NOVEMBER 23, 1945
HYDE PARK, Thursday—The more I read of the testimony which is being given—both by word of mouth and in writing—on the subject of universal military training, the more it seems to me that we are not, as a nation, looking far enough into the future. Even our military experts think in terms of the immediate future.
As the situation stands today, no thoughtful person would want to see us give up some kind of universal military training. But a blanket decision now on what will be needed several years from now seems shortsighted.
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First, we are about to try to build a United Nations Organization, one section of which, supposedly, will have control of world security. Unless we go into this organization, all of us, whole-heartedly and with the intention of making it work, we have the example of the League of Nations before us. Setting up machinery is never enough. The nations back of the machinery must really want to see that machinery function.
Secondly, we are dealing with new military weapons that may make obsolete a great many of the methods by which we attempted to insure the defense of our nation in the past. It is obvious that for the next few years, before these new weapons are fully developed and while we have men acting as policemen throughout the world, it is probably better to continue the present pattern of universal military training.
I think it should be possible, however, to review this training right along. No one doubts the value of the fundamental training which every boy receives. The checking up on physical defects, the learning to live together, the discipline, the regularity of life and good habits of sleeping and eating are all of value. It may be, however, that in the future they will only be part of the value which should come from a year of training or of service given by the citizen in a democracy to his or her government.
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Men and women have an equal share as citizens for what their government stands for at home and abroad. It may be that part of the training should be focused on how to get along with other nations, just as we learn to get along with our neighbors at home. It may be that, in addition to basic training, those with certain aptitudes should not only be given better mechanical training, but should perhaps be afforded the opportunity to progress quickly in science, in medicine, or even in the little understood social sciences.
Perhaps this year should give to every citizen a clearer understanding of his own government and a better ability to see the ultimate objectives for which his nation and his people strive. Certainly, that would make him more valuable as a constituent of any one of our elected representatives. It would also make it more difficult for us to be taken in by people who do not change fundamentally, but who are slippery as eels in the way in which they present their points of view to please what they feel is the public attitude at any particular time.