Speech to the American Friends Service Committee Reunion, June 24, 1920



Best Americanization Method is Free Discussion, Says Noted Social Worker

Characterizing the American attitude towards aliens as stupid, Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago, told a crowd that filled the Earlham College auditorium last night that "Free discussion, not suppression," is the best means of establishing Americanization. Miss Addams was the principal speaker at both of yesterday's sessions of the first annual reunion of the American Friends' Service Committee. She was attached to the first unit of this organization when it began its work in Germany.

Some of the rights of free discussion and association necessarily were restricted during the war she declared but "it now seems that a great deal of America's former policy of association and discussion has come into dispute."

She outlined the difference between nationalization in Europe thirty-five years ago and today and asserted that "Americanization must be restored to a human basis, bringing about close contact and understanding between the various groups.

"Orators thirty-five years ago stressed the statement of Mazzini that it was impossible to unite men into stable nations unless such efforts were founded upon the recognition of the higher claims and obligations of humanity. The desire to unite, to overcome differences, to accentuate likenesses, was everywhere a ruling influence in political affairs.

"In 1919 a marked contrast was noticed. Nationalism had quite another content. Whereas nationalistic fervor had formerly stressed likenesses and pulling together of people, it now seemed dogmatic and effective in pushing them apart. Small states were coming out of large ones and organizing their own governments.

"The utter inability to see the 'other side,' to apply impartiality the ordinary standards of just dealing, is a well known characteristic of the dogmatic mind, as is a habit of considering ordinary standards inapplicable to a certain line of conduct because the motives inspiring it are above reproach."

Ideas of Eighties

"In the early eighties Americanization was regarded as a great cultural task and we eagerly sought to invent new instruments and methods with which to undertake it. We thought that America could be best understood by immigrants if we ourselves made some sort of connection with their history and past experiences. Free discussion and association was encouraged as the basis of self government. We urged that the foreigner get his preconceived theories out of his system and get new ones in," was the idea expressed by Miss Addams.

"Now it seems that a great deal of this policy is under the ban and free association and discussion has come into some disrepute.

"Many of the liberties supposedly inherent in a system of self government were doubtless necessarily cancelled during the war, but it is as if we were now willfully prohibiting their normal and natural restoration," she asserted.

"The application of collective judgment in regard to aliens in the United States is particularly stupid. There are 27,000,000 peoples of foreign birth living among us today, and their political opinions are as diversified as those of us forming the remaining millions, but they are in fact more differentiated from each other by race, tradition, religion, and European background than the rest of us can possibly be.

"The task before us is to utilize properly the enthusiastic patriotism engendered by the war by making it more inclusive. 'To Americanize every alien in America' might be a compelling slogan, but it can be [consummated] only if our enthusiasm runs in a wider channel and after the conception of nationalism has been transformed from a dogma of the 18th century to the evolutionary conception of the 20th century."

Free Discussion Best.

"Free discussion in my opinion is the best means of establishing Americanization, not suppression."

Human situation, such as feeding starving Europe, combined drives for aiding friendless and like movements are all parts of Americanization.

Miss Addams made her appeal to Americans to give the immigrant a chance themselves and their children a chance. And to look on the present as an aftermath of the war.

Timothy Nicholson summarized Miss [Addams's] talk with the statement, "I see that genuine Americanization is genuine Humanization."

Miss Addams went to Europe for the Women's League for International Peace. She joined the Friends' Committee while in Europe and she and two other women, [Carolena] Wood, of New York, and Dr. Alice Hamilton, of Hull House, opened the relief work in Germany. Miss Addams was in Germany for four months.

The reunion of the Friends' Service Unit will close with tonight's session, which will be a joint meeting with the Young Friends' conference.