MAY 13, 1940
WASHINGTON, Sunday—The news that Holland and Belgium had been invaded came over the radio on Friday morning, but I could not write about it that day. I had a curious sense of having lost the last vestige of hope that the imprint of civilization still made any dent on certain parts of the world. Just as I had feared, the "protection" turned again into aggression.
Dorothy Thompson's column few days ago, in which she analyzed the psychological unpreparedness of democracies, as well as their physical unpreparedness, was very interesting to me. I think she is entirely right that the two go together. They mean that we, in the democracies, have prepared ourselves for a civilized, peaceful world, and we have almost forgotten that a bandit may turn up who does not understand our language nor hold to any of our beliefs. There is little use in looking backwards. We have to face the realities of the present, and move step by step along a twisting way hoping that we act in the best way for the preservation of our civilization.
The President made his speech to the Pan-American Scientific Congress Friday night at a very serious moment, and his feelings reflected themselves in all he said, but I felt no less serious as I faced the boys in the Choate School chapel that noon. All those young things, knowing so little of life and so little of what the future might hold! A cruel world to face, and for us an uncertain one. In so many nations today youth has to make no real decisions. Circumstances have made that unnecessary. If you read Eve Curie's little book: "The Price of Freedom," you will realize how one bows with grace to the inevitable. For these youngsters of ours, however, there are decisions which have to be made step by step and uncertainty is difficult to face.
Many people say today that they want to live for democracy and I hope that in saying it they really know what they mean. To really mean that, here in this country, will require a firm determination to prove that democracy can work from the economic as well as from the political standpoint, and so, on two fronts, we will have to make decisions. How to preserve the freedoms of democracy in a world that seems to be bent on destroying them, and how really to make democracy work at home prove that it is worth preserving. These are two things to achieve. These are the questions the youth of today must face, and we who are older must face them too. Let us pray that we shall have the courage and the honesty to strive for the right whatever the cost.