Tide of Cynicism is Definitely Ebbing



Delivered at the opening of the USO Campaign, Chicago, May 11, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, 509-511

IT is a great pleasure to be your guest this evening, to face this splendid audience and to think of the countless homes represented by the unseen radio audience listening in, from which homes have gone forth to serve their country the millions of boys in whose interest we are gathered here.

For the people of Chicago I have long entertained the warmest feelings. There is about you a spirit of sincerity, a spontaneity, a dauntless confidence, an open-handed generosity that warms the heart and gives one new courage. I count it a high privilege to have this opportunity of addressing you.

The other night I put on my phonograph an old record that had been lying forgotten on an upper closet shelf for many years. As it started to play, there came to me, in the same voice to which you are now listening, these words:

"The United War Work Campaign, which is asking the American people to contribute not less than $170,500,000, is the greatest voluntary, altruistic endeavor the world has even known. For the first time in history, people of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faith are standing side by side and working in closest cooperation for a great, common cause.

These were the opening words of an address made in November of 1918 just before the Armistice was signed. One notes with interest that for morale work in that war$170,500,000 was asked, $192,000,000 actually raised, while we are seeking only $32,000,000, less than 20% of the earlier amount. It is true that then the work was carried on in the camps as well as outside, while now it is carried on outside only, the Army itself having developed an extensive morale service for the men when on duty. It is also true that the buildings then required were erected as a part of the total cost of the work; while now, over two hundred of them—nearly half of the total number operated—have been built by the Government with Government money, the others being rented.

There were seven organizations at work at that time, five of which are represented today in the USO, the Travelers Aid Association making the sixth of the present group. While these seven organizations united in a common financial campaign, they were all operating independently and un-relatedly, which resulted too often in competition, overlapping and duplication. In the present war, profiting by the experience of the past, the six organizations helping to build morale, came together at the outset, in a single corporation. Jointly they have apportioned the field, agreed upon their respective tasks, planned their common budgets, and developed their cooperative policies.

Quite apart from, and in addition to, the special program which each organization has worked out, and which affords variety and a wider appeal, six distinctively USO services have been developed. One of these is USO-CampShows, Inc., which brings current popular shows to large numbers in the training centers; another, the work at railroad and bus terminals for troops in transit. There is also the Overseas Department, not to mention the USO Citizen Committees which are being organized all over the country.

The USO must not be thought of as an end in itself nor as just the instrumentality of a number of social agencies; it is, rather, a civilian arm of the American Government, a representative body through which the American people themselves can support our fighting forces.

The Officers and Board of Directors of the USO regard themselves merely as the agents of the American people upon whom rests the responsibility for supporting and carrying on the work of supplying moral and spiritual values to our men under arms.

This cooperative group, with the trained personnel of its constituent organizations and years of successful experience in ministering to the youth of the country along social, recreational and religious lines, was chosen to supplement the morale work of the Army and the Navy by the President himself.

What unbelievable changes have taken place in the twenty-four years that have elapsed since the address recorded on that phonograph record was made! Today the world is under the cloud of another war that in human suffering and anguish, not to speak of destruction of material values, bids fair to outstrip in staggering degree the former war. In some countries the church has been overthrown and the nation exalted to its sacred place. In many, the life, liberty and happiness of the individual are being sacrificed to the so-called "collective good" or "national well-being" and the people dominated by dictators arrogating to themselves the attributes of God Almighty.

But something else has happened. The tide of cynicism which seemed to have engulfed mankind, is definitely ebbing. With the loss of material values, spiritual values are beginning again to find their rightful place. Personal liberty, freedom of thought, speech and action, the right to worship God according to the dictates of the individual conscience—for these, men and women in large numbers are again willing to fight, suffer and die. New high standards of gallant living and heroic dying have been set. Belief in the supreme worth of the individual, which belief underlies democracy, is gaining ground.

