Wallace redefined the role of Vice President, taking on genuine leadership in the Roosevelt Administration’s preparations for World War II. But his time as Vice President is perhaps best remembered for the ideals he championed in his most celebrated speech. In 1942, in the middle of World War Two, he rejected Life Magazine publisher Henry Luce’s famous call for an “American Century” and other calls for America’s domination of the postwar world.
Instead, Wallace urged that “the century on which we are entering can and must be the century of the common man.” He warned against unfettered free enterprise and “international cartels that serve American greed” and said they “must be subjected to international control for the common man, as well as being under adequate control by the respective home governments.” To Luce’s notion of American exceptionalism, he declared: “There can be no privileged peoples. We ourselves in the United States are no more a master race than the Nazis.”
The popular speech was the inspiration for Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”