The Regional Review

Volume V - Nos. 2 & 3

August-September, 1940

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 democracy.

---Editorial, The Times-Dispatch,
Richmond, Virginia, August 30, 1940

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Date: 04-Jul-2002