MAY 25, 1948
NEW YORK—A letter came to me the other day telling about a most interesting experiment in Florida, started by the boys of a high school in a fair sized town. A program of discussion groups in which white and colored boys come together to discuss the problems facing their community and country and the world today, has proved to be a complete success. The boy who initiated it and had helped to run this first group of discussions, attended one of the "Encampments for Citizenship" which is run every summer in the school in Riverdale which is sponsored by the New York Ethical Culture Society.
I have seen those young people once every summer while they have been at this Encampment and I have come to think this a valuable experience for them. They really learn a great deal about democratic citizenship, its meaning and the real possibility of living in a democratic way with other young citizens that come from many states throughout our Union.
In this Encampment they take young people from seventeen to twenty-three years of age and for six weeks they live together, practice self-government, and study the problems of democracy and how to be effective citizens. It has run for two consecutive summers and these young people who go to the Fieldston School take away with them, I think, a satisfying feeling of having had a new and stimulating experience under an able faculty, in pleasant and interesting surroundings.
As far afield as Germany we find an effort being made to meet the needs of youth. The German Youth Activities program sponsored by the Occupation Forces, particularly by the American soldiers themselves, has already accomplished a great deal to change the ideas of German youngsters who have never known anything but the Nazi training given older brothers and sisters before the war. It isn't easy to run an American program for youth in Germany today. The German child is none too well fed. The food stolen from other countries during the war has now been used up and many a German child is hungry, has insufficient clothing and lives, in winter at least, where keeping warm is a matter of deep concern.
We have a housing shortage in this country but in Germany and for that matter in most of the countries of Europe, housing is still at a very substandard level. This program of course, was undertaken in the hope of influencing the boys and girls who did not create the last war so they would become a force for peace.
Even in the countries which have been liberated much thought has to be given to this young generation because circumstances brought on by invasion and occupation have forced this younger generation to grow up under unnatural conditions. The fight for democracy in the future must be carried on through the youth of all the countries of the world and so for every one of us what is being done for young people today is of vital importance.