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Radio Address to the Women's Conference on Current Problems.

September 29, 1932

YOUR MEETING is for the purpose of forming programs of work in local advancement during the next year. I have been asked to speak for a few moments on the question of housing and of children. I could have taken part of my time to speak to you about such problems as world disarmament, American policies in advancement of world peace, the importance of the forthcoming Economic Conference in Europe, the problems of reconstruction from the present depression, the tremendous problems of reorganization we must face as a result of our experiences in the last 3 years.

All of these are vital questions in which the women of America are interested and in which you can contribute enormously to advancement. But in the larger sense none of the problems before us is greater than the problems of the home and the children.

Second only in importance to the direct problems of childhood are the collateral problems of home surroundings and homeownership. The conference in Washington on housing and homeownership in which many of those present with you this evening participated has established a basis for national thought and progress in the great social and economic problems involved. The work of that conference has already flowered in the creation of a new system of home loan banks which I recommended to the Congress for both emergency purposes and for the permanent advancement of homeownership. The authority in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act to make loans for slum clearance in the cities is another evidence of the advance of public thought. To you who are planning ahead programs of work for earnest groups of organized women I strongly commend study of the new data, new ideas, and methods and plans envisaged by this most exhaustive conference on housing and homes.

Our most immediate question is the strain of the depression upon the children. In this depression as never before the American people have responded with a high' sense of responsibility to safeguard and protect the children not only as the humane necessity of the day but that there may be no danger for the future. The devotion of voluntary effort, the solicitude being given throughout the Nation to the welfare of children through this trying distress is a stimulant to the spirit of every one of us. The continuous reports of the Public Health Service showing a less infant mortality, less infant disease than in prosperous times, can mark only one thing and that is the most extraordinary devotion to those who would be normally the most hard pressed. I know of no greater service than constant watchfulness of your groups that they shall continue to be safeguarded.

There is another opportunity growing out of these times to advance the cause of children. It is obvious that the discoveries of science and invention, of laborsaving devices, have outrun the rapidity with which we normally balance our economy with employment in production of new commodities and new services. The result is a large increase in what we popularly call "technological unemployment." One answer to it lies in shortening the hours of labor that all may ultimately participate in the productive work of the Nation. But there is also another contribution which can be made--that is the steady elimination of child labor. A great deal has been accomplished in this direction in past years. But it would not only help childhood, but would aid in the better distribution of work amongst adult breadwinners if more children were eliminated from those few industries where they are still employed. It would be a step toward the permanent elimination of young children from industry.

We should not forget that idleness is no more helpful to children than it is to adults, and that a rigorous enforcement and support of school attendance is of vital accompaniment of all reduction of child employment--which in turn brings us to the necessity of maintaining and supporting our schools as a first charge upon all of our resources in these times of emergency. Not alone should we maintain and support and expand them for the purpose of absorbing the comparatively small percentage of children who otherwise might be engaged in industry. We cannot afford to slacken one moment in the preparation of the new day of a generation of Americans stronger and better, not only physically and intellectually but above all morally.

We can do much to help the Nation and the children over the present emergencies. But the greatest service in the long view is the endowment we can give to the next generation in health and character. In that field lies the progress of the Nation in stamina, health, and character. So much have I felt this to be an imperative responsibility, that I have given every weight of this office and much time in association with these efforts.

Laterally, I have been much interested in the systematic formulation of the conclusions of the White House Conference on problems of children. Out of this Conference came the Children's Charter, containing a definite program--a program near to your heart and mine, a program so comprehensive, so varied as to provide a foothold for every kind of organized interest, a program so definite that you can make it a personal and specific undertaking. That it struck a responsive chord in the Nation is evidenced by the millions of copies of it which have been reproduced.

To refresh your memory of it and to re-express my own interest in it, I shall repeat to you an abbreviated condensation of it. This then should be our creed and our program for childhood:

"For every child spiritual and moral training to help him to stand firm under the pressure of life.

"For every child understanding and the guarding of his personality as his most precious right.

"For every child a home and that love and security which a home provides, a dwelling place safe, sanitary, and wholesome, a home environment harmonious and enriching.

"For every child full preparation for his birth, his mother receiving prenatal, natal, and postnatal care.

"For every child health protection from birth, promotion of health, health instruction, and physical and mental recreation.

"For every child a school which is safe from hazards; sanitary, properly equipped, lighted, and ventilated; an education which prepares him for life and prepares him for a living.

"For every child a community which recognizes and plans for his needs, protects him against physical dangers, moral hazards, and disease; provides him with safe and wholesome places for play and recreation, and education for safety and protection against accidents.

"For every child who is blind, deaf, crippled, or otherwise handicapped, care and treatment, and such training that he may become an asset to society.

"For every child who is in conflict with society the right to be dealt with intelligently as society's charge, not society's outcast.

"For every child the right to grow up in a family with an adequate standard of living and the security of a stable income.

"For every child protection against labor that stunts growth, that limits education, that deprives children of the right of comradeship, of play, and of joy.

"For every rural child as satisfactory schooling and health services as for the city child.

"Every stimulation and encouragement to the voluntary youth organizations.

"Everywhere a district, county, or community organization for health, education, and welfare, with full-time officials, coordinating with a statewide program, which will be responsive to a nationwide service of general information, statistics, and scientific research.

"For every child these rights, regardless of race, or color, or situation, wherever he may live under the protection of the American flag."

This is my answer to your request for a specific program for your organizations. Our problem is to bring these ideals into reality.

I have worked with you for many years in the development of this vision and in the perfecting of the practical means by which it may be realized. I pledge to you my support in your endeavors.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. from the White House. The New York Herald Tribune sponsored the conference which met in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The National Broadcasting Company carried the address to the Nation.

Herbert Hoover, Radio Address to the Women's Conference on Current Problems. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207671

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