Monday, December 14, 2015

James McEntee on the need for a permanent Civilian Conservation Corps

(James McEntee, right, after being sworn-in as the new director of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), March 7, 1940. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

James McEntee was the second and final director of the CCC (the first director, Robert Fechner, died at the end of the 1939). McEntee, "who did a remarkable job as director" (see the reference at end of this blog post), advocated for the CCC to be a permanent organization:

"This conservation program is not 'made work.' The work the CCC boys are doing is of great importance to the nation. Much of it is so extremely important that it should be done during boom times as well as bad. The
contribution which the Civilian Conservation Corps is making to the nation in the way of improving the health
and national defense usefulness of young men during the current international crisis is just as important or even more so than the Civilian Conservation Corps' work and training activities. The size of the Corps should depend upon national need. If private industry were to start running full blast and offer to employ and pay high wages to every unemployed, able-bodied person, the CCC might be reduced somewhat, but it should not be abolished. We should continue to carry forward much of the work and the training that the CCC is doing under any and all circumstances. The Corps should be permanent, varying in size with the needs of the times." (James McEntee, Now They Are Men: The Story of the CCC, 1940, p. 68)

McEntee also highlighted the character-building aspect of the Civilian Conservation Corps:

"More than two and a half million boys have been enrolled in the Corps. Two and a half million girls will get better husbands because of the CCC training that these youths have received. As men, they will be better
workers, better neighbors and better citizens. Already more than two million of them have had their baptism of real work and training in the CCC. Now they are men!" (McEntee, p. 69)

In many parts of America today, we have great numbers of youth who have no jobs and no hope. But we do have a prison-industrial complex waiting for them if they slip up - in fact, it's the largest prison-industrial complex in the world (yes, existing in the supposed "land of the free"). We have no CCC for our youth, only sarcastic remarks for them to get a job at McDonalds or Walmart. You see, it takes some energy, thought, and concern to create a CCC, but it takes none of those things to utter a few words, snicker, and go about one's day in an attitude of superiority. (See, "McDonald's Job Applications Dumped On 'Occupy' Protesters By Chicago Board Of Trade," Huffington Post, November 5, 2011, and "It’s Harder to Get a Job at Walmart Than It Is to Get Into Harvard," Time, March 31, 2014.)

People like James McEntee certainly had energy, thought, and concern. Unfortunately, too many people today only have lethargy, sour comments, and the fanatical belief that the "market always knows best!" And so, America's youth sits on the sidelines and watches the "American Dream" slip away - while Corporate America and the supposed "Job Creators" put their profits & fortunes in tax-evading foreign bank accounts.

(Here's some money that could have been used to create a new CCC - a CCC that could have hired millions of young Americans to address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlogs that exist in our state & national parks. Image courtesy of
***The "remarkable job" quote near beginning of this post comes from Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1943, 1981, p. 6***

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