CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
MAY 24, 1962
FIFTY YEARS' PERSPECTIVE
(Address by Senator EDMUND S. MUSKIE, of Maine, at 50th anniversary banquet of Chicago Society of the Polish National Alliance, Conrad Hilton Hotel, Chicago, Ill., Saturday, May 19, 1962)
To my way of thinking, there is nothing more symbolic of America than a celebration like this one tonight.
Here we are, looking backward to rekindle the culture and traditions of our special heritage from the land of our fathers overseas while at the same time contributing to a hopeful and productive future as Americans.
Politicians -- and I count myself as one -- are always quick to point out this wonderful paradox: that nowhere else on earth is it quite so easy for immigrants and their descendants to nurture deep emotional ties with their ancient homeland and still be at home in the country they adopted and which adopted them.
It is well to remember from time to time what our fellow citizens sometimes forget: that no small part of America's vitality and strength is rooted in the blood and sinew of men and women who had the vigor and the courage to reject oppression and inhumanity by tearing themselves away from a soil they deeply loved for the freedom and opportunity of an alien shore -- an act of individual faith repeated thousands of times in the flowering of America.
From the time of Kosciusko and Pulaski until the present day, Poland has given its share of bravery, wisdom, muscle, culture, and genius to the United States, and, above all, that passion for freedom which, more than any other aspiration, unites us with the American dream.
The Poles, I think, also are adept at integrating themselves with American folkways while still retaining their capacity for fierce allegiance.
No less a person than the great Paderewski, who himself retained a lifelong love affair with America, had a favorite story which illustrates this fact:
"There was a big Polish traffic cop in New York," he would recall, "who halted a car that went through a stoplight. As he approached the driver, he saw to his embarrassment that it was a certain eminent Catholic bishop. '0h, I beg your Reverence's pardon,' said the officer. 'I just stopped your car to warn you that the cop at the next corner is a terrible black Protestant.'"
Perhaps this is not exactly the kind of service which for 50 crowded years has motivated the members of the Chicago Society Group of the Polish National Alliance as it worked to fulfill its ideals and objectives. But laughter and humor are also an important part of our Polish heritage.
Sometimes, as we regard the unknowable future, it may seem that we have precious little to laugh about. Yet it is impossible on an anniversary like this merely to look backwards.
You and your leaders, like Dr. Gorny and Mr. Peska, and Judge Adesko, can take honest pride, of course, in enumerating the achievements of the society during the past half century. You should laud the unselfish devotion of all those who have contributed so much to your charitable endeavors, to your patriotic and educational enterprises, to your monuments of which your beautiful clubhouse is certainly one, and to your impact on the social and cultural fabric of the great city of Chicago.
Even so, gathered here tonight on this golden anniversary of progress and achievement, none of us -- neither you nor I -- can escape the new challenge of tomorrow. For as Shakespeare tells us, what is past is prologue.
I see that inscription on the front of the National Archives in Washington every day as I drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. And, in preparing for this occasion, it stimulated me to consider how much of the future we might reasonably foretell out of the prologue of the past half century.
To begin with -- I want you to know that I have done my homework.
Thanks to the Library of Congress and its microfilmed collection of old newspapers I can share with you some of the headlined concerns that occupied our national thoughts 50 years ago when the Chicago society was born.
In May 1912, Russia was in the headlines. Her massive effort to grow cotton in central Asia had failed. The Russians, said the New York Times, will have to depend, as before, on American produce for its cotton needs.
In May 1912, Japan was also making news. The U.S. Senate was alarmed over reports that Japan sought a coaling station on the west coast of Mexico to service its warships -- a clear challenge to the Monroe Doctrine.
In May 1912, Cuba was very much in the news. Our treaty of reciprocity had expired -- and the Cubans, especially the cigar making industry -- were nervous about our willingness to renegotiate the trade pact.
In May 1912, the infant Republic of China was already in trouble as robber-soldiers in the Canton area defied the Central Government amidst rumors of a plot to establish a new dynasty.
In May 1912, the British ordered 60 new flying machines and promised to raise the total to 100 as soon as their army and navy could train enough pilots.
