NOVEMBER 19, 1952
NEW YORK, Tuesday—In the magazine section of one of last Sunday's newspapers I read an interesting story about the late Le Baron Russell Briggs, who was dean for many years of Harvard University. One day a student whom he had asked why he failed to complete an assignment told him: "I wasn't feeling very well, sir." To which the dean replied: "Mr. Smith, I think in time you may perhaps find that most of the work of the world is done by people who aren't feeling very well."
I think that is a delicious story, but I wish he had added that the young man might find that if people were busy they probably wouldn't even notice they "weren't feeling very well." They would have to be feeling really very ill in order to have time to notice it at all!
One of my old friends, who has been an educator for many years, spent the weekend with me at Hyde Park and asked the question: "What is bringing about the lawlessness among youngsters which you see everywhere, not only in our country but in almost every other country?"
This was pointed up for us by a news story in one of our papers on Monday morning, revealing the fact that young vandals had done a great deal of damage in a new housing project.
I think the answer might be found in one of the other stories we have been reading of late. This is the revelation of the tie-up between the underworld and people in political and government offices in New York City.
What can you expect of the children if these are the standards they see exemplified by the big men of their communities?
The men who occupy political positions in an area of a big community are known and looked up to for help and advice by practically everyone in their district. If they succumb to the temptations of private profit gained in questionable ways, if they associate with known criminals and gloss over their activities, what can you expect of the children of the area who live under circumstances where temptations of a minor kind constantly confront them? Why should they resist if their elders do not resist?
Example speaks louder than words, and the stories of our local politicians and their tie-up with the underworld is a good background on which to see all the problems we have lately been confronting in relation to the young people of our community. Cheating at games is not very different from cheating in examinations. Trying out dope until one becomes an addict, committing acts of vandalism in public buildings—all this is not very different from what their elders are doing and it has an influence where the adults stand before them in positions of power in their particular small world.