JANUARY 5, 1948
HYDE PARK, Sunday—One of the main things that Henry Wallace attacks, namely, universal military service, will come up in the new session of Congress. Purely military universal service has never been much to my liking. But at the present time I think it is probably one of the most important gestures we can make to convince the USSR that we mean to remain strong in a military way until some settlement is made within the United Nations which will make it possible for the U. N. to be strong enough to hold even a big nation in check.
Then I would agree that disarmament was justified and much to be desired. Yet I am not sure that even then I would not approve of one year of universal service for boys and girls alike. The military part of it I would cut, but I would keep the discipline. I would make it a point to stress physical development and health, and then make the service consist of work of value to the community and the country. And I would tie it in, where possible, with the individual's preparation for his life work.
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For years people have searched for a way in which to give youth the same sense of responsibility and selfless devotion to their country which is called out in time of war. This year of service might well be the substitute that has been looked for. We need to start our lives as citizens with a sense of responsibility to the community. Later we will be called upon within our communities to do many services and perhaps we will enter fields of public service, but a first year of work for the nation may well be the first intimation to many youngsters that they have obligations as well as privileges because of their citizenship in a democracy.
I think there is plenty of room in this country for us to fight to improve our democracy. I am frank to say that I was deeply troubled when I read of the machinery to be used by the Loyalty Review Board. We are far from having achieved the rights of minorities in this country. And I can understand why Mr. Wallace wants to fight for some changes which are long overdue and without which we cannot feel that we have a true democracy.
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If, in organizing a third party, Mr. Wallace has in mind simply forcing the Democrats to make better nominations and then throwing his third-party strength to those candidates, he may, of course, have a few successes. In addition, if he hopes to force the Democratic candidate for President to come out for more liberal policies, after which he, Mr. Wallace, would bow himself out of the picture, he may have some success there too. But there is no assurance that this is what he intends to do, nor that he will succeed in doing it.
In the last analysis, he may simply make it possible for the Republicans to nominate a complete reactionary and still win. He may find his party repudiated by all liberal Congressmen who will feel that they are being tagged with communism. If he thinks that a completely reactionary four years will bring us a saner four years afterwards, I am afraid he will find that is not the way the pendulum usually swings. Great reaction brings chaos and confusion afterwards.
I do not think we have the time to go through reaction to the right and then to the left. It would take too long to reach a normal middle-of-the-road period. We might survive, but the rest of the world would not—and so my conclusion is that Mr. Wallace has done both his own country and the world a great disservice.