In May 1912, even Berlin was making headlines. The Kaiser's son had just bought a new American automobile thus heightening German panic over the invasion of American-made cars. Demands for a protective tariff were heard. Said one American car maker with considerable satisfaction: "Our prices are unbeatable in the fatherland."
In May 1912, Poland, too, was in the headlines. Its patriots were emerging everywhere to harass the uneasy oppressors of Prussia, Russia, and Austria, anticipating fulfillment of Paderewski's heroic prophecy that "The hour of our freedom is about to strike."
I suspect, however, that none of these nuggets of news beguiled the ladies of Chicago more than an advertisement for something described only as "suffragette corsets."
Obviously, the catalog of news in any given month is likely to provide only a pale hint of the great ebb and flow of events and historic decisions.
As always, people were preoccupied with immediate episodes and urgent drama: The sinking of the Titanic, Scott's conquest of the South Pole, Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose bolt from the Republican Party.
There were tensions and portents, of course, mostly ignored and mostly misunderstood.
Before the year had ended, the Balkans would erupt into murderous war against Turkey and the crumbling Ottoman Empire.
Yet in viewing this conflict there were very few in 1912 who could foresee the sequel of worldwide war only 2 years hence.
Paderewski was one of the few when he predicted that "Within 5 years from the dust of this tortured soil will rise the Polish Phoenix."
At home, too, domestic tensions betrayed their presence.
The American Socialist Party, led by Eugene Debs, would win nearly 6 percent of the total vote in the 1912 presidential elections -- the highest percentage ever achieved by the Socialists in this country -- the John Birch Society to the contrary notwithstanding.
Yet many who would equate what they saw in the kaleidoscope of 1912 with what they see in the TV tube of 1962 have been tempted to conclude that by contrast with our contemporary turbulence the world of 50 years ago was a far more peaceful and stable era -- a time frozen in historical tranquillity, like a fly in amber.
I submit this deduction is an illusion.
For just below its seemingly passive surface the world of 1912 bubbled with a ferment of all the accumulated evils of history.
There was social injustice, economic misery, political oppression, and human exploitation all over the globe. Poland was only one of many areas where a faceless and almost voiceless humanity yearned for something better than hunger, poverty, and hopeless servitude.
But 50 years ago many Americans were still insensitive as a people to such aspirations -- partly out of limitations on their ability to communicate and travel, partly out of isolation, and partly because we still cherished so much scientific and historical error.
We didn't know it 50 years ago, but all these explosive ingredients were coming to a boil at the very point in time when human intelligence stood poised to crash through the barriers of myth and ignorance into the greatest flowering of technology the world has ever known.
Today, everything is exploding: population, knowledge, communications, resources, cities, space itself.
These are the forces of change which were unrecognized a half century ago. These are the forces which we have to understand and master today if we are to survive and flourish.
Abraham Lincoln put our modern dilemma into words a hundred years ago when he said: "If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do and how to do it."
Let us ask ourselves then where we are in 1962.
First, we live on a tiny planet inhabited by 100 other sovereign nations whose problems, through the sophistication of modern communication, land in our living rooms every hour on the hour.
We live on a planet that grows ever more crowded, where the rate of population growth has actually doubled since 1946. From the historical 1 percent a year, it has jumped to 2 percent annually -- a rate increase which, even if it remains fixed at that level from here on, will still double our present world population of 3 billion souls and not in 50 years but in the next three decades alone.
In Africa and Asia, where the growth rate varies from 2 to 4 percent, such growth must inevitably wipe out any conceivable investment or foreign aid without regard to its effect on living standards, illiteracy and hunger.
We also live in a world of competition and challenge where the confrontation between communism and the West throws a dark shadow over all effort to achieve a coherent world order.
We live in a world of paradox where the threat of total annihilation and the solution of all our ancient ills may be found in the same scientific revolution.
We live in a world where the European trading empires of 50 years ago have been succeeded by a doctrine of self-determination first enunciated by Woodrow Wilson -- a world where 900 million people have achieved independence from colonial rule in the past 20 years alone.
