DECEMBER 23, 1948
NEW YORK, Wednesday—On Monday afternoon we went to a pleasant, informal "at home" in the country. It was at a white frame house, standing back from the main street in the Village of Red Hook, which is on the New York-to-Albany Post Road known as Route 9. Fortunately, there is land at the back of the house where the three children of our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Garvan, can play in safety. Otherwise, I should think it a dangerous spot for children to live.
The Christmas tree was all decorated and lit, and though the youngsters were not invited to the party they appeared in their night clothes for one last look at the tree and a very shy goodnight to the guests. Our host teaches at Bard College and many of the guests present were connected with that little school, which has lived through so many phases and seems to be filling a very great need in the lives of its students and which attracts a very interesting faculty.
There the men and women teachers are trying to guide their charges into ways of usefulness and, above everything else, I think their job has been to bolster in these youngsters a sense of the purpose of life. To keep young people today from feeling that this is a period of futility—and that it does not matter what any individual does since we are probably going to perish collectively very soon anyway—is no easy task.
One of my very old friends in England, whose family has been distinctly conservative, wrote me the other day with characteristic British frank self-criticism: "How I wish the young people of today could have some kind of normal, happy security in their lives, such as we grew up in. Our present government is so poor that I feel Great Britain has lost its prestige everywhere in Europe."
It is natural, I suppose, that those of us of the older generation who happened to grow up during one of the quiet periods of history bemoan the fact that our children must live in turbulent times. But after all, the men who stand out and whose names are most revered among us are the men who lived in turbulent times and who dominated their times.
I would like to feel secure in the assurance of peace and I am sure that in every country in the world every individual would like to have that same security. But something which is so very good must require something from us. Perhaps that is what we should be asking of ourselves today. What is it that is required of us?
Garry Davis, in trying to make himself a world citizen, is answering the question in his way. It would not be my way nor perhaps yours, but nevertheless that question and the way we answer it is really the all-important thing that will settle what we do in our period of history.
I feel that the answer is in using whatever capacities we have to build a really democratic and free world. To do that we must begin with our own surroundings. Few of us can do more than answer the question in our own small and restricted sphere, but the aggregate of what we do may add up to that kind of security and peace in the future, built on a firm foundation, that could give even my pessimistic British friend something to be happy about.