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October 2, 1951

“NEW YORK, Monday…A verse in the Bible we very seldom hear was used as a text in the morning sermon. Evidently back in Bible days there were people who thought the “good old days” were better than the present. This must always have been a way of escape for some of us. If life seemed particularly hard, all we had to do was to say how much better it used to be, and how dreadful it was to be born in a generation that had to endure all the modern horrors.

On all sides we often hear: “The young people are worse today than ever before”; “We used to get on well without all these modern inventions, which get out of order to make our lives hideous”; “When there weren’t any automobiles you could not go dashing around the country at high speed and suffering accidents”; “We did not have a crime wave or dope rings in the old days—they are all the product of the modern age.”

Yet, in spite of the low estate into which politics has fallen I have found that almost anything said by anyone of our modern candidates against his opponent can be matched in the “good old days” by things said against Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, for instance, and certainly attacks on a woman were never lower than those leveled against Rachel Jackson.

There are fewer drunken men reeling around the streets today than there were when I was a child. It seems to me that each age has its own drawbacks and they have to be met by the people confronting them. If you look back over several decades you can usually see how some people have done a good job in meeting the difficulties of their particular time and how some have failed.

So, I think it is a good idea to follow the advice our minister gave us yesterday morning. That was that we should not indulge in looking backwards with envy to the past, but to keep our eyes ahead of us with hope for the future.”

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August 20, 1951

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—Day by day, those who are responsible for our policies in the Far East must revise their actions in the light of new events. I constantly get questions asking why we do not have a definite policy and stick to it. The reason is simple. We cannot govern other people nor control what may happen in the various parts of the world. We can only meet what happens as best we can, as it occurs, keeping always in mind our basic objective of peace.

I think perhaps we might play a better game of guessing what is going to happen if everyone were gifted with foresight and imagination. Many of our diplomatic representatives, prior to their arrival at the country in which they are stationed, are not very well versed in its history and literature. Hence they are not always successful in interpreting the reasons for the actions of people living in parts of the world which are little known to the greater part of the people in the United States.

Someone offered me a plan the other day for bringing in an ever-increasing number of people to this country, both old and young, and letting them stay for a few months before going back to tell what they have seen and heard. Of course, there is nothing so valuable as firsthand information, and it would help us, too, if we sent people abroad. You may think you can get the feeling of something by reading, but you do better if you actually see it.

I don’t know whether any plan of travel exchange could be carried out on a sufficiently wide scale to be of any value in the fight against Communism, but I am sure that every incident which brings better first-hand knowledge is important. For instance, I was told at the World Youth Conference that one of the delegates from the French Cameroons, on reaching here, found that he had to put one of his fellow delegates in a New York City hospital. He did this with great reluctance; but when he went to visit his comrade he found two colored boys in a room with two white boys, and all were getting the same attention from a white doctor and a white trained nurse. This completely changed his opinion of race relations in this country. He confided in one of the World Youth Assembly staff members that he had been told by the Communists that in the United States no colored man was taken into a hospital, no matter how ill he was, nor would he be allowed to eat the same food as the rest of the people.

People who preach isolationism or do anything to lessen the bonds between the United States and the United Nations are deliberately fostering fears which will eventually bring us war. Not supporting the continual strengthening of our forces at home, and not fostering a sense of responsibility for our work with the United Nations to create closer world relations and wider acceptance among our own people of their position in the world and their ability to accept leadership, will do us great harm in the long run…”

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August 11, 1942

“HYDE PARK, Monday—…Some of the students who were at the institutes there were able to remain in New York City for a few days. We had much singing and gaiety, but also some serious discussion on the personal stake of each boy and girl in the war. Most of the boys will soon be in the service. I was interested to find how many of the girls felt that their contribution might be made in factory work.

Sometimes I grow a little weary of the older people, who through the medium of the press, thoughtlessly suggest that everything done for young people today is unnecessary. It is a privilege to fight for your country and the world, but with that privilege must go the assurance that when the war is over, if you survive, you will have a part in creating the conditions under which you want to live.

The fact that we are now obliged to call our youth to this kind of sacrifice, shows that some of us in different parts of the world failed to live up to the ideals to which we gave lip service in World War Number One after it came to an end. Perhaps we did not realize that it meant political and economic changes, not only at home but abroad.

In any case, we were not prepared to face the situation. The boys of today are going into the armed forces as rapidly as they can be equipped, trained and used, and perhaps it is worthwhile for them to have a conviction as to what they are fighting for. They may fight better. It will help them if they know we really care about their convictions and will continue to carry on the interests which they, as young people, are consecrated to in the future, while they, at present, fight the war.”

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May 11, 1942

“NEW YORK, Sunday…In a large part yesterday, I did personal things, but I talked for a little while with Miss Viola Ilma, of the Young Men’s Vocational Foundation. First we discussed the growing difficulty of raising funds to help boys coming out of reform schools to get jobs. Then we talked over the difficulties of their adjustment to the wartime atmosphere. Finally, we went over the fact that those who go into the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are happy and entirely content, missing only one thing—mail and packages from home.

So many reform school boys originally go wrong because of broken homes, or the death of parents, so it is not surprising to find that one boy in the Army writes to Miss Ilma: “I don’t get any mail, but sometimes the other boys let me read theirs, and that feels good.”

These boys with records cannot get into war industries. The records come up time after time when they are looking for jobs. Yet the only way to keep them from going back to the lives which put them into reform schools originally, is to get them jobs and keep them in them.”

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March 10, 1939

“FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday…I was met by a young girl reporter on the train, an intense and vivid personality and one who voiced a desire which cheered me greatly. She wanted to know what young women could do to serve the cause of their country and of democracy. That is a spirit which most of us welcome with a deep sense of gratitude, for the cause of democracy needs service today.

I would be glad to see the Government make it possible for volunteers to receive training over a given period of time, by rendering some service which would be of use to the communities in which they live. This thought has often come to me when we have discussed the need of keeping young people out of the labor market for a longer period of time. The remarkable work I have seen in hospitals and government offices of various kinds done by WPA and NYA workers, leads me to believe that when these projects come to an end there will be real hardship. Perhaps some of this volunteer service would prove useful in civic and charitable work.

Texas NYA seems to be particularly interested in the assistance given education and in the resident projects which are apparently working out very well. They are also anxious to assist boys and girls in need of work, giving preference as far as possible to those whose families are on relief, but not barring from the resident projects youngsters who could not obtain the type of training available there in any other way. These youngsters come from families where the income is in the low brackets, though not perhaps actually on a relief basis. This seems to me to be a wise plan which I hope Congress will consider, though I realize that it presupposes careful and honest local administration…”

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