas and the New Year, I look forward in confident anticipation to continuing mutual cooperation in 1934.

Some Foreign Service officers responded to the President’s message.  One ambassador with long service wrote: “I cannot adequately express to you the pleasure which my associates and I have derived from your Christmas letter . . . .  In the course of my experience of thirty-six years nothing of the sort has occurred before.  It fills us with exhilaration to follow a leader who leads, in whose success we have faith, and whose efforts we propose to second as circumstances permit.  I send you the grateful thanks off my staff and myself for your kind remembrances.”[ii]  Clearly, the message had its intended effect.  Roosevelt sent similar messages in future years.

[i] President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, October 15, `933, file 120/152, 1930-39 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[ii] Robert P. Skinner (Ambassador to Turkey) to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 2, 1934.  Printed in Edgar B. Nixon, ed. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Volume 1: January 1933-February 1934 (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969), pp. 571-72.