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More than any class since that of '17, the men who graduate this June must weigh the chances of going to war along with their other plans for the future. And because they are at the most eligible age for service, it will rest largely in their hands just what policy the citizens of the United States will take toward war.
Let us examine, as realistically as possible, the factors which may govern '38's outlook on war. For the most part they are men without deep roots, family or financial. They are young men, in good health, and the prospect of an unadventurous, indoors, office life is unappetizing. And they are at that juncture in life where their most important and difficult decision must be made, namely what career to pursue. Anything to defer the necessity of making this decision is not wholly unwelcome. All this was true in '17.
But added to this are those factors born of depression. No matter what career most of these men may choose, the prospect seems far from rosy. Even if outstandingly successful, few men of '38 will be able to support themselves as comfortably as did their parents. Speak to any member of '37 who has not yet found employment--estimates as to their number vary from 15 per cent to 20 per cent exclusive of those in graduate schools, and a grim view of the future will be obtained. It is a dangerous situation when men may be asked to sacrifice their lives with the prospects for an enjoyable life appearing slimmer than they have been for generations.
It would be easy for war propaganda to sway these men. Such new slogans as "Let Uncle Sam make your decisions for you" or "Leave the bread-line and be a hero" would make valuable additions to old-timers like "Pack up your troubles in the old kit bag."
What must be combatted even more energetically than war propaganda itself is the current skepticism toward happiness. A renaissance of faith in democracy, of trust in the ability of the United States to weather the storm, is sorely needed. Even if it appear like whistling in the dark, this renaissance should be supported by young college graduates today. It is the most sensible and altruistic attitude to take.
Foreign aggression and arrogance may make war inevitable, even for us. But if we are forced to make the decision between war and peace, let's guard against the illusion that it will be to the betterment of any individual person's, town's, or state's happiness. Let's not go to war prompted by the argument that "any change will be for the better." Peace cannot be insured by broad emotional pleas for humanitarianism. Going to war is too personal a matter. Peace can better be obtained by reawakening a belief in future better times and by driving home the truth that no matter how bad things may seem today, life in the trenches would be no improvement.
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