Address to the Annual High School National Conference of Christians and Jews

Kankakee, IL | February 11, 1958

Instead of criticizing each race, or nation, let us try to imagine the human race as a great orchestra composed of many, different instruments but all playing together to create the perfect music of a glorious symphony. There is room, there is even need, in any orchestra for violins, pianos, trumpets and drums. So is there need in human life for Jew and Gentile, Negro and White Man, Moslem and Hindu, for out of these differences will come a more beautiful song that alone any one race, or group could sing.

Recently I went to the Automobile Show. The displays which attracted the most attention in every corner of the Amphitheater were the dream cars - the cars of the future – sleek, low, powerful, newlines, new colors, new performance.

Recently a "Dream of the Mime" — the Aerotrain -- was put into experimental operation between Chicago and Detroit. We have all been reading about “Dream Homes,” “Dream Schools,” even “Dream Kitchens.” But, where I ask you, is anyone talking or writing or working on the "Dream America," the "Ideal America of the Future?"

Will our country be the same in the year 2000 as it is today? Will everything be the same, in education, in human relations, in government? Is it subversive to suggest or even discuss changes in these aspects of our national life?

Plato in Ancient Greece wrote his famous "Utopia", a book containing his dreams for the future without losing his standing as a loyal Athenian. Sir Thomas More wrote his Utopia in 16th century England when he was Lord High Chancellor of the King's Realm the highest judicial office in England.

What about our Utopia?

Is George Orwell's book, “1984,” the symbol of our Utopia -- is our world of the future to be filled with secret police, concentration camps, factories for rewriting history? Or, will our Utopia be "The Brave New World" of Aldous Huxley?

In the United States we used to have hopes, even dreams.

Thomas Paine wrote "Commonsense" -- his famous book filled with hopes and dreams for an egalitarian society right in the middle of our revolution.

Abraham Lincoln wrote his immortal words -- "Government of the People, by the People, and for the People..." at a time when this dream of his was little more than a hope, as the war was still in progress.

Woodrow Wilson composed the famous "Fourteen Points" and challenged the United States to create a "World Safe for Democracy" at a time when Emperors and Kings ruled more than 80% of the world.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill called for the "Four Freedoms," and raised the hopes and hearts of men from the dreary work-a-day world to visions of a better day.

We used to be an inspiration to the world. Our ideas of liberty, equality, freedom of opportunity, brightened the eyes of men on every continent, and eased the burden on the backs of men of every race, and in every land.

"Every Man a Free Man;” "Every Jan a King;" -- and the son of every man a potential president of the United States. These ideas, these dreams, gave us world leadership -- made us popular, if you will -- not because we gave away money, but because we gave away ideas aid ideals.

You, young men and women, you seniors from every high school in Kankakee County -- you are the ones upon whom America will rely, for new ideas, new thoughts, new ways to solve the problems of business, education, human relations, and government in the 21st Century.

Let's take a look at some of our present ideas about business, about government, about education, about race relations. Let's see how we can improve or modify some of them in our ideal America of the future. No matter what the pessimists say, we can improve America.

Here, for example, is the first idea that I would like to nominate for oblivion. The idea that "politics is a dirty business." I choose it first because I believe that many high school seniors should select politics or government service as their choice for a career. The need for honest political leaders is great; the opportunities for advancement are excellent. But the profession of politics suffers because many fathers and mothers say "politics is a dirty business." Why?

No one claims that banking is a dirty business because bank employees abscond with several million dollars each year. No one claims that the business profession itself is dirty, undignified, or contemptible because some businessmen try to bribe government officials.

A young Washington lawyer recently said: "...If a fellow represents Earl Browder, the former head of the Communist Party, everyone thinks he must be a Communist. Nobody suggests that if a doctor takes out Earl Browder's appendix, he's a Communist."

These examples illustrate a fundamental fact -- we must look beyond the profession to discover the man, whether he is a politician or professor. And when we look into the political profession, we discover that all of us are participants, whether we realize it or not, in the political life of our country.

Recently a Chicago author wrote these words: ..."Despite our talk about rugged individualism, man is and ever shall be a social animal. He cannot provide for his physical, material and moral development in isolation. Of necessity, he has to associate with others like himself. 

"But the association of man with men is not haphazard. It is organized and regulated. Its purpose is to create a society ruled by moral principles and dedicated to the common good of all its members.”

It is the politician's job to translate this abstract, theoretical concept of the "common good" into concrete, working terms. The politician must decide how many dollars and cents constitute a "fair or just" minimum wage. Is it 75¢, 90¢, a dollar? The politician must decide whether public, tax-supported housing is required for the common good. How much housing? Where? The politician must decide whether, and for how long, men may be imprisoned for crimes; what to do, and how to do it, about juvenile delinquency; whether to enter into trade relations and treaties with foreign governments, with which governments, and for how long?

Each of these is a man-sized job. Each is a political job.

