The Regional Review

Volume V - No. 6

December, 1940

The Conservation of Moral Strength


I think all of us will agree that the future of America, whether in a national emergency or in normal peace times, is bound up in its natural resources and in its youth. The conservation of these great natural and human resources represents an important aspect of the national defense program. Basically, the wealth of America is its land. From this land comes our food, our clothing, our shelter, and all the conveniences and necessities of our life. The lumber for our houses comes from the vast reaches of our timber country. The food for our table comes from our rich farming country and our grazing lands. The cotton and wool for our clothing come from the fertile fields of the south and the sheep ranges of the west. The steel for our skyscrapers, our automobiles, and our ships comes from the ore in our ground. The gold on which our every economic system is based comes from our land.

In the earlier days of America we used these resources in prodigal fashion. They seemed to be of infinite quantity. When we cut down a tree, we did not think to plant another one. When we plowed up a field for planting, we did not know that rain and wind would wash and blow away the rich topsoil unless steps were taken to prevent it.

Over the last 20 years has come an increasing realization of the necessity for conservation. By that term I do not mean hoarding our natural resources. I mean the wise use of them. Our farm lands and our forests should be cultivated, and they can be without robbing them of their productiveness. This has been the lesson we have learned only in recent years.

When we think of national defense in connection with conservation we should think of what we are defending. If our land were a barren wasteland, it would be sheer folly even to defend it. But the cause of nearly every war in the history of mankind has been the desire of the warring countries to acquire or retain an area containing a necessary natural resource. Our struggle today is an internal one to retain the natural resources we have at hand. Our enemies are the erosive processes of nature and man. . . The last few months have demonstrated as never before the importance of morale in national defense. We as a people are living in an era when momentous decisions must be made, and because this is a great democracy they must be made by all of us. But a decision made out of weakness and fear is no decision at all; it is submission to the press or circumstances. To make a free decision presupposes that we have no fear of what might lie ahead as a result of that decision---and for that we must have strength, courage and skill.

For seven and a half years the Civilian Conservation Corps, as a part of its program for the conservation of human and natural resources, has been pushing forward a great unspoken conservation project---the conservation of the strength of the human spirit. Two and a half million boys have come into and been graduated from the Corps. No man will ever know the exact extent of the psychological improvement life in the Corps has brought in these boys, but we can tell pretty clearly. . .The nation has seen the creation of a mighty asset in natural resources through their labors; but probably more important has been the creation of the invaluable asset of trained, disciplined, courageous youth upon which the nation may rely. Adapted from an address broadcast December 7 over a National Broadcasting Company network.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002