Today, the crying need of a broken and suffering world is a return to the simple, courageous faith of the Pilgrim Fathers; the cultivation of their rugged spiritual qualities, their stern sense of honor and willingness to sacrifice; the rebirth in man of the uncompromising sense of honor and of loyalty to the right that characterized the founders and builders of this nation; and a rekindling of the deep, impelling belief in God which they had. The future of mankind depends on the ever-growing number of disciplined individuals with faith in God and a love of mankind, who, irrespective of the boundaries of race or creed, are ready not only to die for liberty, for truth and for the right, but, what is often much harder, to live and work for their establishment. This is the task to which we have committed ourselves.

On this day, throughout the length and breadth of the land, the campaign for another year's support of the enlarged and expanding work of the USO is being launched. There are a number of impelling reasons, as I see it, why the campaign should be supported; let me mention two or three only.

One reason is because the USO is the great builder of morale. Life in a totalitarian world would be unendurable, bereft of all those freedoms, opportunities and responsibilities that make it worth living. Only the united, unstinted, sustained effort of all the free peoples of the world can avert that outcome. Munitions, ships, guns, airplanes, must be had in limitless quantities, but they are valueless without effective manpower. The effectiveness of manpower, in the last analysis, is measured in terms of morale.

Another reason why the USO should be supported is because it is a united effort. Six great service and morale building organizations, representing the three great faiths-Protestant, Catholic and Jewish—are working together with a common purpose. Many outstanding, able men and women are giving prodigally of their time, strength and effort in the leadership of this movement. Over a thousand trained workers are directing the enterprise, while nearly a hundred thousand volunteers are gladly participating in the service which it renders. Surely, this cooperative endeavor will have a far-reaching effect, long after the war is over, in bringing about better understanding, closer interrelation and more effective direction of the social and religious forces of this nation.

But perhaps the most important reason for supporting the USO is because it is based upon spiritual values. This war is fundamentally a death struggle between the material and the spiritual forces in the world. Materialism has run rampant. International treaties have been broken, The given word has meant nothing. The end is held to justify any means. The lust for power has exalted might and scoffed at right.

But there is another side to the picture: the Greeks in their heroism, true to the high standards of their ancestors; the English, so magnificent in their dauntless courage; our own General MacArthur, uttering these words as he referred to the Army of Bataan—"To the weeping mothers of its dead, I can only say that the sacrifice and halo of Jesus of Nazareth have descended upon their sons and God will take them unto Himself."

Surely, it is not for things but for ideals that such sacrifices are made; not for the material but for the spiritual. We must bring spiritual power to our fighting forces if they are to be invincible. That is the high task of the USO.

In the last World War, there was a certain sector on the French front which had been held with dogged, unyielding courage in spite of fearful odds and constantly decimating numbers. But even the valiant French soldiers could not hold out indefinitely and it began to look as though the line would have to yield. Already the road to the rear was crowded with an endless stream of wounded, supplies and ammunition, all being moved in preparation for retreat. Suddenly, in the distance, there appeared a column of soldiers marching with swinging stride and confident mien, led by the Stars and Stripes. As the column approached, on every side men with blanched faces put to its fearless young leader the question: "Can you hold them? Can you hold them?" "Can we hold them?", said he, "We are going on through!"

Today, similar columns of upstanding youth—your sons and mine, your brothers and sweethearts, your husbands-are on the march and will be on the march in ever-increasing numbers and in every quarter of the globe. With them are marching their brothers in arms, equally brave, equally determined, of many races, of many creeds. This unending stream of resolute young men "is going on through," counting no sacrifice too great that right may be enthroned and might put down. Shall they go on through alone? Or shall your prayers and mine, and the efforts and gifts of every one of the one hundred and thirty millions of their fellow citizens for whom they are fighting, go with them in an ever-rising tide of strength and power?

In the Scottish wars of earlier days, there was a time when the tide of battle was going against the Scots and itwas evident that unless a certain impregnable fortress could be taken, defeat was inevitable. After explaining the situation to his troopers, the commanding general said: "While I turn my back, let any man who will volunteer for this service step forward one pace out of the line." Facing his troops again, to his horror, the general found the lines unbroken. "What," cried he in a rage, "is there no man amongyou who dares volunteer for this service?" Whereupon, the officer next in command, saluting his superior, said: "General, every man in the regiment stepped forward one pace."

So may America, led by this, the greatest of her inland cities, step forward in an unbroken line to the support of her fighting men!