Each requires ability to get along with others, the foresight to see what needs to be done, and the courage to do it. These qualities are typical of young people. That’s one reason why young men and women frequently achieve outstanding success in politics:

For example:

Robert F. Kennedy - 31

Vice President Richard Nixon - 44

Senator John F. Kennedy - 41

Premier of France Felix Gaillard - now age 38

Abdul Gamal Nasser - elected President of Egypt in 1956 at age 38

President Ramon Magsaysay - elected President of Philippines at 45 - died at 49

Alexander Hamilton - Secretary of Treasury was 33 when appointed; First Secretary of Treasury by George Washington

For the girls:

Jeanne Hurley - 29, Paul Simon, Paul Elward, all under 30

Joan of Arc - died at age 19

It has been said that: "The man who is too good for politics is too good for his fellow man." That statement is true.

Politics is an important profession, an important way of helping your fellow man. Honest politicians can accomplish many things for brotherhood. Don't pass up any chance or ambition you may have to make a career in politics.

The second idea I nominate for oblivion is the idea that "the best government is the least government."

I was in Austria in 1936 when that tragic country was being treated to very little government. In fact, the Chancellor of Austria, Engelbert Dolfuss, was assassinated, and for twenty-four hours there was no government at all. Gangs of marauders roared up and down the streets, during the night giving us a sample of the results to be expected when a country "enjoys" so to speak, the least government.

No, it is a serious distortion of the truth to believe that the best government is the least government. Guatemala, for example, has very little government. And they have a revolution, instead of an election, almost every four years!

Government has grown big today. But so has business and labor, the Army, Navy, and even the churches. Sears, Roebuck and General Motors are examples of great growth, great size, and great improvement over their predecessors... two huge and successful corporations which are today three, four and maybe five times as big as they were twenty-five years ago. When business grows at such speed, and reaches such complexity -- should we be surprised at the growth of government?

The same observation, I think, could be made of labor, the CIO and A.F.of L. and when labor and business have both grown so large, can we still maintain that the best government is the least government?

This phrase: 'The best government is the least government" arose in the 17th Century when all government was the tool of absolute royalty. Government was not a "service institution" then, as it is today, it was a money-making enterprise, designed to fill the pocketbooks of royalty and nobility. "Habeas corpus" was unknown or unrecognized; spies, stool pigeons, and snoopers invaded the private lives of the Bourgeoisie; more than 120 offenses in England -- considered an advanced country at that time -- were punishable by death.

Government then was the exclusive domain of Kings and Princes who ran affairs to suit themselves. Small wonder that the middle class claimed that the best government, of that type, was the least government. Once again the important point is this: Don't be misled by slogans and cliches - like the best government is the least government. Try to remember that brotherhood can be promoted in and by big government, big labor, or big business.

The third idea I nominate for oblivion is the idea that there's no chance to get ahead in America anymore, -- the idea that America is no longer the great land of opportunity. As a business man, I'd like to say that opportunities are greater today in American business than ever before.

Jobs are plentiful for educated young people like you, especially college graduates. Business men, in fact, are competing to get the best young men. They are recruiting engineers and scientists almost as strenuously as colleges compete for football players.

Starting salaries are high, -- more than twice as high as when I started work in 1940.

Successful new businesses are being started. A friend of mine, 35 years old, started a new electronic business just four years ago. Today his Company is worth $50-million.

True, opportunities in business today are not the ones our fathers anticipated. Television, air conditioning, electronics, frozen foods are just a few of the big businesses today which did not even exist 20 years ago. 

These are the businesses for young men with imagination, initiative, and drive. Get into electronics, or rocketry, or metallurgy, or chemistry. You will find that American business offers more opportunity than most of us can imagine.

In education, too, there's a saying I'd like to nominate for oblivion. It runs like this: - "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." This wise-crack reflects the idea that teachers are incompetent people who can't make a success in the "big, tough world" and, therefore, retreat to the world of scholarship and learning. I'd like to tell you just how wrong that idea is, and at the same time, encourage many of you to think seriously of teaching as a career.

How wrong is this idea? Let me explain.

Thomas Jefferson was a teacher. He taught others all his life, and he climaxed his career by starting the University of Virginia. Jefferson maintained that education was essential to make democracy work.

His famous words were:-

"If we think they [the people] are not enlightened enough to exercise their control of government with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."

Woodrow Wilson was a professor and then subsequently the President of Princeton University. General Robert E. Lee ended his life as a university president. The famous John Adams, our 2nd President, was a Harvard English professor, and William Howard Taft was a Yale Law School teacher.

In our world today, look at these facts:-

The Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, is a former teacher. 

The Prime Minster of India, Pandit Nehru, and his great predecessor, Mahatma Ghandi, both are egg-heads, intellectuals, authors of important books, university trained men.

The Prime Minster of Red China, Mao-Tse-Tung, is a well known Chinese poet.

The former Prime Minister of Burma, Unu, was a teacher and has retired, temporarily at least, to lead the life of a Buddhist Monk.

The question arises:- What kind of people really influence society, what kind really change the world, and control its destinies?

