chapter  27
African American Perspectives on Foreign Policy
Pages 11

African Americans must develop the mechanisms and build the institutions with which to play a larger role in the foreign policy of the United States, if this nation is to compete and prosper in the twenty-first century. When in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt lamented that one third of Americans were “[i]ll-fed, ill-housed, and ill-clothed,” he was talking about the commonality of Americans whose livelihood had been threatened by the Great Depression. He later pledged that he was “determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful, and law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous.”1 More than thirty years later, another president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, aware that Roosevelt’s pledge had not been fulfilled, launched his “War on Poverty.” He wished to draw America’s attention to the need for equality among the nation’s poor-this time, primarily its minorities.2 Johnson did not “overcome” as he had vowed, because this nation’s tragic foreign policy led to disaster in Southeast Asia. That one-third of the nation that suffered most when the United States squandered lives and treasure in Vietnam must help to direct a foreign policy that will protect them and the nation in the future.