JUNE 7, 1946
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I see in the paper this morning that the Administration draft-extension bill has been passed by the Senate and, if the House passes the same bill, Selective Service will be continued until May 15, 1947. The House, it is said, may cut out the drafting of 18-year-olds. If they do, I am sure it will be because a certain number of mothers have written in protesting that their 18-year-old boys should not be taken away from home. I cannot help wondering whether the boys themselves would agree.
In the first place, the great majority of boys have finished high school at that age. If we were at war, they would have to fight for their country. Because of the war, we have obligations to fulfill which will probably last for some time in various parts of the world. I do not think that the 18-year-olds would like to be prevented from accepting this obligation.
If older men are drafted, they are taken away from their opportunities for higher education, from their training for skilled jobs, or from the work which they have started. It would seem an advantage to take this training in the armed services before one takes other training, so as not to interrupt the continuity of life later on.
Also, if the flow of men into the armed services is not sufficient, the men now in the services cannot be released—and that is unfair and undemocratic. The burdens of citizenship should be equally borne.
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Many young people in different states are asking to be allowed to vote at 18, and in Georgia a law to that effect has already been passed. That is an indication that young people feel able to accept the responsibilities of citizenship at that age. If so, they are not children, even though we mothers like to think of them in that category.
Young people have had to learn in their school years to differentiate among their companions. In the armed services, while they will meet older men, the choosing of their companions will still be up to them. They will be under discipline, well fed and well housed, and they will have a chance to see the world. Parents naturally want to protect their children, but probably we would be wise if we put more responsibility on them and were less frightened when they have to leave our apron strings.
In any case, I hope the day will come again when only those who actually want to serve in the armed forces are required to do so, but that will be the case only when the world has returned to greater stability than we have known for many years. The United Nations may bring that about—also our own goodwill and hard work to build better understanding among nations. At the present time, the continuation of Selective Service seems essential, and I think the young people themselves would prefer to have it apply to 18-year-olds.