PHOENIXVILLE - On Oct. 24, 1945, the Charter of the United Nations was officially ratified and went into effect following an organizational conference held in San Francisco earlier that year.
On Sunday, our calendars carry the notation "United Nations Day (US)" as a sad commentary on the international situation. The date noted above was a significant one for many reasons. World War II had terminated a month before but the heat generated by the dawning "Atomic Age" made peace not only an option but also a mandate for millions of Americans.
Nearly 60 years later, the majority of our citizens feel that the failure of the organization that promised so much and delivered so little is an expensive luxury that we can no longer afford. The fact that even the date set aside to recall the Charter's ratification is purely a US event adds credence to the supposition.
Readers of this column know that I'm an eternal optimist who tries to see the best in everyone and every institution. As someone who celebrated the birth of the United Nations, I still believe that some of its goals have been achieved and others are possible in the near future. As a teenager, I was one of those selected to present my views on a variety of topics carried on Saturday mornings over radio station WEEU Reading. The program was titled "Youth Faces Tomorrow."
We held a discussion that was translated into a script and then discussed live on the air. I had copies of these sessions for many years and specifically recall our discussion about the UN.
Then as now, I believe in the power of communication as the focal point to generate understanding. Regardless of the valid criticisms leveled at the organization, there can be no denial that it has brought the nations of the world together for discussion and diplomacy. There have been many failures to promote peace and world brotherhood. However, the bargaining tables are still available as the urgency to stop worldwide terrorism increases. I believe that every nation has "Weapons of Mass Destruction."
As has been proven both here and abroad, these weapons are hard to detect. The 9-11 disaster showed that men and women filled with hate and anger can do the most damage when given the opportunity and materials.
Mankind itself is the greatest threat to our planet! However, men and women of goodwill must still reach for the stars. Even though you can't capture one as the odds are high and the dangers real, at least you won't come up with a handful of mud.
Though we believe in democracy as the best form of government, there is danger in the emphasis on rights without a balance of responsibilities.
The UN was formed as a democratic institution with each member of the General Assembly holding a single vote.
The Security Council was limited in power for each member had the dread veto power and decisions had to be unanimous. However, the Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) has operated as a center to work toward human progress in many countries.
With the current bitterness of the coming elections, I am reminded of the rancor of the 1940 campaign between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell L. Willkie.
Roosevelt has proven to be one of our greatest presidents and was the man who guided our nation through a depression and World War II. By modern standards he would be termed a conservative because of his insistence on the sponsibilities of each citizen to carry his or her share of the national recovery and war effort. For example, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Project Administration (WPA) basically said "No work, no eat."
Willkie, the Republican candidate, was known as a true liberal during a period of intense nationalism and isolationism. His book, "One World," was years ahead of the times. In his acceptance speech following the Republican Convention on Aug. 17, 1940, the candidate who had defeated conservatives Robert Taft and Thomas Dewey stated, "I am a liberal because I believe that in our industrial age there is no limit to the productive capacity of any man. And so I believe that there is no limit to the horizon of the United States. ... We must ask certain questions of every law. Has it encouraged our industries to produce? Has it created new opportunities for our youth? Will it increase our standard of living?
Will it encourage us to open up a new and bigger world? ... It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free."
Is it possible for the United States to become a world economic leader bringing peace and prosperity to millions? A just leader doesn't lose its independence but instead leads by serving. Remember, Congress makes our laws not the president nor corporations. At least that's the way it should operate if we hope to lead nations to form a unified front against terror, disease and hunger.