Pages from the past special: Frances Hull’s 1948 speech “When I Was Eager” to the Indianola 20th Century ClubBy FRANCES HULL LONGTIME COUMMUNITY LEADER,
Editor’s Note: This speech was written in 1948 by Frances Hull and was delivered to the Indianola 20th Century Club. The E-T is running it as a special edition of our Pages from the Past, as Charlotte Buchanan is recovering from an injury. Get well soon, Mrs. Charlotte.
What is one of the first contributions we as individuals can make in working towards peace?
I believe that keeping up with current events is as important as any single effort could be.
For none of us realizes just what another war would mean. Experts agree if another war comes, we will see the end of civilization as we now know it; however, as Marquis Childs, newspaper correspondent, says: “Most of us cling to the belief that we will escape, no matter what happens.”
Some time ago, I heard a famous woman who has worked many years for peace being interviewed on the air. She was asked what women who had little or no spare time could do to further our peace efforts.
She said that in her opinion, being well-informed on state, national, and international matters was of utmost importance.
She also contended that no person could be well informed by reading one newspaper or listening to one radio commentator. If you do read two or more news publications, and follow the radio, you yourselves know that you cannot depend upon a single source of information to give you the news, as you will find a really startling variety of presentations of news events – and news items themselves.
Our woman continued, the individual can then make up her own mind and take her stand on current matters. This habit of keeping up with the news is fairly simple if you form it. Many, many chores can be done while listening to news broadcasts – and two or three news commentators give you a great deal of information.
Upon hearing that most women just “had too much to do” to keep up with the news, our speaker said she knew that housewives were extremely busy, however, peace was the most important thing in the world, and she knew also that mothers honestly wanted to see their children grow up.
When our very lives are at stake, we can do the important things.
What good can come of being well-informed, you may ask yourself. You can make your knowledge count in many ways.
You can help your family become informed, your neighbors, your friends. You can let your congressmen know that you know what they are doing – and can state your opinion about it.
You’d be surprised how much one letter means. In the recent Italian elections, one of the deciding factors which turned the tables against the Communists were individual letters from persons in this country to friends and relatives in Italy. Individual letters – letters which we would probably be “too busy” to write. In an excellent editorial, Mr. Sullens, of the Jackson Daily News, states that about half of our population – more in some cases – know nothing about burning issues of the day: The Marshall Plan, the Taft Hartley Act, Spain, Greece, etc. He goes on to say, and I quote: “This is a pretty serious situation in a democracy. It would make little, if any, difference in Russia or Yugoslavia or some other country where the state does all the thinking and acting for its citizens.
But in a democracy, the people make their own decisions and the price of ignorance can be enormous.
We have more sources of education and information than any other country – but apparently these things don’t touch a considerable part of our voting population. This is the greatest single source of danger to our democracy, greater than Russian aggression and communist intrigue – neither of which would have any chance in an enlightened land. Until more Americans are qualified for the responsibilities of freedom, it will always be in danger.”
Another Southern editor of note says, “But try to attain a perspective that will put events and situations in their proper relative importance.” He cited the present Southern Revolt as not being nearly so important to us in the South as the Italian Elections, the United Nations, the atom bomb, or even soil conservation, but you wouldn’t think so from listening to some of our political self-seekers.
What are other contributions that we as individuals can make towards peace? [We can:]
a. Know our United Nations. Most of us know nearly nothing about how the UN functions.
b. Help aid the educational reconstruction of war-devastated countries. UNESCO will accept or tell us where to send funds or supplies – supplies such as textbooks which are up to date, maps, literary classics, and so on – to assist in education of nations which have not recovered from the war.
c. Know we can contribute to the peace by writing and sending packages of food and clothing overseas.
d. Help by knowing that you are talked about and [by] being certain that your opinion is based on fact – and stating it frankly.
e. Personally express approval of outstanding contributions to the peace. A personal or group note of praise might on many occasions be very helpful and encouraging.
f. Make a point of expressing your approval or disapproval of the newspapers you read and the radio programs you hear. Your opinion is usually valued.
g. One of the most important ways to work for peace is in helping train the younger generation. Cooperate with your schools – know your teachers, your school board, the textbooks your child reads. Support your PTA and give your interest and aid to worthwhile youth organizations. Help all you can.
Most important of all – as Miss Hollis told us at a recent meeting – the formative years of a child’s life are the early years. Set an example of tolerance and understanding for your children and grandchildren. Attitudes are caught, not taught. Every one of us has prejudices which he obtained in childhood – and will probably never overcome. Try to let your child see that you know there are two sides to every question. You’d be surprised at how much he is absorbing, even though he appears disinterested, when you criticize a class of people, a type of person, a nation, or a neighbor. Remember that your child begins to learn the moment he begins to breathe.
h. Be as active as possible in local civic affairs. This is sometimes difficult to do – however, it is important. Here is good citizenship emphasized in an editorial from the Jackson News, which I will quote in part:
“Although America is the greatest democracy in the world and has the best educated electorate, the proportion of citizens who take the trouble to vote or participate actively in civic affairs is lower than in any other democratic country. This is not only amazing but disheartening as well. If our way of life is worthwhile, it is certainly worth voting for. Another way to preserve freedom is to take an active interest in your local community affairs as well as national questions. Too often, the average citizen is unwilling to serve in any public capacity in his local government. You can often place the blame of inefficient government not upon graft, corruption, or boss rule, but upon ‘lazy citizens and a lack of pride’.
Good government calls for a genuine community spirit, evidenced by a willingness to serve upon committees, with or without pay, to study and solve local problems. Good world citizenship, like charity, begins at home.”
All of these responsibilities seem rather overwhelming to us. We all know that our home comes first; however, let us take a little time to devote in working for peace – even if it is just starting by developing an active interest in current events.
As a summary of the individual’s responsibility for world cooperation, I should like to quote from the November 1947 Woman’s Home Companion – an article entitled, “Your Stake in World Peace”. I am sorry, but I am unable to give you the author’s name.
He writes: “You say, I am only one woman – what can I do? You can do a great deal. First, you can develop an informed opinion instead of a hasty guess or picked up prejudice. You can be able to argue with your husband when he lays down the law on what we ought to be doing in China, and together, you can face up to the facts. You can join one of the several women’s organizations which specializes in foreign policy. You can insist that your club bring at least one good lecturer to your town each season to deal authoritatively with some phase of our foreign policy. When the President or the Secretary of State makes a radio address, you can listen to it instead of playing bridge. Better yet, you can ask in a few of your friends to listen with you and discuss it afterward over a cup of coffee.
You can write to the editor of your paper, asking for more complete coverage of foreign and Washington news, ditto your radio station.
You can examine the records of Congressional candidates and see how they voted on foreign policy matters. You can listen to a speech or two during their campaigns and see how they are shaping up. Keep an eye on them and remind them of the conditions on which they continue to have your support, after they are elected.
When the State Department does something you don’t like, write and ask, “How Come?” That department has a whole staff of people just to give you a prompt reply. Gone are the days when there was a naughty brush off for Mrs. Citizen.
What you cannot do is to say, “I don’t count.”
Consider what happens when the people of this country really get worked up about an issue. You have more time, on the whole, than others to think about national affairs, and are less likely to be prejudiced.
You are the mothers of the children who will grow up to fight the next war if you allow it. You can help prevent it by giving a fraction of your time and effort to what is happening in the world – right now.”