SEPTEMBER 19, 1939
CLARKSBURG, W. Va., Monday —Well, we are off again, leaving Washington early this morning on our way to West Virginia. We go through beautiful country, but much that we see from the train window reminds us that a great nation at peace still has many problems to solve. This is a part of the world where agriculture and coal mining meet. The mining industry has, perhaps, been before the public as a problem as long as any other great industry in the country.
The two extremes of wealth and poverty shook hands in this industry even when it had not reached today's situation. Now we add not the problem of "Can a mine profitably carry better wages and better working conditions?" but "What can we do with people who once worked in the mine and never will work there again?" To me there is a sense of urgency about solving our economic problems and finding some kind of a pattern which we can offer the future.
I read both Anne O'Hare McCormick and Dorothy Thompson this morning, and the announcement made to the Russian people by their government on their entry into Poland. That last document could only be handed out to a gullible nation. But it is disheartening in the extreme, and I fear that Anne O'Hare McCormick, who is a wise observer of European affairs, is right in her conclusion that in this war the seeds of other wars are being sown.
What can we do as a neutral nation to bring some influence to bear in the future, when of necessity all nations must come to a period of weariness and, whether they like it or not, have a breathing spell? Certainly abdicating one's right to have a conscience and to use one's intelligence is never helpful. Certainly thinking only as individuals of what is safe for us, or what will profit us, is not very uplifting to the individual and, in the aggregate, does little to make our nation a force for good.
I read recently a statement made by a United States Senator on neutrality. I listened to another Senator on the screen last night. Why must we approach these questions solely from the point of view of what will save our skins and our pockets? In the end, if the skins of the rest of the world are removed and the pockets of the rest of the world are empty, we will grow thin and lean.
One man says this is 1914 all over again. No, there may be similarities, but there are fundamental differences. We have come a long way since 1914. I hope and pray that we will not have to fight with armed forces in this war, but we do have to fight with our minds, for this is as much a war for the control of ideas as for control of material resources. If certain ideas triumph, then what our forefathers founded in this nation in the way of ideas and ideals would receive a very serious blow.
What we need to think about today is how we can be useful as well as neutral. We must keep alive the ideals which now make life worth living for us. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are dying. Are we going to think only of our skins and our own pockets? We have a right to stay at peace, if by doing so we render a greater service to a war-torn world.
That is the important thing we had better be thinking about. This nation had a reason for survival when it was young and weak, because it offered the world a refuge of freedom and a new and better ideal. That is the justification for existence.