Campaign Address at Kansas City, Mo.
October 13, 1936Publishing Information
Governor Park, Mr. Mayor, my friends of Missouri:
I have just come through Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas - parts of our national dust bowl - where deep holes in the ground and swirling clouds of dust show the erosion which years of man's neglect have wrought in the soil. And in your own States you have all seen other examples of waste in the physical resources of our country - water, trees, birds and other wild life.
But through the years of this depression we have had destruction even more tragic than that - waste in men and women, in human skill, character and life. Of all of the appalling waste of the days of false prosperity and recent disaster, human erosion has been the most calamitous.
There was, unfortunately, for a long time in the high places of Government in Washington a school of thought that human waste was the concern only of private charity and local communities. We have learned a lot since those days. We no longer believe that human beings hit by flood, drought, unemployment or any other national disaster should be left to themselves with the sole help of such charity as may be locally available to them. We know from sad experience that there may not be enough to go round.
Nature's deepest instinct is the concern in every parent's heart for the welfare of the children. It is a law of nature which equals even the instinct for the preservation of life itself. Indeed it is part of that law, for without the preservation of youth, the race itself would perish. And so, the highest duty of any Government is to order public affairs so that opportunities for youth shall be made ever broader and firmer.
We Americans have never lost our sense of this obligation. To a greater degree than any other peoples we have sought to give each rising generation a little better chance in life than the one that preceded it. The little red schoolhouse for the education of the young, and the church for the training of their spiritual qualities, have always been the first structures to rise in every new settlement, as our ancestors pushed new frontiers through the wilderness. The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.
Those of us who helped build up the fantastic jazz era of the nineteen-twenties, which crashed down over our heads, must feel a peculiarly deep sense of responsibility to our boys and girls who were sunk with us in the ruins.
I need not remind the young people of this country of the black future which lay ahead of them in those days. That was the era of the wanderers - boys and girls who had grown tired of living on the vanishing savings of their parents, and who had set out on the highways in all directions to look for work which they could not find.
When the history of the dark days out of which we are now coming is written, it will be said that the great marvel of this period was that those young people have come through, with a full faith in democracy and with a high resolve to preserve it at all costs.
Cities couldn't help, counties couldn't help, States couldn't help. Even big business couldn't help. They had all come to the end of their resources. The youth of America had apparently come pretty close to the end of the road.
Before it laid its hands to any other problem - and there were many of them - it set up the C.C.C. camps to put an immediate end to that hopeless condition. It cost money to do that, just as it cost our pioneer fathers and mothers money to build the schools in which we have all been trained.
We have done much in the way of a beginning to remove the things in America which have made for waste in human beings. On the farms and in the cities - throughout the Nation - we are starting to remove those glaring inequalities, those deep-rooted maladjustments which did so much to bring about disaster.
The American people joined with us in 1933 to start this job. A vast majority of the American people in 1936 are with us to see it through. We have made the start in these days, confident that you - the youth of the country - will carry on to finish the job.
That is why we have a national youth program. That is why through our C.C.C. camps and the National Youth Administration we are trying to keep young people at useful work or in useful education. In high schools and in colleges the Federal Government has lent a helping hand in keeping youth at the job of learning. Out in the woods, out in the open, the Federal Government has kept the self-respect and the health of hundreds of thousands of young people.
The Federal Government for many years has spent a good many millions of dollars - well-spent dollars too - to conserve our forests, our crops and our livestock. We believe in that kind of conservation. You all know how much we have done in that kind of conservation. But now we have begun to spend money on much more important conservation - to save the energy, the ability and the spirit of youth. No money was ever better spent.
Nothing has made me happier on this trip than seeing at first hand that the youthful hitch-hiker has disappeared from our highways and from the box cars and freight trains. The youth of the land can once more look forward with confidence and courage just as we of the older generation did in our day.
No greater satisfaction can come to me than the realization that the youth of America understand what we have tried to do - and approve. They know that the price we have paid to save our country has been worth while.
America has lost a good many things during the depression. Some of them needed to go; I am glad that they have gone. We have lost, for example, that false sense of values that puts financial success above every other kind of achievement. We have lost a little of our cocksureness, a little of the bumptiousness which the Pharisee had when he thanked God that he was not as other people. We have lost something of that feeling that ours is an "every-man-for-himself" kind of society, in which the law of the jungle is law enough.
But many things we have saved - things worth saving. We have saved our morale. We have preserved our belief in American institutions. In this world of ours where some Nations have taken perilous detours, we have faced our problems and have met them with a democracy. Within that democracy we are determined to keep on solving them.
You will discover that in pushing forward this great program of social betterment and social security, you will be met by the same opposition, the same relentless resistance which faced the frontiersmen of the early West. You will find that your fight against selfishness and injustice, against oppression, and, above all, against war, will take you into a man-sized struggle.
I am telling you this not to discourage you, but to stimulate you. Our fight - yours and mine - is to keep our democracy safe by keeping it moving forward. In such a fight it is an unhappy place to be on the side lines. To the young people of America I say: Join with us; ours is the real struggle to continue and preserve democracy in America.