JULY 4, 1938
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Here we are again at the most significant holiday of the whole year for every citizen of the United States, the day on which our forefathers proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. None of us should forget the courage that was shown by that little handful of men, speaking for such a pitifully small group of people. The reason we should not forget it is that we need courage today to meet entirely different situations. They are perhaps even more difficult, and yet with years of experience, without tremendous resources both in material things and human beings, it is hard to believe that we will lack the courage to solve our problems today.
I have just read a book by Edna Ferber called "Nobody's in Town." This book is two short novels; I think the second one, "Trees Die at the Top," would make good reading for everybody on the Fourth of July. There are several novelists who are great favorites of mine—Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Fannie Hurst—and no one, it seems to me, can do as well as Edna Ferber what she has done in this story.
In this country we do need to be reminded of our antecedents, so as not to allow ourselves to get soft physically and excuse it by saying that the strains on us today are different, and that we must meet them in different ways. True, they are different, but qualities which met pioneer difficulties are needed to meet the problems of modern civilization. When the physical world provides you with luxury and ease, you must not deteriorate in inner qualities, and that is one of our dangers.
A young man said something to me the other day which I have treasured ever since, for it is a philosophy which we all might well think about. "Luxuries," he said, "do not hurt us if we work for them. They will not hurt our children if our children are conscious of the fact that each thing which we acquire has demanded from us labor of some kind." As an example he cited his small children, who though barely two and four years old, had been taught to take care of each new purchase for the home just as if it were their own. When they heard their parents talk about a piece of furniture, they realized that it represented work and thought and they treasured it.
In contrast, an older man was telling me yesterday how his grandchildren troubled him. "Fine children," he said, "but entirely lacking in the understanding of what it means to pay in work for what you have, and therefore without any sense of the value of money in actual labor represented."
The Fourth of July is the day for us to weigh ourselves as citizens, not just to celebrate the citizenship of our forefathers but to renew our own.