OCTOBER 23, 1958
DES MOINES, Iowa—Perhaps I should explain that this week my time has been given to the American Association for the United Nations, because on October 24 the United Nations will be 13 years old. During the week surrounding the U.N. birthday, the AAUN asks its chapters throughout the country to hold celebrations that will be high points of any work on the U.N. that they have been doing during the year.
Such celebrations serve to focus the attention of their communities on the world organization. It is a week of inspiration and preparation for continuing work and for constantly spreading information and bringing in new members to strengthen the association.
The AAUN has as its only objective the strengthening of the U.N. by informing more people of what the U.N. is, and what it does, and by getting its members to work for our own nation to help the U.N. to achieve its goal of a peaceful world.
Our meeting in New London, Conn., on last Monday was very satisfactory. We have a situation there, however, which makes it difficult for us in one way. The League of Women Voters has worked with all the other organizations such as the AAUN, the business and professional women, etc., to interest them in the United Nations. While I think many individuals have joined the AAUN, they are wondering whether a chapter and a separate group working just for one objective is necessary in their area. I hope we persuaded them that there was value in increasing the number of people whose primary objective was at all times to work in the interests of the U.N.
After I returned to New York I went to a meeting of the Citizens Committee for Children. The meeting was held in preparation for the next White House Conference on Children, which will take place in 1960.
People were present who had done much of the planning and who had carried out, as far as they could in different areas, many of the recommendations of the last conference. They could assess what had really happened since the last conference, and could begin to think where we hope to go in the next 10 years.
I was rather astonished to find the number of people who felt that the interest in small children had greatly decreased and that less was being done for the child of pre-school age.
It seems inevitable in any meeting nowadays that someone will compare what is being done in the Soviet Union in any area of discussion. Someone, therefore, announced that she had just been asked why we should bother about pre-school children when the Soviet Union did not take their children into school until they are seven. Luckily, there were enough persons present to correct that statement, for the Soviet Union is particularly concerned about its babies and kindergarten children. There are nurseries, and very good ones, for every child from two months old on, and excellent kindergartens.
The Soviet Union expects every woman to work, and plans are made to meet that situation.
We were then told that more and more of our women do go to work, not because the government forces them to do so, but because they prefer to. In this country, we face many shortcomings, largely because we did not foresee and plan for this new situation and we insisted on thinking sentimentally of the old-time home where the mother does not go to work, and where she had nothing to do but "keep the home fires burning."
The point was raised, also, of our unwillingness to pay for social services for children, and the apparent callousness which today exists when a community receives information about bad conditions in its institutions and services for youth as a whole. For instance, there has been practically no reaction in New York City to the revelation of great overcrowding, where two children have to sleep in one bed in one of the city homes for neglected children.
I have an idea that one remedy for this apathy on the part of citizens would be a change in our treatment of volunteers. If the professionals could take a certain number of young people who wish to act as volunteers and use them when they are actually investigating certain conditions, we would gradually get an informed group of citizens.
Once they felt the evils of certain conditions, they would go out and work against them. In a democracy this group of informed citizens is essential really to bring about a change in what can be accomplished by our social services.