AUGUST 18, 1938
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—Last night in the Chapel at Vassar College, I sat and looked at a sea of young faces. Some 500 delegates have come from 54 countries, and 16 international organizations are also represented, I believe, in this World Youth Congress. Their faces were eager, earnest and interested. Later, when I shook hands with them, I thought I detected in those who came from war-torn countries, signs of the strain which they had undergone.
We were photographed on the steps of President MacCracken's home. A little Chinese Girl Scout stepped out from the ranks and gave me the Girl Scout salute and stood next to a delegate from Japan. Delegates from Paraguay and Bolivia came up to me together. Before I rose to speak I felt a wave of great admiration sweep over me for the courage and faith of these young people. I also had a sense of grief that so many bitter experiences must lie before youth.
I had been warned that this was a Communist controlled and therefore irreligious gathering, but they had opened and closed their meeting with a prayer. It is true that, in the line which shook me by the hand later on, I was introduced to a young Communist and a young Socialist and young workers who belong to various unions, but I had no impression that there was any controlling force in the gathering.
I sat on a table and a big group sat around me on the floor of the old gymnasium afterwards. There was every opportunity to gather from their most varied assortment of questions what was uppermost in the minds of these young people and how their interests were developing.
It was interesting to see how present conditions in their countries affected their interest in political and social questions. Those who came from countries where war seems imminent, showed their great desire for help from other nations of the world in solving their country's difficult situation by some kind of joint action undertaken before war becomes an actuality. The questions from those who came from countries actually at war showed their anxiety to find a formula which would bring them peace again.
I have a young Englishman staying with me, a member of the English "Society of Friends." We knew his wife some years ago when she came to this country as a student and made a brilliant record at the Yale Law School. She has died since, but I cannot help thinking that her personality would mean much to this group and her husband must feel that he is carrying on an interest which would undoubtedly have had her sympathetic allegiance.
These young people may not always be wise, older people are not either, but no one can doubt their sincere desire to understand and solve the problems of the world.