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We think that this word, holding a powerful heritage of meaning, is now used too casually. We think people declaim too much about the privileges and freedoms of a democracy, and neglect the obligations and responsibilities that go with such privileges. That is what my generation is concerned about-not what democracy is, but how to make it work.
How can we hope to make it work? Not by putting away our idealism, but by weaving it into the fabric of that which is practical and realistic. The boys and girls I know are not so much interested in patriotic definitons as in living together, during high school years, in such a way that they will come to definitions and meanings of their own. We are told that the form of education my generation is getting is called "the democratic education.” We also hear critics and educators having word battles about what form of education is best. We do not understand their fancy terms. We are interested only in results. And we, who are about to graduate, feel that we have lived in a sort of miniature Democracy at Work. We have grown to believe that the best life for an individual is to be found in cooperative living. Some of our conclusions may be youthful and fumbling. They are, however, fired with hope. These are our convictions.
There will be more voting when our time arrives. We have been shocked and amazed at the voting laxity of American citizens. We believe voting to be a powerful tool of expression, and we intend to use it. We have been voting since we were six, and in the first grade. We have, through the school years, voted on issues important to us as individuals, and on issues important to groups as a whole. My most meaningful vote was cast at high school this year during the presidential election, climaxing weeks of research on our actual presidential candidates. I remember that I stayed until five after school to count the votes, and I felt a part of something great to come. We, during the pre-election time, were not too disillusioned by noting that many adults were too lazy to be well-informed about candidates, or too indifferent to vote. We felt just a plain, healthy anger. So concerned were we that we intend, as future citizens, to know what is happening in our country and the world, and do all we can for democracy with our great voting power.
Then, too, we intend to do something about participation. We do not believe our citizens have the right to criticize unless they are doing something constructive for their community, State or Nation. We, my schoolmates and I, are committee-minded. We intend to join committees, and be on the inside of community life. Some of my classmates will grow into inspiring leaders. Others will know that it takes courage, judgment, and a sense of values to follow the right leader. We will participate, not just in politics, but in all the places that democracy needs to work. We will be found on a Boy Scout Council, in a Men's Bible Class, on a P. T. A. committee, in the Women's Club: even on an ordinary sounding committee, “How to improve garbage disposal.” A few of us may get to Washington, but most of us will be working on democracy in a small home town. But we will be participating; that we are determined, wherever we are.
We hope, too, to do something about attitudes; ours, our children's and our community's. We believe that democracy can never work to its fullest until neighbors and nations attempt to understand each other. We do not use the word “tolerance” too much. We think it, too, has been used too casually until it sounds somewhat smug. We do like the word "understanding," and its relation to the attitudes toward race, creed, and color. We know we must yet grow in age and experience before we grow into deep and true understanding. But, since prejudice seems to root in darkness and indifference, we shall try to keep ourselves out in the bright light of activity, participation and friendship. We may learn more about respecting creeds by really knowing a fine Catholic neighbor than by reading a weighty book on Catholicism; we may think color of skin less important if we make our belief, democracy for all, more important.
We sound so sure of ourselves, we young people. Actually, we are far, far from sure. We go into the churches and synagogues to worship a common God. Many of us, as we sit in the quiet of these places, think how completely democracy would work if human hearts could meet in understanding and accept one rule—The Golden Rule. It would be as simple
(Address by Mr. Francis Hull, freshman student at Cornell University, at Ninth Annual Conference on Citizenship; from their official report.)
Quotations on the
MEANING OF FREEDOM
“If Freedom Fails * * * "
They speak of Liberty and of the struggles and sacrifices by which Liberty was won. To all the world they proclaim the glory of a nation created not to make its leaders strong but to make its people free. And to all Americans they hold a message vital in its import, compelling
, in its urgency.
Freedom, is never permanently secured. By each successive generation it must be defended anew. Always its price remains eternal vigilance. Always its preservation demands faith and valor and sacrifice.
And Freedom, * * *, is a peculiar trust of our nation. Here, Free Government was established; here it must be preserved. With the privileges that liberty brings comes the responsibility of upholding it.
But, runs a solemn assurance, in our battle to keep men free, we do not fight alone. Back of each of us is the past free life of America. Back of all of us is the spirit of the Founders which our national shrines immortalize.
Washington is with us, and Jefferson and Lincoln. John Paul Jones and Anthony Wayne and Davy Crockett still uphold our arms. The men who fell at Lexington, at Gettysburg and Chateau Thierry are at our side. All who fought for freedom, all who knew the great devotion, are still our comrades and exemplars.
With such a comradeship, we cannot hesitate. With such a leadership, we cannot fail. Under such a responsibility we dare not falter.
Hold high the Light of Liberty.
That is America's message to all her citizens. That is her message to you
“For what avail the plow or sail,
(Excerpts from TODAY WE ARE AMERICANS ALL. Copyright 1942.)
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Freedom exists only where the people take care of the government.WOODROW WILSON (1912).
Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.—DANIEL WEBSTER (1847).
Liberty is an old fact. It has had its heroes and its martyrs in almost every age. As I look back through the vista of centuries, I can see no end of the ranks of those who have toiled and suffered in its cause, and who wear upon their breasts its stars of the legion of honor.—EDWIN HUBBELL CHAPIN (1868).
Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.CHARLES CALEB COLTON (1821).
Liberty is to the collective body what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.—HENRY St. John BOLINGBROKE (1735).
When Freedom, from her mountain-height,
Unfurled her standard to the air,
And set the stars of glory there.
The milky baldric of the skies,
With streakings of the morning light;
Flag of the free heart's hope and home!
By angel hands to valour given!
And all thy hues were born in heaven.
Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
-JOSEPH RODMAN DRAKE (1817). Not until right is founded upon reverence will it be secure; not until duty is based upon love will it be complete; not until liberty is based on eternal principles will it be full, equal, lofty, and universal.—HENRY GILES (1875).