If a man determined, because his horse or his dog showed exceptional intelligence, that he would endeavor to develop that intelligence by setting the animal at mental tasks, and so gave it only the exercise that would come from moving about the room, and no fresh air or sunshine, no road-work or hunting—well, we are all quite familiar with what the result would be.
If a parent had a child who showed unusual mental precocity and thereupon forced the brain of that child, with no outdoors, no fresh air, no sunshine, and even to late hours, we all recognize that such action would be criminal. Yet probably 50 per cent, of our best executives, in their efforts to aid in the present emergency, are doing just what we are ready to condemn in the hypothetical cases given above. Some of these men, while still able to whip up their will into going on from day to day with the same exhausting program, finally conclude that unless they take a vacation they are going to break down. The doctor tells them so and they know it. Whereupon they rush off for a week or ten days; some of them enter upon an orgy of exercise, others relax into a somnolent state of lying around and thanking their stars that they can rest at last. They certainly do feel better and do improve, but they come back to work merely to begin the same old vicious round. They have had their lesson, but they have not learned it.
This is a young nation. It began with the great gods of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And it fought a good fight in the War of Independence for Freedom and Equality. Then came the lesser gods of material success. They broke the nation apart. But it survived. Since the Civil War we have grown rich and fat, flaccid and spineless. We are like a great, careless boy with a rich father; our crops and material resources symbolize the rich father who is able to pay for all his son’s foolishness. And so the youth has never stopped to think. But underneath that careless exterior there are muscle and character. For what is the history of Youth? If the youth is to become a real man he cannot be curbed to the extent of forgetting courage in an excess of caution. And the rush of our youth to the service showed this.
An Englishman once writing of the tendency of the elders to blot out all the fire of youth with restrictive legislation, said, “It is a fearful responsibility to be young, and none can bear it like their elders.” How can a youth whose blood is warm within sit like his grandsire carved in alabaster? He cannot and he will not, and that is the salvation of the race. It is the old story of the stag in the herd. He will see no other usurp his rights until he is too old to have any.