MARCH 3, 1961
NEW YORK—The President's Peace Corps idea is proving what I think he really wanted to prove, namely that if he set up a pilot plan even before Congressional legislation could be obtained on a permanent plan, that there would be a great response from young men and women in the country eager to serve on a voluntary basis in the underdeveloped areas of the world. It is not only young people, however, who are asking for this opportunity. Older people, too, are quite willing to give of their time and energy in this new venture.
To the President, however, I think this means that much of the talk about America's youth being soft is going to be disproved, and he is anxious that this should be the case. It will be a good thing around the world if it can be proved that American young people are not dependent upon the luxury or the comforts that surround their lives at home.
This will disprove that their whole objective in life is the making of money or the very questionable security which they are supposed to be seeking. Instead it will prove that like all other young people they are unselfish, desire service, and will give of themselves when the opportunity is offered.
I think the provision of no salary being paid on the job is a good one. It removes difficulties that have often come up before, particularly with our servicemen whose pay was so much higher than that of men of other nations with whom they were living in service.
I rather feel, however, that some kind of compensation for time served should be set up in a fund at home from which a portion could be allotted to help dependents at home. I think we will find that there are many valuable young people who would be glad to serve but who will be held back because a mother, or a sister, or even a grandmother might miss the allowance now provided for them by a potential volunteer.
There is a tremendous amount of value to our youngsters in getting the experience and knowledge about the rest of the world and its peoples that they can acquire through Peace Corps service. We must not forget, however, that, even though the young may be willing to start off on an adventure and trust that the future will take care of itself, a government has no right not to think of that future.
There are many things, of course, about the Peace Corps that will have to be given careful consideration as it is discussed in Congress, but I think the President deserves our gratitude for having launched a program that will inspire the idealism of the nation.
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It is good to know that in the crisis which faces so many people the House of Representatives has voted aid to those who are without jobs which will add 13 additional weeks of relief and will be paid for by a payroll tax plan. The Senate is ready to vote on the measure.
Nevertheless, before we can have any sense of security we need a real change in the fundamental situation that has brought about the increase in unemployment.
It is encouraging, also, to read that the President promises to move shortly to stiffen enforcement of the Administration's policy against racial discrimination in hiring by the government and its contractors. President Eisenhower had a very good committee that worked very hard, but it was handicapped by the fact that it had no enforcement legislation and no real power except persuasion. No contracts were ever cancelled by the government on the committee's recommendation and no suits were brought.
It remains to be seen whether without legislation President Kennedy will find it possible to handle the situation in such a manner as to bring about the required results.
There is a suggestion in the statement in the newspapers that discrimination in housing where the Federal government provides some subsidies will also be taken up. But the emphasis primarily should be to get equality of opportunity for employment for all our citizens. That seems to be the first priority, and then I think the other inequalities can be handled one by one.