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|The World Unites For Children|
|Monday morning, June 13, 1949, in
the first plenary session of the
International Convention held in New
York City, New York, the Keynote Address was given by English actress
In this picture, from page 25 of the August 1949 issue of The Rotarian, Madeleine Carroll is shown signing an autograph just prior to her convention talk.
Most remember that Bob Hope worked with Dorothy Lamour, especially in the series of “Road To” movies. Lamour was Hope’s favorite brunette actress, but what of the other hair colors? Lucille Ball was his favorite redhead, and Madeleine Carroll was Hope’s favorite blonde.
Madeleine Carroll was also known for her impassioned pleas to help the children of the world, and that mission grew more important when the nations of the world were plunged into World War II. One of the first women to ever address a Rotary International Convention, her keynote was given less than four years after the end of the War, and 38 years before the U. S. Supreme Court decision that allowed women to join Rotary. A copy of her address, appearing below, was taken from the 1949 Convention Proceedings.
The World Unites For Children
By Miss Madeleine Carroll
Distinguished Actress of the Stage and Screen
Ladies and Gentlemen: First I'd like to say how deeply I appreciate the honor you have done me in asking me to speak this morning at your first plenary session. I am told that I am to be the only woman speaker of the week, which makes my responsibility a very heavy one.
Whatever happens I must uphold the honor of my sex–and if I should fail in my responsibility towards the children in whose behalf I am speaking today, I would indeed be an unhappy woman. However, I am somehow not too afraid, for even though this is such an enormous place, and you are so many, there is coming from you to me such a good warm feeling of kindliness, that even though I did not know I was among Rotarians, I think I could guess it. And it is because you stand for kindliness and good neighborliness that I want to speak to you; just as one speaks to good neighbors and friends, and not as an alleged actress talking to the public.
Just for the next few minutes I want you to forget you ever saw me in any movie and that I ever was Bob Hope's favorite blonde–
although there's nothing wrong with that I may say–but, now will you allow me to be very simply the woman who, with millions of others, was involved in the rather disconcerting business of war that went on in Europe between the years 1939 and 1945, and who stayed on to work with the unhappy child victims of the war.
Believe it or not, I'd sooner not talk about myself, but I feel to make things clearer I should tell you a little of some of the discoveries I made during that troubled time, so that you will understand why I am here today, and why I have constituted myself a "one woman Children's Crusade."
As some of you may know, I spent most of the war years in U. S. hospitals in Italy and France as a Red Cross hospital worker and saw during that time the most tragic aspect of war. For years, my daily associates were men with broken bodies and broken minds, faces burned black in a plane that came down in flames, trunks without legs or arms or either. But it was not until the end of the war that I saw a sight which will be forever engraved on my memory, and which proved to be a turning point in my life.
I was in Paris, on leave for a few days from my hospital train, and I was invited by some French students to go with them and help entertain soldiers in a hospital for what the French call the Gueules Cassées–the broken faces, or more factually those who for the most part have little or no faces left. Nursing is not my profession, but I had seen enough during the preceding years to know how to brace myself in such circumstances, and all went very well as I greeted one by one the tragic patients whom we had come to entertain. Until I came to the end of the line and met the children with no faces. And there, only the most superhuman effort on my part kept me from crying out in horror and shame, that this should have been done to children. These children were the victims of civilian bombardments. They are everywhere in Europe, and in Asia–wherever war has passed. I have told you of them, because the eyes of a child burning out of a shapeless mass that once was a child's face will perhaps make you better understand the problem we are discussing today–more than would all the statistics on malnutrition and the incidence of tuberculosis, etc.
But how can I make you feel the shame I felt as an adult before the accusing eyes of these faceless children –that we in the wisdom of our superior years had not had either the energy or the enlightenment to avoid the tragedy of war for them. How can any one of us adults feel that we do not owe these children and all like them who have suffered from war, a terrible debt?
This I know was in 1945–four years ago. But how are things today? Allow me to read to you the words of a New York Times woman correspondent lately returned from Europe:
"This is a picture of the children of Europe four years after a war that showed them no mercy and brought them no peace. For the past three months I have toured countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and I have seen children suffering, as children were never meant to suffer. On city streets, in war orphanages, in crowded homes for mutilated children, in backward mountain villages, in caves and pillboxes 'converted' to living quarters, in tuberculosis sanitaria and congested general hospitals, this is apparent: The aftermath of Hitler's genocidal war against the youngest generation is still huge and terrifying.
"Three years after the war, millions of children are still on hunger rations. Many hardly remember what a hot; nourishing meal tastes like, save as a brief luxury of UNRRA-liberation days. Many have never known what milk looks like. Their thin, undersized bodies and pale, patient faces reflect the cruel logic of the occupation and war years.
"For these are the youngsters who suffered first from systematic malnutrition for at least six years before peace came; then, after the war, took the same potluck as their families, living where and how they could. Thus, thousands of children, ragged and barefoot, still live in wartime bunkers, bombed-out houses and dank cellars below the bombed buildings. Hundreds of thousands are orphans who live in makeshift institutions, little old wise people following a weary routine. Uncounted thousands wait in special centers for artificial limbs, which have never come to replace arms, hands and legs.
