MAY 21, 1962
NEW YORK—On Saturday New York City had a chance to see how many things a President can manage to do in one day. Among them was his attendance at the dedication ceremonies of the new ILGWU housing project at 26th Street and Eighth Avenue.
For this project the city owes the Garment Workers Union a genuine vote of thanks, for they have cleared away unsightly slums and in their stead built beautiful apartment houses in park-like surroundings. This is obviously a contribution to the city as well as to the workers who will live in the cooperative housing. Mr. Dubinsky himself, as leader of this union, has always had a great vision of what a union can do for its members. His own explanation is that, because there are so many women in his union, he is obliged to think of more than wages and hours. But a less imaginative labor leader would not have encouraged the trend to education, to healthful and restful summer vacations in a delightful camp setting and, above all, would never have undertaken the great housing projects of recent years. These probably mean more than anything else in the fundamental improvement of the living standards of the members who, through their union, have built these apartments.
It is noteworthy, I think, that the President was willing to fit into his busy day a speech at this dedication. He would not have done so if he did not understand the value of better housing and of good leadership in the union field.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the President's crowded weekend visit was the great rally in Madison Square Garden held under the auspices of the Golden Ring Council of Senior Citizens. This rally was in support of the Administration's plan for extending the Social Security Act to aid the medical care of the elderly. The American Medical Association opposes this plan because everything that is different seems to these stand-pat gentlemen a step toward what they apparently dread more than anything else in the world—socialized medicine. Yet under the act, as far as a layman can tell, there is nothing remotely resembling socialized medicine. Certain payments for medical care would be assured through the Social Security program, but people would be free to choose their doctors as they have in the past.
In any case, I certainly hope that these two days in New York will prove of great value to the causes for which the President will have spent a great deal of energy and some time which he might have used for personal relaxation and pleasure.
I went to Boston on Friday to attend a board meeting of Brandeis University. In the late afternoon I had the pleasure of dining and being with a group of Radcliffe students for a question-and-answer session on the state of the world generally. I must confess that Radcliffe's reputation for academic excellence had made me a little nervous about my ability to answer some of the questions that might be asked, and I have no idea how well I succeeded.
I do know that in one case I had to explain that I was no authority on how to handle the problems of the modern young woman. This was in answer to a question on the recent debate at Vassar over student morals. The Vassar situation seems to have brought about discussion at most of the New England college campuses. Everyone seems to agree that there must be certain standards, and that with the modern freedom given to young people there goes a far greater responsibility than existed in the past—when youth was much more carefully supervised, especially the girls.
I think one problem is that in many cases there is in every college and university a great cross section of American youth, some of them away from home for the first time and many from homes where there has been very little preparation for independence. The routine of life which they may have previously accepted did not include some of the things they will be up against in their new contacts.
I am quite sure, for instance, that there are many girls, and sometimes even boys, who have never had an alcoholic drink before coming to college. In their new environment they find themselves among a group of young sophisticates. It is dangerous not to know what even a small amount of alcohol may do to you, and often young people find themselves in difficulties because of ignorance and not because of any intent to do wrong.
Parents whose children have not left home prior to college should think a little more about preparing them for the greater freedom of their new life. Freedom is a natural demand of youth, but it does require preparation.