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Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

Thursday, May 11, 1935

The words of wisdom of Governor John J. Cornwell, as spoken at the annual older boys conference held at Wheeling under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association.


Familiar as all of us are with radio broadcasting, we know that the ether, at all hours of the day and night, is permeated with melodious music coming from some of the thousands of broadcasting stations scattered all over the world. Were we to attempt to listen in on all of these or even several of them simultaneously, we would hear the most hideous of noises, not harmony, but discord. However, if we tune our receiving set to the wave length of some particular station broadcasting a symphony orchestra, our very souls are thrilled with the melody that comes floating in upon our ears.

And, so, if we undertake to listen to or read the utterances and theories of all the economic and political quacks that rend the air, we can but become confused and bewildered. To get harmony, we must tune to those who still strum the strings of constitutional democracy for governmental melody; who strike the chords of human brotherhood and responsibility touched by the Master as He strolled the shore of Galilee two thousand years ago.

What has this “self expression” philosophy modern teachers and preachers proclaim brought us anyway?

Take a look at the record.

It has prompted some of our young people to prefer a cocktail party to an Epworth League meeting; to carry a flask instead of a hymnbook; to exceed speed limits, to rush from place to place in search of thrills instead of enjoying the companionship of homefolks as in the days when we gathered around the organ and sang “Beulah Land” or “Silver Threads Among the Gold.”

This cult of self expression with its wild parties and rapid transportation has caught all too many of our present generation and thousands annually, meet premature deaths in consequence.

In 1934, thirty-six thousand people met death in motor accidents on our highways and more than a million others were maimed and mangled – a greater casualty list than this country had in the World War…

You are stepping upon the stage of life, it is true, at a time when there is great economic and political confusion, not in this country alone, but throughout the whole world. Economic distress has disordered our national life as well as the lives of countless thousands of our citizens. It is not the most promising period for a young man to step out into the world upon his own from an economic point of view.

However, there are many other reasons why it is the most interesting period for one to begin life in all our country’s history. The span of life has been greatly lengthened by science in the last half century. The average person is blessed with convenience, comforts and entertainments even the wealthy did not have when I was a boy.

Work has been lightened, hours of labor shortened and wages raised.

The rural community where I grew up, like all others, was without telephones, and travel over the rough, dusty or muddy roads was painfully slow and difficult. A great change has taken place there, as elsewhere.

The little one-room schoolhouse has gone. The boys, instead of walking three miles as I walked to school for three or four months each winter, are carried gleefully in a motor bus to a nine-month modern school.

Despite this marvelous change within my recollection there is, however, more criticism, discontent and general faultfinding by far with things in particular and matters in general than prevailed in my boyhood days…

Our copy books in which we learned to write, contained such sentences as these: “No excellence without great labor;” “Honesty is the best policy;” and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Our school readers were filled with lessons of respect for our elders and faith in our God. The only economic theory we were taught was, if we earned a little and saved a part of our earning, eventually we would be independent…

I still believe that one will succeed or fail, even in this time and generation, to the extent one relies on his own efforts and adheres to the fundamentals of those teachings – honesty, integrity and thrift.

We hear much about the redistribution of wealth in these days. Those who talk and preach it apparently do not realize that already it is more widely distributed in this country than in any other country in the world. The percentage of people who own their own homes and automobiles is many times larger than in any other country.

When we reflect that in the last ten years one hundred and twenty thousand of our citizens were murdered… you will see what a job lies ahead of you.

There is a homicide in this country every forty-seven minutes of every day in the year, only eight persons out of every hundred who committed them are punished. Kidnapping and racketeering are flourishing businesses.

We shudder at the cost of relief for our unfortunate fellow citizens and complain of the appropriation of nearly five billion dollars for Work Relief, yet the annual crime bill for the United States is in excess of thirteen billion dollars.

There is much blame for the situation laid upon our courts and our legal system. Some of it is deserved, but it can be improved and corrected only by an aroused public conscience; by creating a public sentiment that will deport the foreign-born criminals here by the thousands, and punish swiftly and surely native and foreigner alike who transgress the law of God and of the states. The number of foreigners who have come into this country unlawfully, generally because they had committed crimes at home, is very large, estimated all the way from four hundred thousand to three and one-half million…

If the demagogic politicians who are preaching the redistribution of wealth would put on a drive which would compel our Federal Government to clean up this situation and deport this army of undesirables, a long step would be taken toward improving not only this country’s economic condition, but its criminal record, as well.

We must think more of our civic and social duties; our obligations to humanity, to society, to our country and our state, and less of our own selfish desires and ambitions.

Where can we look for leadership in such a movement needed so badly if not to such a group of young men as is here assembled?

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