a generation the average life span has been almost miraculously increased. A boy baby today can expect to live to an age of 62 at least, while a girl baby may look forward to more than 67 years on this mortal soil. Maybe the girls are tougher. They can expect to live that long barring automobile accidents and fires.
The accidents that have the growth of mechanization have replaced as outstanding killers a number of diseases once considered fatal. For a decade or more we have been losing ground in our battle against fire. That is curious when you come to think of the extreme difficulty of controlling disease compared with the relative ease with which fires can be prevented if we only set ourselves to the task.
It is my privilege to introduce Mr. O. J. Arnold, an old friend of mine from Minneapolis, president of the Northwestern National Life Insurance Co., who has long been a leader in insurance association work. Mr. Arnold. [Applause.]
O. J. Arnold. As others here have pointed out, the recent holocaust at Texas City provides a grim backdrop for this Conference. At the same time it dramatically points up the need for an all-out attack on the disastrous fire toll for which this meeting is the kick-off. When we review the appalling costs of this conflagration, we may even agree with the unknown ancient who first said “It is later than you think.” Had such a Conference as this been held a year ago, and had it perchance prevented the spark which set Texas City aflame, what a contribution that would have been to the well-being and happiness of the American people!
Such a contribution would not have been measured wholly by the property losses which would have been avoided had there been no catastrophe. Nor would it have been measured by the indemnity for the human lives lost, whatever that figure may prove to be when the life insurance payment figures are finally available. Far more important than the immediate economic costs of any disaster, huge as they are, are the personal losses to the families of the dead and the continuing loss to our society of the contributions they would have made in their life’s work. Who can say what these Texas City losses will eventually add up to? There may have been among the fatalities a scientist who would have found the cure for cancer, a potential statesman whose leadership would have hastened harmony and understanding among all the nations, a musician destined to write the modern folk songs of America. There must have been, among the dead, men who would have produced children with qualities of mind and spirit which the nation urgently needs. These are the irreplaceable values – human lives as well as economic values – which are snuffed out in the flame and gases over Texas City. These are the more important of the values we seek to conserve in the program launched here.
We in the life insurance business believe that any business holding the important place which life insurance does in the national economy has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the people as a whole, as well as of its policyholders. We believe that is good business as well as good citizenship. And speaking for the life insurance companies, I do not hesitate to say that keen as our interest is in conserving life in order to reduce mortality rates, our business as a whole is aware, too, of these human values and of the long-range contribution they make to the general welfare. Because of these human values, the desire of the life insurance business to have this Conference point the way to conservation of life through fire prevention is deepened and