The World of Tomorrow
WE MUST HAVE A REVITALIZED REPUBLIC
By THOMAS E. DEWEY, District Attorney of New York County
Delivered in opening the 1941 Williamstown Institute of Human Relations at Williams College,Williamstown, Mass., August 24, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 751-752
LADIES and Gentlemen: I am happy to join in opening this year's Institute of Human Relations under the auspices of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. As a member of the National Conference I have long been proud of its distinguished work for the cause of religious freedom and against intolerance and bigotry.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed under our Constitution. Yet too often people act as though members of other faiths do not share their rights. Let me cite one outstanding example of the work of the Conference.
Not long ago organizers of a Fascist organization entered a mid-western city not far from where I was born and raised. These are no times to mince words. They belonged to the "Silver Shirts"—an organization with many branches in this country. Local representatives of the National Conference of Christians and Jews took action immediately. Religious leaders met and adopted a resolution condemning the "Silver Shirts" and all their efforts to arouse racial hatreds. The following day two bishops denounced the invasion. Leaders of education, labor, business, the press and the radio all joined in warning the public of the threat to the community. The "Silver Shirt" organizers left town.
No rights were denied. No one was subjected to violence. In the words of Dr. Clinchy, the president of the Conference, the "hate salesmen soon found they were in unprofitable territory." The duty of using our free speech and free press to combat those who would pervert free speech had been effectively performed.
This is only one out of hundreds of similar cases. The National Conference serves constantly to remind us that with every right there goes a duty—that every time we neglect a duty we stand to lose a right. This is a reality which is fundamental in the world we want to live in.
But in order even to discuss the world of tomorrow, we must recognize that our words will have no value and our hopes will be empty unless there is a defeat of the forces of aggression. That defeat may come quickly or it may be
long delayed. It will not come without sacrifice and unified desire to bring it about.
Assuming as we must and praying as we do that the world of tomorrow shall be one in which reason and integrity prevail and aggression and force will have no place, what kind of a world do we want it to be? Certainly with the rights of self-government restored to other nations in the world, we in America will have a deep concern with the mode of life and with the quality of the government under which we live.
Uppermost in the minds of all is the continuous improvement of the lot of all our people. We must resume our long delayed progress in the production and distribution of goods. This must be done with greater fairness. It must be done so as broadly to insure individual employment and security.
But if these were the only objectives, then our principal quarrel with dictatorship would be a mere quibble over methods. For the dictators claim to seek these objectives, too.
It is the proud boast of Fascism that it has made the trains run on time. The Nazis claim they get more square yards of cloth from a given productive unit. Moreover, it is their claim that they have achieved the perfect dead level of equal distribution of the products of labor.
The purposes of a free people include industrial and scientific advances. But with these we merely start. We are concerned equally with the cultural and spiritual freedoms which the totalitarians deny. We are even more concerned with the science of representative government, with the dignity of the individual and with art of living together in mutual respect.
In the world of tomorrow I should like to live in a revitalized republic. How shall we create this new vitality in our system?
First. I should like to see every American live his daily life alert to the fact that our fundamental freedoms cannot be taken for granted. The great danger we face is that we become too complacent and smug. Men pay lip service to freedom of religion and yet despise others who do not share their religious beliefs. Many enjoy political freedom and yet distrust the man who holds a different political faith. Equality of race and color are fundamental with us and yet in daily action equality is denied.
I want to see an America in which every citizen recognizes that only he can guard his own freedoms—that these freedoms must be reborn in each generation, lest they die.
Second: I should like to see a rebirth of the American system of checks and balances in government. Leadership is properly expected of every executive—federal, state and local. Such leadership may well increase in importance in a complicated society. So, too, will there be increased danger of headstrong or oppressive action. Thus, it is not less but more imperative that we revitalize the independence of the legislatures and the courts. Our government was devised for the protection of minorities and to prevent the destruction of liberties or rights by temporary majorities. To preserve these guarantees of freedom, we must strengthen the quality and independence of each of the three separate branches of government.
Third: I should like to see the day when men of ability and experience are expected, as a matter of duty, to enter actively in public life. The science of government is highly complicated. We cannot afford incompetence in any branch. Governmental regulation of our economic life has increased greatly and will probably continue to increase in the highly complex world into which we are moving. And still theablest men from business, labor, agriculture, education and other fields are rarely found in public positions of importance
except during a temporary period of crisis. The people of this country, aware of the difficulty of their problems, will elect able men if given an opportunity. Moreover, they will applaud and support any administration which appoints such men to administrative and judicial posts.
Fourth: I should like to see governmental administration become a principal subject of education in our high schools, colleges and universities.
Experience shows that we get a cross-section of the nation in our institutions of learning. If government will do its part by appointing trained men and women from such institutions, business, labor and agriculture will send their best men for training.
Fifth: I should like to see all management finally recognize the self-evident truth that free men have a right to bargain collectively through agents of their own choosing. We can then move into a period where labor and management will adjust their differences with an intelligent realization that the problems of each are the problems of the other. Neither can exist without the other. Neither can make progress at the expense of the other. Labor and management may well now turn their attention to a study of the problems of each other. In this field there is already a beginning. One great union in New York City today conducts a school in economics and industrial relations from which it chooses its representatives. At Youngstown College in Ohio, a broad effort is now under way to develop training in labor relations for the representatives of both management and labor. These are pioneer efforts in an uncharted field through which we may hope to achieve some of the mutual understandings essential to the world in which we wish to live.
Sixth: I should like to see the day when religion reasserts its leadership as a living force in the moral values of the nation. Our form of government was devised on principles flowing from deep religious conviction. Every essential of our system—every essential of any free society springs from the concepts of morality, family life and duties and faith in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Each of these is denied by the purely materialistic philosophies of totalitarianism. From the religious faith of a people springs the essential faith in the right and concern for the well-being of our fellow men.
Seventh: I should like to see the day when every citizen regards himself as a part of the nation itself and not as a part of any pressure group. Too many Americans today feel they discharge their duty of citizenship when they attend the meetings of their trade association, labor union or farm organization. Responsible government cannot be preserved by citizens who shift their burdens to the shoulders of an executive secretary or a lobbyist. We are all producers and we are all consumers. There is no special group which can survive at the expense of the community.
It is the first article of our national faith that the unit of value in human life is the individual himself. Our political and social institutions are not ends in themselves; they are the means to promote the healthy growth of individual character.
Only by a respect for the rights of every other individual can we protect our own rights. Only by the vigilant exercise of the duty of citizenship can we protect the state which serves us. Our freedom has flourished because it is the common prize of all of us. Any weakening of the rights of any is a blow to the rights of all. We shall have our freedom so long as we are all free!