JANUARY 25, 1945
NEW YORK, Wednesday—I must say just a word or two more to you about the handling of youthful offenders in the court which I visited yesterday morning. Judge Goldstein treated the boys and girls with dignity and solemnity, and I felt that his attitude must have made a real impression upon them.
As you read their records, however, you realized that it was not the boys themselves who were entirely to blame for their crimes. Part of the blame must lie in the environment in which they lived, the economic situation which their families had faced and the weaknesses of their parents. Over and over again you would read: "Lives in a squalid tenement," or "Father alcoholic" or "Both parents alcoholic." How could you blame the boy not yet 18, working in an industry where he sometimes earned 83 or 87 cents an hour, if he used the money to get a drink. After he starts drinking, many things are sure to go wrong.
Surely the Lord must wonder sometimes whether we will ever learn to be our brother's keeper, in the right sense of that phrase. This court is a step in the right direction. Unless, however, we work on better housing for the nation; on better economic conditions; on better health programs; on better education; and, in spite of having spent billions of dollars on the war, unless we learn to spend some portion in the same way on building for peace, our civilization stands little chance of meeting the test which religion imposes upon us all. If Christ's life is the pattern by which we must live before we attain salvation and peace, certainly the people that I saw in court yesterday have had few evidences in their lives that that is the real objective to which the people around them aspire.
It seems sometimes as though many of the men whose names are prominent among us, and who carry heavy responsibility, thought more of the security of their money than of the security of human beings, and that they judged men more by their ability to handle money with wisdom and acumen than by their ability to use money for the benefit of human beings.
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In the afternoon I spoke briefly for the graduating class of the Central High School of Needle Trades. This school not only has a high school course, but gives the girls and boys a chance for two years of college work which trains them for better positions in the garment trades industry.
Last evening I attended a dinner given by the Refugee Relief Fund of the Coat and Suit Industry. They have raised a fund, through their label system, which is divided among various organizations, such as the National War Fund, the Greater New York Fund and the refugee agency. They raise a separate fund for the Red Cross, and in addition, of course, carry on many individual gifts; and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union gives large sums also to refugees and for other purposes.
I enjoyed my evening, but was glad to get home before midnight, since this morning I had to be up to catch a 9:20 train to Poughkeepsie to visit the Wiltwyck School.