AUGUST 31, 1948
HYDE PARK, Monday—I wonder how many people noticed in one of the New York City Sunday newspapers an article in which was quoted a letter from "A Troubled Man," a university professor. The man had accepted a job with the Government, probably on a temporary basis, and was a little bit worried as to what chance he had of serving his county and then leaving the service without having his reputation tarnished and his ability to earn a living impaired for the rest of his life.
There wasn't great prominence given to this article, and yet I think it was one of very great importance. Twenty-five or 50 years ago a young man belonging to certain groups in this country and contemplating going into politics might well have been admonished that he was going to soil his hands. Politics, it was argued at that time put you in touch with a lot of dirty business and with some people who had different standards from those of the well-to-do business men of the early 1900's. It never occurred to the business men of that day that they were responsible for the corrupt politicians. They just felt it was a bad profession and one should not go into it.
Today, however, you have to train a young man who wants to take a government position in the art of considering his every action and his every word very carefully. It might be that he might rent his apartment to some person he had met a few times, and if he did not look into that person's antecedents and into his political beliefs, he might find he had associated himself with a Communist. He might have thrown in his old jalopy, which he could have sold for $25, but he might have felt a little ashamed to take money for that particular car, so he let this man who was renting his apartment take the car in the bargain. He might have forgotten this transaction in the course of a busy life, but one fine day would wake up to the fact that he had to answer, under cross-examination, for everything that he had done. I think the writer of the article to which I refer above is much too optimistic. I would say to any young man taking a Government position today that he better be a lawyer, trained to weigh every word he utters. Above everything else, he had better keep a diary and write in it every night every detail of his actions and his thoughts. Every week or so his minister might be asked to attest that his diary was a bonafide document in which only the truth had been put down. In that way he might save himself some embarrassment several years from now.
I used to advise young people to take an interest in their Government. And I think I would still maintain that as far as participation in voting is concerned that interest is still a useful activity. But I would hesitate in these days about accepting a job in the Government. If a young person had been afflicted with liberal tendencies or had been foolish enough to belong to one or two radical organizations in youth then he must expect to lose his job and to find many other jobs closed to him.
As things are today, there are very few youngsters who have remembered to be wary enough to take a Government job.