FEBRUARY 19, 1948
NEW YORK, Wednesday—Last night I read through the book, "Letters of William Allen White and a Young Man," edited and arranged by Gil Wilson. Opposite the title page there is a delightful caricature of Mr. White by this young artist-writer, and to me the letters are very poignant.
The struggle for self-expression in a period when the world about you seems to be falling to pieces, when your genius urges you to express your convictions and yet you are not very sure what those convictions are—how many young people have been through this battle! This makes the young man's letters poignant; and the elder man's efforts to help, to be understanding, not to say too much and yet to teach the lessons of age and experience, are almost as touching.
In some ways, I wish the two had met—that the great editor had sat himself down and faced his own frustrations and doubts, and talked out some of those that faced the younger man. It would have been hard, but good for them both, for there are things the younger man might have been brought to see which perhaps he will never see now. His revolt against conditions as they were and still are is entirely understandable. But some of his premises, which led him eventually to the belief that if something new is being tried, it must be better than the old, seem to me on pretty shaky ground.
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Some of our statesmen today might read this book with profit. I wonder if the Republican leaders ever knew how uncertain William Allen White was whether the Republican Party, or any political party, was always right!
The way this young artist felt at the time these letters were written is the way thousands of young people and older people feel today. Harried by inflation, living again under the shadow of possible war, they wonder who is to blame. They may blame the wrong people unless we find some of the answers for them.
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The other night, I listened to Fulton Lewis, the radio commentator, sneer at the President for having said that the law of supply and demand might not be enough to control inflation. I doubt if Mr. Lewis quite understands the anxieties that some people face under the present high prices.
They know very little about finances on the top level; the drop in commodity prices and stock-market breaks mean little to them; but they know what it means to lose a job and what it means to get wages that do not cover the necessities of life. These things bring a suspicion against those in power.
Those in power, knowing they are on shaky ground, whip up the fear of Communism and everyone wonders who comes next in the witch-hunt for the disloyal. The situation is far from healthy.