Parks and Defense
In view of the huge cost of the defense program, it
is desirable that economies in nonessential governmental operations
should be effected in Washington. There will be differences of opinion,
of course, concerning the essential character of some of them. We desire
to direct attention at this time to the importance of maintaining and
developing the historical educational service in the national park areas
throughout the country, as an integral part of the defense program.
The people of the United States need a more intensive
indoctrination in the meaning of their civilization, in the importance
of preserving it from menacing despots, in the inspiring story of its
origins. One of the best means of achieving these things at relatively
insignificant cost is through the educational service maintained in the
national parks . . . who can say that the educational work which this
interpretative staff can do in its contacts with millions of Americans
annually, would not exceed in value a whole flotilla of destroyers?
It would not be necessary to indulge in ballyhoo, to
falsify history, or to cheapen the Park Service's educational function.
On the contrary, that Service could be dignified and strengthened
through accurate and inspiring recitals to tourists of the true meaning
of the historic sites they were viewing in the parks. Most of the
important events in the story of America are related in one way or
another to these sites, so that an almost unparalleled opportunity
exists for the teaching of American history. The 'pupils' will be
millions of Americans whose receptiveness to the teaching will be
augmented manifold by their presence on historic ground.
This country needs to rival the totalitarians in one
respect, if only one, and that is in the inculcation of a patriotic and
sacrificial spirit in the hearts of its people. We haven't done this
sort of thing nearly as well as we might. Our citizens are not
sufficiently aware of the courage and devotion of their forebears, of
the heroism of the men who made America what it is, nor do they realize
fully that it is only by such a spirit of sacrifice that great
civilizations can be maintained.
The National Park Service offers one effective means
through which America can be fired with a zeal for service to
---Editorial, The Times-Dispatch,
Virginia, August 30, 1940