JUNE 23, 1951
HYDE PARK, Friday—I was glad to see that the President signed the draft and Universal Military Training bill the other day. The new law makes the draft age 18 ½ and extends the right to draft until July 1, 1955. It also lowers physical and mental standards and tightens up the deferment provisions. The term of military service is to be for two years and we can only hope that these measures will take us through our present difficulties with the Soviet Union.
The new law should help us to reach the point where the Soviets will recognize that we intend to stay strong, that we do not intend to give them an opportunity to take over the world for communism, and that we will prevent their political and military influence from spreading.
I think this draft bill, however, has sharpened up the question of a change in the voting age. It seems to me unfair to consider that men are old enough to be trained to fight and, if necessary, to die for their country and still that they are not old enough to have a voice in the government. If the voting age is changed it will, of course, include girls as well as boys. Girls are, however, as a rule more mature at that age than their brothers and, I think, granting to young men and young women this right of participation in their government will tend to make them more thoughtful and more responsible.
It has taken me a long time to be won over to Universal Military Training, but in the present situation it seems to me the only fair thing to do. The present bill, of course, does not actually establish Universal Military Training. It approves of it in principle but provides that Congress must take separate action to set the program in motion.
The President has appointed a five-member national security training commission and these members must be ratified by the Senate. Their duty is to draw up the UMT program and submit it to Congress.
I hope the commission's plan will be quickly set in motion because I feel that veterans of World War II, necessarily recalled in the present situation should be discharged as soon as possible. These veterans, many of whom have families and business responsibilities, were just getting started after being discharged once and should be allowed to return to their normal occupations. Most of those who signed up with the reserves did so with the understanding that they would be called only in case of a war threatening the United States. It has been hard for many of them to see the connection between fighting for the freedom of the United States and fighting to subdue an aggressor that threatened the freedom of the South Koreans.
We are only gradually coming to realize that freedom is indivisable, and that when freedom is threatened anywhere it is threatened everywhere. When we accept that belief, however, it seems to me we must devise ways to support that stand and at the same time not upset the normal lives and development of family life or to do so as little as possible and on as fair a basis as possible. That is why I finally accepted Universal Military Training and hope that it will soon go into effect.