FEBRUARY 28, 1953
NEW YORK, Monday—Yesterday I visited New York University's uptown campus in the Bronx for a lecture. The audience was wonderfully attentive, and I enjoyed my trip to and from the school along the East Side highway. The weather was so wonderful one almost felt that spring was on the march.
I never face a group of young men, as I did at N.Y.U. on Thursday, without the great sense of responsibility that no member of the older generation can escape when he realizes the kind of world these young people are going to live and work in.
This reminded me of a dinner party the other night when I sat beside one of my husband's old friends, who brought up one of his pet theories. This theory is that if we had established universal military service years ago, the Russians would never have dared to become the menace they are today.
I always listen with interest because I realize that our haste in disarming has cost us a great deal. It probably has been far more costly than it would have been to remain more constantly in complete readiness to defend ourselves, if necessary. We ended the war at the top of our military power and it has taken us up to now to rebuild even a part of that power and we probably are not at the top even now.
We have discovered from our experience in two major world wars that in our desire to keep them away from our own shores we are necessarily dragged into them. The next world war, which I hope will never come, may well be in our country from the beginning because we will be vulnerable to attack from the start.
This is why I look at our young men and young women with a deep sense of the realization of the kind of world they live in and the decisions they have to make in order to keep their future secure. Perhaps all of them will have to submit to universal military training simply because we may feel that a trained and hardened youth is essential to the safety of our nation.
Even if the Soviets give us assurances that they are not going to try to communize the world in the next 50 years and agree to the kind of inspection that we think is necessary to safeguard the nations of the world if atomic energy is controlled by the United Nations, we may feel we need to be constantly prepared for defense. If this is so, I hope that this training can be made as valuable as possible to the physical and mental development of our younger generation.
Many families dread the thought of universal military training. First, it delays the time for a young man to begin to earn his own living and establish his own place in society. And, second, many fear the temptations that confront the youngsters in training camp areas far from their hometowns. I have never been concerned about the latter, even granting the fact that the boys are away from home influences. But we must acknowledge that it troubles many families, so we must be sure that the opportunity of training given to these boys is many-sided and as healthy for the body, mind and spirit as it is possible to make it.