JUNE 14, 1961
NEW YORK—There have been a number of stories in the newspapers in recent weeks about the conditions under which migrant workers live and work, and some of these stories have not been complimentary.
However, I know an employer here in New York State who makes every effort to comply with the law. And the workers he has been able to hire year after year are far better, he says, than any he can find in his own area. We should pay tribute to such employers who treat their help decently for this seasonal work. It is the good employers who attract the same groups of workers year after year, and both the employer and employees benefit. The good workmen move from one job to another with some regularity, and when the season is worked out they return to their homes with enough money to live on for the remainder of the year.
Unfortunately, there are other part-time employers who exploit these seasonal workers. They seem to care little or nothing for human beings and let them live under outrageous conditions and pay them just as little as they possibly can. Such evil men will always try to circumvent the law, and we must rely on those who are good citizens to report to the state and Federal authorities any violations that tend to bring the standards down if the bad employers can get away with it.
This, again, is a question of good citizenship and moral courage. Teamed together, they can do a good deal to change the migrant labor situation, which certainly is a blot on our civilization.
* * *
I have just received a long letter from someone who is deeply interested in our project, as outlined and backed by President Kennedy, to put a man on the moon. I have to confess that so far I have not been able to get very excited about this project. I realize it may have very interesting scientific results, but I am so very occupied with the problems on this planet that I find it difficult to think of what we may have to meet on the moon.
My correspondent, however, is more scientifically minded, so he acclaims the project highly and suggests that we would accelerate our task if we would put together a group of Russian and American scientists working as a team, pooled the knowledge, and made the flight as a joint proposition.
Are we ready, I wonder, to cooperate on a scientific research project? Are we ready to put all this research into the hands of the United Nations and to give the U.N. the right to call on all of us for our best knowledge and resources?
We might do better and move much more quickly than now, with each working in his own separate compartment. It is a question to think about.
* * *
I found entertaining Prof. Leo Szilard's story of the day in the distant future when some human beings from a distant planet landed on our destroyed earth. These visitors looked upon Grand Central Terminal, the only building left standing in New York, and thought it a strange and curious structure. And the trains they found standing about the yards were to them a primitive method that these strange inhabitants of a destroyed world must have used for transportation.
Finally, on investigation, they found that although the skeletons lying around seemed to have belonged to the same species they must have destroyed each other. And this was such an inexplicable thing that they doubted if it was worth making any further research about such morons!
This suggested to me how much we have to do to remain alive. Let's not try to be discovered as a destroyed planet. I feel those of us who are not scientists had perhaps better put our minds on the things we can still do to learn to live together with the people of this earth and not give too much of our thought to what we may find on the moon.