In a carefully choreographed eight-month charm offensive, Soong Mei-ling — better known by her married name, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, or simply “Madame” — traveled across North America in the winter of 1942-1943, captivating audiences with her exotic appearance, cosmopolitan outlook, and letter-perfect English.
On this day in 1943, she spoke to a crowd of 17,000 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, a speech broadcast on network radio.
Born in China, educated in America, Madame sought political and financial support for the Chinese regime of her husband, known as “the Generalissimo,” and for China in its brutal war with the Japanese.
Although in her private life she could be haughty and cruel, in this speech — “Victory Without Hate,” she emphasizes the nobleness of suffering and the virtues of Christian forgiveness, as she envisioned a more peaceable post-war landscape:
“In order that this war may indeed be the war to end all wars in all ages,” she said, “and that nations, great and small alike, may be allowed to live and let live in peace, security, and freedom in the generations to come, cooperation in the true and highest sense of the word must be practiced.“
“. . . nations, great and small alike, may be allowed to live and let live in peace, security, and freedom in the generations to come, cooperation in the true and highest sense of the word”
Less than three years after her North American tour, Japan’s surrender ended World War II. But civil war erupted between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists.
In 1946 Soong Mei-ling and her husband fled to Taiwan. She lived to be 106 and never again set foot in mainland China.
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