OCTOBER 20, 1952
NEW YORK, Sunday—I attended a meeting the other night in the Washington Irving High School that was sponsored by students. I am particularly glad that students are taking such an interest in this election campaign. At the meeting a short and very good movie was shown, giving scenes of Governor Stevenson's campaign and some excerpts from his speeches. Elmer Rice was there to speak also, and he was kind enough to let me appear first because I was in a hurry.
Next week, on October 23, most of the universities and colleges in this area will hold some kind of celebration to mark the coming of age of all those who will vote this year for the first time. I think this is an important event, and I wish on that day some of our most important speakers would take note of the fact and make special reference to the new voter. We should make a great deal more of this first vote, for the time when you are able to take an active part in your government not merely through your influence with others, but through your own vote, is a great and responsible time.
I happen to believe that the voting age should be lowered to 18. But it still is held at 21, and up to now that has always been considered the time when a man actually comes of age and can assume all his legal responsibilities. It is a day which, for men and women both, should be marked with some solemnity. The young people who come together on that day to celebrate their first vote should think of their heritage as members of this great democracy.
Our forefathers could have had little idea when they founded this nation how great it would become in such a short span of years. They felt heavily the responsibility of making life possible for those who had come to settle the thirteen colonies. Sometimes in certain areas these settlers nearly died of famine. Transportation was so poor and dangerous that one settlement often would not know what was happening in another. Today, when transportation and communication are so rapid, it is our responsibility to know what is happening all over the world as well as at home. The first voter has a great responsibility for his country. But since his own country is tied to all the other nations of the world, he has to take a broader view than did our forefathers and he bears an even greater responsibility.
It is a wonderful time to come of age this year—to make up one's own mind what is best for one's country in a Presidential election, to feel free to act as one believes and to know that by being active in one's own environment one can contribute something to the solution of questions at home and abroad. May the celebrations held on October 23 to commemorate the coming of age of new voters in 1952 serve to inspire every young citizen to accept full responsibility as a citizen of this democracy.