More often than not you will find it is the teachers, thinkers, even philosophers. Socrates influenced Ancient Greece and all the world. -- Our Lord, Himself, was and is known as the greatest teacher of men.

No! Don't eliminate teaching as a career. America needs thousands of teachers. In Chicago alone we need 1,500 per annum. Once again America is still the land of opportunity.

Finally, let us look at the specific problem of human relations, the problem of brotherhood, which brings us all together here today. Are there any ideas of cliche's we should nominate for oblivion in this area of life and thought? Any ideas to eliminate from our ideal America of the future? Yes, there certainly are a host of prejudiced, ignorant ideas about race and

religion: - so many, in fact, that it is almost impossible to select one, two, or three.

Of Catholics, it is stupidly said, they are superstitious, undemocratic, ignorant, that they want the Pope to take over America. Only recently a large, national organization announced that a Catholic should be forced to submit to a special test if he aspired to be a candidate for President of the United States.

Of Negroes, it is said, that they are unintelligent, shiftless and dirty. The Bible itself has been quoted to try to prove the idea that Negroes have been condemned to a low position in life by God Himself.

Of Jews everything has been said. So much, in fact, that the perverted minds of sadists and racists today can find nothing to add to the insults and lies of the past.

Under these circumstances, – 

What can fair, honest, young people today do about these lies and rumors?

First, let me quote from a famous French writer: -  

"Suppose,” wrote Leon Bloy, “that people around you should continually speak of your father and your mother with the greatest scorn and treat them only to insults or outrageous sarcasm, how would you feel? Well, that is exactly what happens to our Lord Jesus Christ. We forget, or rather we do not wish to know, that our God-Man is a Jew, the Jew of Jews, the Lion of Judah; that His Mother is a Jewess, the Flower of the Jewish race; that the apostles were Jews, as well as all the prophets; and finally that our Holy Liturgy is altogether drawn from Jewish books. How, then, can we express the enormity of the outrage and blasphemy which lie in vilifying the Jewish race?

"Anti-Semitism...is the most horrible slap in the face suffered in the ever continuing passion of Our Lord; it is the most stinging and the most unpardonable because He suffers it on His Mother's face, and at the hands of Christians."

This quotation points out one thing every Christian in this room can do about prejudice against Jews:

Every Christian here can try to remember every day of his life that the Jews are responsible for the birth and spread of Christianity. Remember: - without the Jews there would be no Christ, without Christ no redemption, without Christ no hope for our troubled, war-like world. "Spiritually we are all Semites," wrote a famous man of religion. Today when prejudice against Jews, is still violent in many places, let us never forget the words of that quotation: Christ was a Jew, so was His Mother, so were all of the apostles.

When we think about racial prejudice: against Negroes, or Mexicans, Irish, Chinese, Italians, let us never forget the great unique, contributions to culture and humanity made by each of these great groups: -

Negroes

Mexicans

Irish

Chinese

Italians

Instead of criticizing each race, or nation, let us try to imagine the human race as a great orchestra composed of many, different instruments but all playing together to create the perfect music of a glorious symphony. There is room, there is even need, in any orchestra for violins, pianos, trumpets and drums. So is there need in human life for Jew and Gentile, Negro and White Man, Moslem and Hindu, for out of these differences will come a more beautiful song that alone any one race, or group could sing.

Finally, let us remember that the number one problem of the future – in Kankakee; in Chicago; in Illinois; in the U.S.A., in the whole wide world, the number one problem will be:-

How can all of us – white, black, yellow and brown people of different nations, different religions and different cultures --live together in peace? 

All of the questions about brotherhood finally come down to the one biggest question of all time, the question: "Who is my neighbor?"

The most perfect answer to that question is the story of the Good Samaritan, the Bible story of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers, and left half-dead in a ditch.

A Samaritan, i.e., a foreigner, with whom the ancient Jews did not associate, and a foreigner whose religious beliefs were different, helped the wounded man. He saw this man as his neighbor, whereas a doctor of the law, and a priest, passed by the wounded man their own hearts closed by prejudice. 

Christ teaches us by this story that it is really up to us to become the neighbor of any man by loving him, and having pity on him.

A great man has written: - "It is not community of race, of class, or of nation. It is the love of charity that makes us what we ought to be - members of the family of God, of the only community where each person truly communicates with others and truly makes them his brothers, by giving himself to them, and in a certain sense dying for them."

Who is my neighbor? For whom should I practice brotherhood?

The man of my own blood? White, Negro, Yellow? No.

The man of my own party? Democrat, Republican, Socialist Communist? No.

The man who does me good? My employer, my boss? No.

My neighbor is the man to whom I show mercy - I can show him mercy by helping my neighbor, by being a good politician, a good government worker, a good teacher. I can help him by trying to make our beloved country into the ideal America, the dream America we all want it to be.

Don’t let anyone kill your dreams for a new America where the practice of brotherhood will be the accepted, not the exceptional thing.

Closing was extemporaneous.