In the summer of 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Chautauqua Institution on the pressing topics of war and peace.
At 8:15 p.m. August 14 evening in the Amphitheater, Jared Jacobsen will perform this week’s Sacred Song Service: “I Hate War.” Taking its title from a famous line in Roosevelt’s Chautauqua speech, the service will feature excerpts from the speech woven into music.
The speech started off similar to a wedding speech, according to Jacobsen. Roosevelt spoke of his long history with Chautauqua, a place he’d been visiting for more than 20 years. In 1936, he revisited the Institution as a regular, but also as the president of the United States.
“From there, he goes on to deliver this ringing, stinging condemnation of war,” said Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music.
Roosevelt, a veteran of World War I, said the words “I Hate War” in its most famous line: “I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line — the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”
The service is also inspired by this week’s lecture theme, “War and Its Warriors: Contemporary Voices,” and Interfaith Lecture theme, “The Ethical Realities of War.” Reflecting on the realities of war connects with Chautauqua’s umbrella theme for this summer on what it means to be human.
Jacobsen said starting with the Civil War era in the U.S., there is a ton of American music that was inspired by war. When planning the evening’s setlist, he came across an “avalanche of music” that would fit.
“There’s a lot of music floating around this, written around the idea that you have left somebody behind on the battlefield or you are waiting at home for somebody to return from the battlefield who may not ever get back,” Jacobsen said. “[There’s music that is] in solidarity with wives and children, mothers who are grieving their sons, wives who are grieving their husbands, children grieving their fathers and their mothers who were lost in the war.”
Jacobsen said when he put this music side by side with Roosevelt’s speech, it was amazing how well it connected.
The performance’s repertoire will feature music for the congregation and choir to sing, and include both popular literature and sacred hymns.
Jacobsen hopes the music will help people wrestle with the notion of war. He said he can think of no greater condemnation of war than Roosevelt’s speech.
“Every time you turn on the TV or you open the internet, there’s a headline that has to do with a war someplace around the world — we are now all involved in all of these wars around the world,” Jacobsen said. “So I think we just need some time to step back and reflect on it through the lens of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”