The Effects of Affluence
March 28, 1960 — White House Conference on Children and Youth, Auditorium, Department of Commerce, Washington DC
Affluence is neither good nor bad in itself, as gunpowder is neither good nor bad. Our prosperity can be used to afford wonderful opportunities for enriching the lives of our children, as well as for impoverishing.
A child I know, left to her own devices, made tiny ballet dancers out of rubber bands from her braids, bobby-pins and Kleenex. When her mother saw these, she used her affluence to provide bits of velvet and satin, gold braid, and stiff chenille so that the girl turned out angels and queens and fairies in addition to her dancers. Her mother, however, could have bought complete sets of ballet dancers so that the child would have no further urge to make her own; thus using affluence to impoverish.
If your son cannot help his father saw the lumber, he can still help him straighten the tool room or shovel the snow; or he can go to a concert with him, or talk about life with him. If your push-button kitchen does not give you much scope to work with your daughter, it does give you more time to work with her on designing and making her Hallowe’en costume. We can use the car to deprive ourselves of the joy of walking. We can also use the car to bring the father home fast from the office, so he can have time with his family after work.
In our schools, affluence can be used to depersonalize, to present the ready-made; or it can be used to free a teacher’s time for teaching which will engage all the student’s abilities and evoke his enthusiasm and creativity.
As long as we do not lose sight of our values, we can use affluence to present our children and youth with opportunities for developing themselves to meet the challenge of living.
* speech abstract
Source: Conference Proceedings: 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth, Golden Anniversary (Golden Anniversary White House Conference On Children and Youth, Inc), 1960, p.132.