JULY 26, 1943
WASHINGTON, Sunday—As usual, I am swamped with mail, but am digging out slowly. Except for this occupation, the White House is a very quiet place for everyone except the President. People wait for him at every turn, and they look anxious or hurried or resigned, as the case may be. But for the rest of us, Washington is calm and peaceful and very quiet in the White House. When I get caught up on the mail, I am going to sit in a chair and read, so you are apt to get the results of anything which I find interesting, somewhere in this column during the next few days.
A great many people are writing me on the subject of juvenile delinquency. Some of them have remedies to suggest—long-time remedies which will take many years to show their effects. Better housing, more social security, more state care for dependent children, changes in our school systems; but all these things hold a promise for the future and not very much hope for the present.
One man, however, writes about a plan which strikes me as something that can be done at once and might help the young people of the country almost immediately. This gentleman says that gradually, throughout the nation, camping is becoming recognized as an essential part of education. Little by little, school systems are including summer camping as part of their regular programs, and even making weekend and one day trips during the winter sessions.
For various reasons, camps conducted in the past in different places are finding it difficult to function this summer. People who gave gifts in the past are giving less. This might be offset, however, by the fact that people are earning more money than they did in the past and may, perhaps, be able to pay for their children themselves, when it would have been out of the question in the days when WPA was one of our biggest employers.
Transportation is a more serious difficulty, but it seems to me, if carefully planned, this difficulty can be overcome. Children can camp in their own neighborhoods, but the greatest obstacle is the unawareness which blinds many parents from recognizing the value of health and character-building value which camping, as a summer recreation, can give to children.
Only 5 percent of our American children get to camp every summer. Many more could go, and many more could not only go to camp, but could, from camp, do a very useful job in helping neighboring farmers. Their work would be supervised. It would be a far better arrangement than having them live on the farms, because the farmer is interested in getting his work done, while camp supervisors want the work done, but want the children to benefit by doing it.