The Regional Review

Volume V - No. 6

December, 1940


Parks for Appreciation of Country


(An excerpt from an address delivered by Dr. Russell on November 29 at a session of the annual Eastern Regional Conference of the National Park Service)

Conservationists and educators throughout the United States have engaged in 1940 as never before in a searching analysis of existing methods of providing citizens with a basis of knowledge of all things American. They have done this because they believe that democracy depends fundamentally upon the wisdom of the people.

Reports and publications prepared in connection with these studies reflect the high resolve of all workers who have participated in the program to defend their government, their democratic institutions, and their ideals against the antisocial forces now sweeping the world. They point in unison to the fact that preservation of American traditions, the teaching of history, and the popular interpretation of natural history can make important contribution to the preparedness program. One of the discerning observations made in these studies of social needs comes from the pen of Archibald MacLeish of the Library of Congress:

The young generation in America distrusts statements of principle, declaration of moral purpose---all slogans are suspect---all tags are phony. This is a more sobering fact than our lack of planes, our lack of antiaircraft guns, or any other weakness in our physical preparedness. If the young generation in America is distrustful of all moral judgment than it is incapable of using the only weapon with which fascism can be fought---the moral conviction that fascism is evil and that a free society of men is worth fighting for. If all convictions of "better" or "worse" are fake, then there is nothing real and permanent for which men are willing to fight; the moral and mental unpreparedness of the country is worse than its unpreparedness in arms.

Gradually it has become apparent to a multitude of Americans that an important educational aspect is to be found in the public enjoyment of parks; that scenic and scientific appreciation, historical-mindedness and national patriotism are intensified through their use. The National Park Service has committed itself to a policy of preserving, and presenting by striking examples, the comprehensive and varied story of earth forces and the progress of civilization in this country. From the standpoint of scope, the Service programs now connect and constitute expression of much that is essentially American. In short, the National Park Service is situated most advantageously to develop a national perspective in social traditions and esthetic appreciation of all that America has and stands for.

Making this wealth of national expression accessible and understood to millions of citizens is the great responsibility and opportunity of the National Park Service. That such work has a direct bearing on national morale and preparedness for war is apparent. The Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments, during its October meeting in Washington, anticipated National Park Service cooperation with the Army and Navy in presenting to the armed forces of the nation the story of the national parks and historical reservations. Its recommendation:

The Advisory Board believes the National Park Service's interpretative program in national park areas, particularly the historical parks and monuments and the great national scenic areas, is one of the most valuable contributions by any Federal agency in promoting patriotism, in sustaining morale, and understanding of the fundamental principles of American democracy, and in inspiring love for our country. The Advisory Board would therefore suggest that the National Park Service's interpretative program should be extended by every means, including publications, radio, motion pictures, guide service, park museums, etc., during this period of national exigency. It further recommends the National Park Service should undertake immediately the encouragement of national pride in our new armed forces as well as our citizenry which is so essential for the defense and preservation of our country. With the present organization in the National Park Service we feel that this branch of the Government is the most qualified to undertake in cooperation with the Army and Navy and private historical agencies this essential element in our defense organization.

In conclusion, it may be stated that 1940 has witnessed a critical review and reexamination of those public agencies engaged in educational activities contributing to national understanding of American values and democratic principles. National Park Service programs stand out in high relief among the activities directed toward attainment of citizen appreciation of our national heritage. Because of the advantageous position of National Park Service areas in the social scheme, they are to be recognized as especially well situated to develop a national perspective in native values and democratic ways.

Probably we do not place too high an appraisal upon the value of Service programs when we assert that they constitute one of the most potent agencies in effecting mental preparedness and maintaining national morale.


In America, because we are so close to the frontier period, we are just awakening to our rich heritage of achievements and blending cultures---our history. We are beginning to link together the separate prides and outlooks into a nation of one people with the heritage of all. In the awakening, we look upon our native scene, stretching from coast to coast and 400 years in depth. . . Following the mandates of Congress, the National Park Service is acquiring, protecting, and making available to the nation many famous areas, structures, and objects of historic and prehistoric value. As ingredients in our common historic right, the cultures of east and west, north and south, are equally essential. From the trappers' rendezvous, the long and perilous Oregon Trail, the Spanish era of the south and west, the Pilgrims of New England, the planters of Virginia, and countless others, come the stones that build the structure. In its program to vitalize the history of our country, the National Park Service seeks to perpetuate and, in some instances, to recreate the essential scenes, supplemented by explanatory aids in books, charts, markers, models, museums, trailside exhibits, lectures, and informal guide service. By these means, each historic scene loses its antiquated seclusion and becomes an event of today. From Portfolio on the National Park and Monument System, Part Three, Preservation of History. American Planning and Civic Association, Washington.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002