"Others are perhaps worse off–the homeless and abandoned who traveled a dozen kilometers a day to wherever they hear of food and a bed. Nor is the limping army without its own social outcasts–the professional beggars and
child prostitutes who, having lived by their wits during the war for self-survival, still ply their old trades on the streets and black markets. And over them all, threatening further their precarious existence, hangs the 'white plague', which thrives on malnutrition and neglect–tuberculosis.
"This is the physical picture of the children. Psychologically, the wounds go deeper for, as Dickens has observed 'In the little world in which children have their existence, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.
"If the General Assembly of the United Nations, which is to consider the problem next month, does not realize what is happening to the children, the children themselves do. They don't say it with words, of course. Unlike youngsters accustomed to love and care, they have forgotten, or perhaps they never knew, the age-old privilege of children–to ask. But their thin and broken bodies and the rags they wear speak eloquently for them.
"The obvious needs are food, milk, cod-liver oil, clothes, shoes–the basic necessities–but who will supply them adequately?"
Let us reawaken and reexamine our consciences sincerely and honestly. And I don't mean automatically and wearily put our hands into our pockets, yet again, for the dollar, which temporarily appeases the conscience. I am not here today to appeal for money–but more seriously to ask you–every one of you –what are we going to do about it?
Firstly, I'll tell you what I did–since I did what any one of you would have done when faced with the distress and the problems of so many unhappy children. I decided after the war to stay on in Europe and do the little that one individual could do–to alleviate the immediate misery around me. It was a pretty hopeless business from the first and soon it was only too obvious that I had to find another way to help.
I came back home to America and was fortunate to be asked to work with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund better known as UNICEF. You know their story and how they have helped to rescue so many of the world's children in the race against death. The initial report was by UNRRA, which ended its activities in June 1947. When it ceased operations, 11 million dollars of its assets were transferred to the UNICEF.
Because of limited resources, the present program is reduced mainly to providing special protective foodstuffs to meet the serious cases of malnutrition in the war-ravaged countries. A single supplementary ration is being distributed daily to four million children in 12 countries of Europe and to 700,000 in China. It consists of 240 calories of fats and 60 calories of meat. This, of course, is not a sustaining diet. But it is saving millions of lives. Limited medical aid has been made available through the fund. With the cooperation of the World Health Organization, mass vaccination programs are assisting governments to check the spread of tuberculosis among the child population.
But as was the case of UNRRA, so it is with UNICEF–it is only a drop of water in the bucket. It has done a fine job with what limited funds it had at its disposal, but at best it could only look after a small fraction of the world's unhappy children and now there is reason to believe that even this help must shortly be discontinued.
The problem, fellow human beings, is plumped right back into our laps. But if you will stop to consider, just for a few minutes, some of its aspects, and the terribly important political and social implication inherent in it, I think you will realize that it is very much our problem, and that we better start right in thinking about it, as such.
I want you first of all to think of your own children. That shouldn't be too difficult! It always delighted me, in the hospital trains, to have the same experiences every time I'd meet another new G.I. Immediately after the first brash introductory remarks of a rather wolfish nature, the proud parent would emerge from the "wolf's clothing" and present me with the rather battered snapshot of "junior."
You do a great deal for your children. In every way that you know, you try to insure that their bodies shall be healthy and strong, that their education be the best you can give them, but how much do you think of the world in which they are going to live and work? How often do you Rotarians think of the Fourth Object of Rotary: "The advancement of international understanding, good will and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service?"
This world fellowship, for your children, is composed potentially of all the children growing up in all the countries of the world–children growing up happily and healthily as are your own, or else growing up as many of the German children grew up after the last war with a sense of bitterness, frustration and injustice which was such good ground for the growth of fascism and communism.
Our first job is surely to look after the physical and material needs of the child victims of the war, irrespective of race, color or creed and in so doing, prove to them the reality and greatness of our democratic principles.
We must win these children to our side. They must be our children's friends. They must at least have a chance to see the way Democracy works, because I can assure you from bitter personal experience that the voice of the totalitarians is not silent. Those children, if we let them grow up with a sense of injustice, will be your children's enemies and they will form yet another military machine to menace peace in your children's lifetime.
It is vital that we help them therefore–we the people–and that we take the leadership in a new and dynamic crusade. Where governments have failed, we, being more personally involved, can win.