If we have learned anything from the past 50 years, we should have learned that there is as yet nothing orderly or predictable about the assorted convulsions of the present, where old hostilities, old systems and old myths are all dying at differing rates, where population pressures, racial hatreds and the impulses of new technology mingle in strange surges that respond to no one solution.
Yet there are fundamental directions -- fundamental decisions we must make. Otherwise we may wind up fighting symptoms rather than causes in our struggle for a working world order.
I share with the British economist, Barbara Ward, a conviction that the three basic areas of major challenge are: (1) international order, (2) the developing world, and (3) the use of our abundance.
We are tending to answer the challenge of international order with an organized international society through a world mechanism which, as the League of Nations we rejected, and which as the United Nations we now heavily endow.
We are tending to answer the challenge of the developing world through special programs of aid and assistance which seem to have bought us more trouble than friendship.
We are tending to answer the challenge of our abundance through sustained programs of economic growth.
Yet in each of these three directions we move uneasily and with distrust, inhibited by attitudes inherited from an unscientific past and by instinctive fears of relinquished sovereignty, of deviations from our old methods of trade and of the menace of big government.
Will we continue, despite all our misgivings, to accept these challenges as the deep historical pressures of change and upheaval they are or will we try to retreat disastrously into the smugness of a past that is dead and gone forever?
Let us dare to look ahead 50 years -- to the world of 2012.
Speculation on the shape of the future has its hazards, of course, but it is neither idle nor futile. It may seem incredible, for example, but away back in 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, the shrewd French observer who wrote the monumental study of "Democracy in America," wrote in these words:
"There are at the present time two great nations in the world which started from different points, but seem to tend toward the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans. Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and whilst the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly placed themselves in the front among the nations, and the world learned of their existence and their greatness at almost the same time . . . their starting point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe."
De Tocqueville could not know that Marxist communism would be a controlling factor in the formation of the 20th century Russian State, but on the basis of population, geography, and economic resources, he could forecast the importance of that vast land to the east of Europe as well as that of the United States.
De Tocqueville's prediction also suggests that political systems may reflect, but do not necessarily determine, the relative power of states.
We must bear this in mind as we ask ourselves what our world will be like In 2012.
What will our headlines say? What will our international TV news reports reflect?
Perhaps we may find a meaningful portent of the future in these imaginary items from the press reports of May 19, 2012, A.D.:
"Congress refuses to increase membership in the House of Representatives -- votes to maintain 435-seat limit despite population gains."
The United States will be a more crowded place in 50 years. Instead of a population of 185 million, we will have a population of 400 million. This will strain not only our capabilities to house, feed, employ, and educate ourselves; it will also strain the institutions of representative democracy.
"United Nations Commission on Moon Colony at impasse. Soviets and Chinese in bitter debate over space allocations."
Even more explosive gains in world population may be expected, especially in those areas which are now struggling to enter the industrial and technological age. We may find human mobility extending to interplanetary travel. New power alignments and rivalries will produce conflicts strange to our mid-century eyes.
"Chicago protests Canadian delay in okaying additional water pipelines from Hudson Bay. Mayor warns Lake Michigan will soon be an empty desert unless flow from north is increased by 10 billion gallons a day."
The emergence of great and continuous urban belts with literally millions of people will put strains on our most precious resources undreamed of even in our own time. The complications of such mundane matters as water, sewage, food supplies, and transportation will approach mass chaos without the most careful long-range planning and cooperative international enterprise
"Karkovsky seeks U.S. aid in satellite crisis. Russian Premier asks help on control of potential Indonesian missile bases."
Nations which today are struggling for a place in the sun may become potential threats to international peace through the acquisition of new weapons and advance technologies. Fifty years ago, Russia was in the throes of the industrial revolution.
Today she rivals the advanced Western nations in technical and scientific capability. We cannot be complacent about the capacity of backward nations to catch up to us in important areas.
"Pirovsky denounces Russian speech curbs -- new conservatives demand United States clamp down on college debates. Free speech issue top college issue in Russia and United States."
