MAY 30, 1939
WASHINGTON, Monday—I told you yesterday that I would go on with some of the things I could not forget about the miners in Scotts Run, W. Va., so here goes.
One of them is the little girls' club meeting in the community house at Pursglove. Not a very elaborate community house, but it has one good sized room and a place which will someday be a kitchen and pantry if they ever get enough money to buy dishes and equipment. I asked those little girls what they were working for and with one voice they said: "Some way to get to camp this summer." Camp costs $3.58 a week for every child. They can't pay that, of course, and the welfare agency probably isn't going to be able to provide much this year. But, to those little girls, camp means three weeks of adequate food and real opportunity for enjoyment and they are going to do their level best to find some way to work for it.
Scotts Run is typical, of course, of many other communities, not only mining areas, but in mill areas and farm areas where they have had droughts and floods, in any area in which the industry by which the people have lived has petered out for one reason or another and has left behind a people with no means of support.
Two things make democracy valuable, freedom and the opportunity to make a living, but freedom without that opportunity is rather valueless. So it seems to me that every one of us who cares about democracy should examine our own communities and make sure that there are no conditions there which are giving democracy a bad name. Perhaps you think you can do nothing about it. If enough people, however, get together something can be done in almost every community and you, as a citizen, are responsible in doing your share to make your community, as part of a democratic nation, a place worth living in.
We will soon be celebrating Decoration Day. On that day we honor the sacrifices made by innumerable people in wars fought, first to free our nation, then to keep it united and free. Today we rejoice that the necessity of fighting a war is not upon us, but if we have any understanding of our times we know that day by day our government and each one of us is on the firing line in a new age, facing new problems, new conditions which have not confronted us in the past, and which we, therefore, do not know just how to meet.
I can imagine how helpless some of the early settlers were when some strange new disease attacked the human beings or the animals which they had brought with them. Over and over again, a family lost several children, perhaps the man of the family or the mother, and sometimes all the cattle. It took years of painstaking research, of living through bad conditions without knowing the answers before many of these pioneering difficulties were finally solved. Our economic ills in the machine age are difficult and yet similar. When I remember my little girls. I know we too will find the solutions.