OCTOBER 14, 1942
NEW YORK, Tuesday—I received a letter written by an older woman to a young friend, a student studying philosophy who has entered the armed forces. It so well expresses what many of us would like to say to young people today, but have not said so well, that I am giving an essential part of it to you here:
"I want to be one of the first of your friends to write to you. I am one of the citizens of this world who really believe in the debt all of us owe to our young men who have gone into the Service of Democracy. These two words when linked have a great meaning. As dreadful as this war is, this war does link those words, Service and Democracy, and in so doing creates a service of such grandeur that we who recognize it, cannot be overwhelmed with the sorrow which war usually evokes.
"I know that the period before this war was one of bafflement for most of our young men. It was an era of great material development, in which was not included any way for the development of the spiritual needs of humanity. Those of our youth who were highly intellectual, among whom I count you, worked out a philosophy for themselves as best they could with the help of the older philosophers.
"But I do not believe these satisfied the younger philosophers, for somehow the machine age, in its harsh cold splendor, was not serving humanity, (as we now know, but it was leading it to war), and youth felt this and could not be satisfied. The machine was too big—too hideously unwieldy—no minority could handle it, to turn it into humanitarian paths. So, there was no way to serve, no way to be served by it.
"But to use it to save democracy—that is a vast service, provided we can see (as we do when we look at it thoughtfully) that automatically democracy will be increased enormously all over the world as a result of this vast struggle in its name. In its name—we must not forget this propaganda value. A more enlightened democracy, with modern machines in its service, is something we can believe in as the inevitable aftermath of this most terrible of all wars.
"So you see, we who stay at home and think of it feel an increasing gratitude toward the legions of our warriors in this war of such far-reaching emancipation. It is this gratitude which I want to make real to you—for it is a wider, deeper thing than my lifelong affection for this beautiful little boy who walked at my side through the green paths of Hampstead Heath in England, and who later tugged so valiantly as a college youth to establish a social-political group to study and plan a way to meet the problems he saw ahead (those problems which no man nor small group could solve, and which have landed the world in war.)
"There are still cynical people—selfish, thoughtless, even malignant. But before this thing is over, even these will have learned many lessons, and one of these lessons will be that they had no right to ask the youth of this world to fight, to offer life itself, for anything less than a world emancipated from their selfishness, thoughtlessness and meanness."