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Message to the 1943
Friends of St. Louis Convention Number Two: Greetings!
Our attendance is lighter this year, and that is designedly so. If there are disadvantages in that fact, they will be offset by our getting nearer together than we have ever been before. I hope as we look back at this convention, we will think of it as the most cordial, neighborly and friendly convention Rotary International has ever held.
We shall miss our friends of "overseas" but I am sure in spirit they are with us.
Volcanoes of shot and shell are still in a state of eruption. The surface of the earth and the air above, the surface of the seas and the waters beneath it shake with the furies of contention in this world. The Creator made this planet a suitable abiding place for his children and they have made it a shambles. The question as to whether or not there is such a place as hell is no longer a matter of speculation. There is a hell and it's in the here and now. Is there a kindly light to lead us on?
When the bombing of Britain was at its height and homes and ancient monuments were being demolished, it seemed to many of our overseas friends that they had come to the period of total darkness. There was a light, but shell‑shocked folks could not see it. How much can human nature endure? Well, that much at least. Men and women bereft of homes and children groped about in the debris for family treasures and household necessities, spectacles, tooth brushes, collar buttons, etc., and as they did so the dim light became less dim.
It was not remarkable that under such circumstances some of our overseas friends wondered whether Rotary was worth salvaging. All wonder is now passed, Rotary in Britain is stronger, more human and kindlier than ever before.
What is true of Rotary in Britain is also true of Rotary in the countries of Continental Europe wherever it has been possible to lift its head. Rotary has stood the test of fire and blood and manifestly is destined to endure.
It is interesting and gratifying to learn that working together in a common cause has resulted in substantial gains in the morale of the members of the various overseas clubs. It is very clear. It requires no prophetic vision to see that community service, as a result of the war, will come into higher favor.
The one thought which is at present occupying the minds of all is: "What of the future?" How did it happen. that we have drifted into war Number Two before the wounds of war Number One are healed? Admitting the fact that the ill‑starred Treaty of Versailles did its part to keep the flames of hatred alive, there were other reasons, such as economic needs and commercial rivalries.
Wars are not the only manifestations of reversion to savagery. When nations are not fighting other nations, class is fighting class; few are interested in the cause of peace or in anything except the privilege of going their own sweet ways.
While Rome burned, Nero fiddled and by so doing merited the contempt and the maledictions of the ages. But we must in good conscience admit that the Neros are not all dead. We Moderns have different ways of showing our indifference to human needs. The modern correlative of playing a fiddle while Rome burned is the consecration of our lives to the business of "Keeping up with the Joneses" while our Rome burns.
We Rotarians have an antidote for this mental and moral breakdown. Our slogan is "Service above Self." If applied earnestly and unremittingly, it will restore the patient to normalcy and bring him the happiness he has been seeking in vain. Happiness is not to be found in possessions. That truth has been borne home to us time and again. Happiness is a state of mind, it comes unsought and it is the by‑product of wholesome, sensible and unselfish living and thinking.
Throughout time there have been protestants against the idea that happiness is to be found in possessions. The Great Teacher said that happiness comes from within. The destitute philosopher Spinoza refused the gift of one thousand dollars because he feared it would pervert his mind.
But we don't need to go back into history to find examples of lives which are in accord with the spirit of "Service above Self." There are many in our midst all of the time. Every Rotary club has members who are living examples of the doctrine we profess. Where, for instance, is there an educator who chose his profession as a means of getting rich?
On the other hand, there are in every city and village throughout the land those who have no ambition higher than that of accumulating possessions in order that they and their families may "Keep up with the Joneses."
During one year of the depression, a score of millionaires in the city in which I live took their own lives. Not one of them was destitute. They and their families had plenty to eat and to wear and substantial roofs over their heads. During the same period, ten thousand school teachers suffered payless pay days for nearly a year. They did not commit suicide; they didn't even strike. Their responsibilities were too great to permit it. Many of them were destitute but they kept at their tasks. To my mind there could be no more impressive illustration of the meaning of our slogan "Service above Self."
Fathers have been heard to say that they could subscribe to the plan of placing service above self if they had only themselves to consider but that they must put their sons and daughters beyond possible want.
As a matter of fact, it is the boys and girls themselves who suffer the most from great possessions. It requires more character for children to survive great prosperity than it does to survive adversity. Fathers, have your children that necessary character? Senator Dolliver said: "Give a boy ten thousand dollars and it will ruin the boy and won't do the ten thousand dollars any good either."
Thomas Arkle Clark, dean of men at the University of Illinois, said that nine‑tenths of the students who failed were overprivileged. Those who were underprivileged seldom failed.
No! Dad; No! Son. There is nothing in this business of "Keeping up with the Joneses" for you. Excitement and transitory pleasure may be found that way, but happiness never.
This is the machine age and the machine has its place. It should not, however, be permitted to dominate men.
Technology is important but not the most important thing in life. Men are more important than machines. Schools of technology meet with popular favor because their graduates are in demand in industry, and industry is able to pay the top price. In a social order where "Keeping up with the Joneses" plays so important a part, lucrative positions fit the needs of the hour. So the advance in technology continues rapidly, leaving matters of greater importance far behind. Before we arrive at the point where we know how to make wise use of one machine another appears in the market.
In the meantime we stand woefully in need of a better way of life. What profit that industry creates wealth if it must be dissipated in war? Obviously the first need is to know how to live sanely and justly; other things will follow.
The remedy is not through closing the doors of the institutes of technology until we can catch up in still more important matters. The remedy is to build other technological institutes dedicated to the technology of international cooperation and peace. It surely should be as much the duty of science to promote peace as to promote the effectiveness of war. Nations go to war as a result of emotional disturbance. Rage makes war and rage dictates terms of peace. Nothing serviceable has ever been accomplished by rage.
Our technological institutes for international cooperation and peace should be equipped with research departments to delve down into the causes of wars, past and present. Studies should be made of the peace‑time contributions of the various nations in the realm of science, music, literature and art. After the carnage is past it may seem the part of wisdom to win the enemy back into productivity again.
The Carnegie Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Pan American Union, and Rotary International are all working in the right direction, but they fall far short of accomplishing the desired results. When the lives of millions of our youth and billions of our national wealth are at stake, we must not think in small terms. If we can mobilize our universities, colleges and high schools in the interests of war, can we not mobilize some of them in the interests of international cooperation and peace?
Princeton University, Columbia, Harvard, the University of California and some other great American universities have established schools for the education of students in public and foreign service, but again I say, they are not enough. Every university, every college and every high school in North America and in all countries should teach the science of peace until this unconscionable epidemic of wars is stamped out as completely as science has stamped out other forms of disease. There must not, there shall not be a World War Number Three.
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