The Hidden Vitality of Human Beings

Newbold Morris - New York, New York
Broadcast during the 1950s

For politician and lawyer Newbold Morris, the American Dream is but a reflection of the inner vitality of those who choose to live here. He believes that the American Dream is based on the conviction that once an individual has a fair start, opportunities are abundant and individuals can rise to great heights.

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What has been the most appealing part of the development of the American Dream? Well, to some of us, perhaps, the most dramatic phase of our development has been the ceaseless energy of the pioneers, the era of empire building, and, finally, the apotheosis of free enterprise, our industrial development. Others are thrilled by the capacity of the American people—normally peace loving and slow to anger—to organize in an all-out effort to resist threats to their freedom.

Yes, all of these things stir the imagination, but to me they are the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual vitality. Some of us came to this continent three centuries ago and take great pride in tradition. Others may have landed at the new international airport at Idlewild only yesterday. But nearly all of us came as fugitives from the tyrannies and hatreds of the old world.

I believe America has vitality because of a restless force we call “human endeavor.” It is this endeavor which has resulted in the lifting of averages and the spreading of opportunities. It is based on the conviction that once an individual has a fair start, he or she can rise to great heights, regardless of circumstances of birth or racial origin. This is my conviction, and it is, in other words, a belief in the human spirit. It is for those who are strong to help the weak; for those who are sound in mind and body to help those afflicted; for those who live in the sunlight to dispel shadows wherever they lengthen.

To me, this is what life is all about. It is why I believe that when we decided upon a system of government-subsidized education, we passed an important milestone in our history; and that when we adopted public health programs to fight the ravages of disease, to reduce infant mortality, and even to afford prenatal care for expectant mothers, we were continuing along the road toward to the goals in which I believe.

I feel that we took another step towards a better world when we adopted Workman’s Compensation laws, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Aid to Dependent Children. And I believe that we were doing even more to realize these goals when, awakening to the social evils of cheerless, unsanitary, unsafe tenements, we decided to tax ourselves in order to subsidize low-rent, public housing for persons of low income. I could not be true to my beliefs about my duty towards my fellow man if I did not work for these things. Some call our civilization a “Christian” civilization. Others call it “democracy”. When it succeeds, it is a little bit of both; and when it really works, we need not have fear of threats to our freedom.

Newbold Morris was an American politician and lawyer, who served as the first president of the New York City Council, and was a two-time candidate for mayor of New York City. Mr. Morris died in 1966.