worse than the month of March. So, with the toll of destruction steadily mounting by such leaps and bounds, it appears beyond contradiction that today is a day for action – emergency action, if you please!
I said a moment ago that we Americans run to a fire to do nothing about it but just to watch and see what happens. My fellow Americans, that is literally just what we have been doing through the years – and nothing more. We can stand on the sidewalk, watch a great building or somebody’s little home burn – we can shout instructions to the firemen as to what they should do, and just how they should put it out – but that is about as far as our advice or efforts have ever gone. So you want to be a fireman, do you? If so, you’ll have to do better than that.
I think I would speak the mind of so many public officials and just ordinary citizens throughout this land by repeating what I am sure was said years ago back in my home town shortly before the fire I spoke of occurred, when it was said, after buying some of the firefighting equipment then available – “Well, we have the problem of fire whipped now.” Too many people – too many public officials – too many cities place their trust in a fire engine – in a good fire department – and these they should have – but no horse was ever saved by locking the barn door after he was gone, and a fire that has started is definitely much harder to put out than one which never gets started. The real basic answer to this whole problem, as you must undoubtedly realize by now, if never before, is prevention – again let me say it – Prevention! The people of this Nation must awaken to the fact that the public good and welfare require a new set of rules in construction, cleanliness and carefulness. Law making bodies and public officials must assume their just responsibility in setting up building codes, fire prevention methods, fire protection devices, and after having placed such upon the statute books, enforcing the same without fear or favor. The untold thousands of lives and billions of dollars worth of property which have been untimely and most horrifyingly caught up in a swirl of flames and smoke may well be charged to the officials who have winked at the requirements of a building code, safe wiring practices, rubbish disposal, and other things of like nature. Just as it might have been you or me, or perhaps it was John Doe, who flicked a lighted cigarette into a convenient corner; or who left the matches where the children might play with them; or who neglected to turn off the furnace and lit a match to see whether or not his suspicions were correct – yes, we are all guilty to some degree, and that guilt will continue to pile upon each and every citizen in this great nation until we resolutely determine that we will do something besides watch the fires burn.
Perhaps I can turn an even more somber page – at least one which makes me stop and think – think, that is, for the future. Twice within a quarter of a century, we had to arouse ourselves reluctantly, of course, and turn from our quiet, rather careless ways of peace, to carry fire and sword against peoples arrayed against us and menacing our very existence. Sickening though the thought may be, we would be foolish beyond all past performances to close our eyes to the possibility of another such occurrence. Certainly the general chaotic condition of the world today constitutes a most compelling motive for our recognition of such an unfortunate eventuality.
Since the ancients first found fire useful in combating their enemies, and learned to hurl flaming arrows into the crude fortresses of their foes in battle, mankind has devoted itself more and ever more assiduously to perfecting the weapons of incendiary destruction. This perfection – this