JANUARY 18, 1961
NEW YORK—Nature occasionally brings about disasters that remind us of how puny a human being really is.
The radar tower that collapsed at sea is one of the modern devices which is tied to some of man's most advanced forces for protection. But nature destroyed it and with it 28 human beings.
We grieve over losses that come in such unexpected ways and take the lives of people, changing hopes and joy very often into despair and sorrow. Until a tragedy actually touches someone near and dear to us, it is sometimes hard to realize what that tragedy might mean to some other individuals somewhere in the world. Once one experiences the shock of a sudden blow, however, which one had no time to prepare for or expect, then one is much more sensitive to such sad occurrences and what they mean to fathers, mothers, wives and children.
I experienced a little of last weekend's storm as I proceeded to keep a speaking engagement in New Jersey. I started out on the drive with some misgivings, but we were fortunate and I arrived on time at my destination and returned home far earlier than I had expected.
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The weather predictions promise us clearing skies in the East, and perhaps that will mean we will have a good day for the inauguration of President-elect John F. Kennedy.
Not only in this country will the Democrats have their minds fixed on this inauguration, but in many parts of the world people will be thinking of what changes they might wish to see brought about and what the new President may mean to them and to their countries.
It is a sobering thought to any citizen of the United States that a change in the Presidency in our country means so much to people in many other areas of the world. But to the man who is being inaugurated, as the day approaches, the weight of the responsibilities he will carry must grow heavier and heavier. If he has the right temperament for the job, he undoubtedly feels confident of being able to face the problems and to find solutions with the help of others.
There are certain attributes one must have in a situation such as the present—confidence in oneself, trust in God, and a buoyant and optimistic disposition.
A really strong and successful President must even enjoy the weight of his responsibilities. But, more so, he must have the kind of mind that looks forward to experimentation—one that is flexible enough to be willing to try new approaches to situations that have been building up for lack of foresight or corrective measures.
For instance, the unemployment problem is one of the first things that will require prompt action. With the development of automation a certain amount of unemployment was inevitable. There are other reasons, of course, that contribute to the problem, but this was foreseeable.
I have seen the suggestion that we must have retraining projects and the development of new industries to take up the slack created by man's inventiveness. But I have seen no signs that our thinking is going beyond the actual unemployment.
It seems to me, too, that we might well be facing up to the fact that working people will have more hours for leisure-time activities—with machines taking over where men formerly worked with their hands. And the way this leisure time is used is a matter for education that should begin with the child now in school.
Suddenly masses of people will be able to enjoy what only the rich could enjoy in the past, but they will not be equipped to enjoy these things unless they are taught appreciation and unless they are given the opportunity to learn some of the things, as children, that up to now have been practically left out of school curriculums and neglected in home environments.
It also seems to me we should direct much more importance towards the development and appreciation of craft work. If human beings are going to be restricted to machines during their working hours, they are going to lose any sense of creativeness in their work.
And creativeness is something every human being desires, or should desire. Perhaps we should direct our thinking toward the development of crafts in our children so that their creative spirit can be expressed and developed. Unless we are taught the appreciation of this kind of work, we may well find a reluctance to satisfy any urge to engage in hand-production and a loss of skill and taste that is required to make something beautiful with one's own hands.