NOVEMBER 21, 1950
NEW YORK, Monday—On my television program yesterday afternoon, General Lewis B. Hershey struggled valiantly to answer the questions which the public on every side is asking today about Selective Service. On the whole, I think he succeeded remarkably well.
One thing General Hershey made clear—we cannot hope for perfect justice. When a nation's life is in danger, many a man's life will have to be hazarded, not only on the battlefield, but in a thousand other ways. Will his business, which he started alone, be able to survive if he entrusts it to other hands while he is gone? Will the environment, which he has built for himself, be the same when he comes back? What will happen to his wife and child? Will they have to suffer because he is called into the service?
All these and many more questions were asked of the general and he answered them as honestly as he could. He gave the feeling that first and foremost he had to get the men. He couldn't promise that all draft boards would do their job well, but men had the right to appeal if they had a real case to present. He discouraged all ideas that it would be possible always to give a man the chance he wanted.
All one can say is that what we really need to do is to use every power we have to avert war and to come to better national understanding. But when all is said and done, the world has not reached the stage where all nations can be unprepared for difficulties with their neighbors. In fact, there may be some nations that have to bear the greatest burden in actually keeping peace in the world by being strong. This must be so to convince any aggressor that this strength is on hand ready to be called on.
For our nation it seems to me that we have to give more thought to universal military training. The planning should be very careful to achieve the wisest and most useful use of manpower. Many of us have opposed compulsory military training and more of us feel that if boys are drafted, girls should be also. And some even have contended that men and women of all ages should be assigned to jobs they are fitted to do. However, conditions in the world have changed and perhaps the only question before us today is how this job can be done best so that the nation will be served.
Anyone who has ever heard Carl Sandburg sing any of his old American songs will want to buy "The Complete Poems." Mr. Sandburg, as Henry Steele Commager says, is "the poet of the plain people, of farmers, and steel workers and coal miners, of the housewife and the stenographer and the street walker, too; of children at play and at work, of hobos and bums; of soldiers—the privates, not the officers; of Negroes as of whites; of immigrants as of natives—of the people. Yes."
This is a book I think no one will want to be without in their libraries and many a winter's evening will be well spent reminding ourselves what America is really like.