The rivalries between the totalitarian countries and the parliamentary democracies will not end, but each will be subject to strains peculiar to their own histories and conditions.
"Japan curbs textile imports. Alleges Atlantic Economic Community disrupts market."
As a famous statesman once said, the more things change, the more they really are the same.
Our position in the world and our relationships to the rest of the world, are the product of many forces. They affect our economic health. They affect our security.
They affect our attitudes toward other people and other lands. They affect the attitudes of others toward us.
The events and trends of the past half century have demonstrated to us that we cannot isolate ourselves from their impact; that our future is inevitably entangled with them; and that our own self-interest requires that we undertake to exert our influence upon them.
The forces generated by population growth; the forces generated by the tremendous acceleration of science and technology; the forces generated by an aggressive Communist conspiracy; the forces generated by underprivileged hundreds of millions who have learned to dream of a better life which promises escape from hunger, disease, and poverty; the forces generated by the emerging nationalism of colonial peoples; all of these are of such magnitude, that we can ignore them only at our peril. They will not pass us by because we will it. The oceans will not shield us from them. Great as are our resources, there is no application or combination of them which can render us immune to the destructive effects of such forces running wild.
We cannot escape the responsibility, in our own self-interest, for controlling them, for minimizing their destructive potential, for diverting them to constructive goal goals; and we cannot discharge this responsibility alone or unaided.
Being a part of the world, we have no choice but to influence it. Our influence can be positive or negative. It cannot be neutral. The means for exerting this influence is our foreign policy.
There are no easy policy answers to the wide variety and diversity of perplexing questions which are tossed up by the ebb and flow of the forces to which I have referred.
It is relatively easy to say that we will stand firm before Communist aggression. It is more difficult to apply such a general policy to the specific problem of distant, almost unreachable Laos.
It is relatively easy to say that we will not retreat from the objective of German reunification. It is more difficult to conceive of circumstances we might be able to create which would persuade the Soviet Union to endorse such an objective.
It is relatively easy to say that we endorse the principle of self-determination for the colonial peoples of the world. It is more difficult to determine how it should apply in such complex situations as the Congo, where the native population was not prepared for sudden nationhood.
Difficult as it is to apply general policy, our relationships to other people will not rest on a firm and stable base unless it rests upon some fundamental beliefs and principles. We may have to compromise them in specific situations. We may have to postpone their implementation in specific countries. We may have to do business with leaders and governments whose philosophy is inconsistent with our own. Our decision in each such case should be based upon our judgment as to whether the specific expediency is more consistent with our long-term goal than other possible alternatives, rather than whether or not it is consistent with perfection.
Our long-term goals are easy to agree upon: The survival and growth of our country; the survival of freedom here at home and its expansion abroad; peace.
History should have taught us that we can never be sure that we are moving toward them so long as conditions anywhere in the world restrict human beings in need from moving toward basic decency and dignity.
The hungry will seek food.
The land poor will seek space.
The underprivileged will seek opportunity.
The poor will envy the rich; and the rich will fear the poor.
The greedy will be grasping, the starving will be desperate, the ambitious will be ruthless.
It is elemental needs and these elemental passions which create the great pressures for change. No one really knows what the world will be like 50 years from now. But no one who is at all sensitive to what has happened in the last 50 years can doubt that tomorrow's boundaries, tomorrow's alliances, the orientation of tomorrow's economic and military and political power, yes, the very existence of a tomorrow for making, depends upon how well the world learns to mobilize and apply its resources to the hopes and the needs of its billions of individual human beings. Whether they live in freedom or in slavery, whether they are literate or illiterate, whether they are white or black they hold in their minds and hearts and souls the power to shape the world of 50 years from now -- the power generated by their dreams and their drives.
These restless urgings can be permitted to drift into destructive channels leading to chaos, explosive antagonism, and continuing and increasing violence.
Or, they can be directed into constructive channels leading to broader understanding, increasing tolerance, expanding freedom, and peace.
Which course will the world take? Can we influence it? Must we try? What is your answer? Your answer will be our foreign policy.