The press, time and time again, has urged the public to take action. A recent editorial in the New York Times says:
"Americans, with just a little imagination, can surely see the challenge. But that is hardly enough. What is needed is the impatience born of decision–articulate demand that this challenge be met with real action. It is true that the U.N.'s International Children's Emergency Fund is giving a measure of help to some 4,500,000 children in Europe and in China, chiefly with dried skim milk and some canned meat and fish. But seven times that number in Europe alone are in immediate critical need of supplemental feeding, and the question is, must they suffer and sicken because governments have fallen down on their contributions to the Children's Fund? It is not enough to point out that the American government has given more than other governments, as indeed it has. For the contribution is still woefully small compared with the need. Nor is it enough to sit idly by and condemn leading South American countries for ignoring their obligations and contributing not a penny while supporting the Children's Fund in principle, as, indeed, they must be condemned. Rather, it is for Americans who do care about children to show their concern by getting actively into this fight against disease and malnutrition, which finally are a threat to their own children.
"On December 11, 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations, in creating the Children's Fund, expressed 'the earnest hope that governments, voluntary agencies and private individuals will give the Fund their generous support.'
"Because of the failure of the national campaign to support the United Nations Appeal for Children, which was an appeal to individuals, private Americans have not had a true opportunity to express themselves. But surely it is not too late for the American people to demand that they be allowed to serve the cause with honor."
If, as it seems, UNICEF is to fold up, something must take its place and immediately–unless, of course, you and I can sleep happily in our beds at night when millions of children are allowed to suffer and die.
The conscience of the world is not sleeping, fortunately! In England there has been organized the World Community Chest for Children, which works through existing organizations in all countries, forming a committee with representatives of these organizations and interested individuals within each country. It works in close contact with UNICEF, UNESCO, the Red Cross and other international associations. This committee is composed of volunteers, they have a head office in London with six paid secretaries and that is the extent of their overhead. You see, it does not need a large bureaucracy and heavy overhead to make a thing like this work. It needs enthusiasm and a burning belief in a cause, all of which I know exists here, if only we have the energy to harness it and put it to work.
I know, from my own very small experience, that since I proposed a resolution to the U. S. Committee of the UNICEF that there be constituted an International Children's Day, there has come to me from people in many countries, the most heartening encouragement! People all over the world, like you and me, want to do something for the children and it seems to me that if we could reach out to each other, and join hands, we would constitute such a force that the problem before us today would very soon cease being a problem.
I am only one woman, and will be remembered probably only because I loved children and tried to find a way to help them. I would not presume to tell as important and powerful an organization as you are what you should do.
I can only make a few humble suggestions. You are powerful and you are many, you can really help the children of the world.
I know that your organization has a very special interest in youth.
I know, for instance that just before the outbreak of war, you were considering chartering a ship, which would affect regular exchanges of young people between Europe and The States.
Even then, certain among you had realized that, with our boundaries and frontiers shrinking every day, if we are to survive this era we must learn to think of ourselves as part of a world family.
Rotarians, use all the good influence you have in your community to persuade the educational authorities, the Parent-Teacher Associations and all such organizations to redouble their efforts in the teaching of better international understanding and good will. There is, I have discovered quite recently, a tendency in the high schools, for instance, to cut down on the teaching of foreign languages. An official of the New York Board of Regents recently announced: "We should give more job training and less importance to liberal arts in the secondary schools."
My younger sister learned how to be a very excellent typist but was killed at her typewriter by a direct hit from a German bomb in London's 1941 Blitz. It seems to me that had the generation previous to hers been more interested in encouraging good neighborliness between countries, there is a chance my sister might be alive today.
I am emphasizing all this because I have a very strong feeling about this new generation of children growing up today. I see in them not at all the generation of bobby-soxers, which preceded them. On the contrary, I am amazed at their seriousness and their readiness to learn more and more about the world they are to live in. It is our duty to do all in our power to see that this knowledge is made available to them so that they may still further be conditioned to the responsibilities that lie ahead.
Let us give them yet more responsibility and a greater participation, especially in any plans for a new Children's Crusade. I believe that they can succeed where we adults have so miserably failed.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt (far left) said, when speaking to the International Student Assembly in 1942: "Before the first World War, very few people in any country believed that youth had the right to speak for itself, as a group or to participate in councils of state.
"We have learned much since then. We know that wisdom does not come necessarily with years; that old men may be foolish, and young men may be wise. But in every war it is the younger generation which bears the burden of combat and inherits all the ills that war leaves in its wake."
It was because I believe so strongly in the youth of today that I would like to suggest and even urge the inauguration of an International Children's Day as a sort of spearhead to a new and challenging campaign: one which should have color, drama and new meaning.
On such a day, children all over the world would unite in a common aim: to help the less fortunate ones among themselves. You, ladies and gentlemen of Rotary, can bring this small idea of mine back to your communities and nurse it into growth, you can start an international understanding of children by encouraging your own children to understand and help children of their own age in their own towns, less fortunate, of different classes, of different racial strain or religious beliefs. And I believe the example of their sincerity and earnestness would prove salutary to those of us whose consciences have become dulled.
Someone must help the children. Are we going to leave this job to the Fascists so that they may organize yet another black, green or brown shirted horde; or to the Communists; or shall we, before it is too late, grasp at those extended hands all over the world, and give them the opportunity of seeing how "Democracy goes to work to save the children?"
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