Lions Club of New York, delivered at New York, New York (June 27, 1947)
Lions and Friends,
First I salute you, the Lions Club of New York, as my knights of the blind. You lead New York in an enterprise that places it among the truly civilized cities. The work of your organization to prevent blindness and conserve the sight in men's eyes is a long forward step, and your tireless energy is a challenge to help those who are irreparably blind, so that they become capable citizens and productive members of society. May you be richly rewarded in the assistance that is the animating force of your disinterested, beautiful spirit! And now you have rallied to my present special cause -- the overseas blind, for which I am most fervently grateful.
I spent the past winter visiting the blind of Europe on a tour extending through Britain, France, Italy and down to Greece. That was a harrowing experience, and with my feelings still raw the pleasant security which wraps us about here in the only large area where the skies have not rained wounds and death is a reproach to me. Pitilessly my mind flashes before me beseeching forms -- small, innocent, blinded children whose upturned faces I touched, while their mutilated arms tried to return my affection. The whole situation is a cry, and I cannot rest.
Try to imagine, if you can, The total darkness of spirit and intellect from which some of the blind of Europe were rescued more than a century ago. Think how they clung to advantages few but precious on that steep height of restoration. Picture the lacerating suddenness with which the late War tore from them their chances of peaceful education and creative service by wrecking their hard-won schools, libraries, workshops and homes. The hardships endured by all classes of the European blind are ultimate. Their complicated insecurity is enough to break their morale, but it has not, and their persevering heroism towards renewed self-reliance is a challenge.
Considering all these tragic circumstances, I feel a deep necessity to raise a fund of two million dollars if these various groups are to be even partially rehabilitated. America alone has the financial power to assist these struggling blind of Europe. I pledged my word to them that through the long known generosity of the American people I would enable them to make the dark endurable with the light of their brave purposes fulfilled. Friends, will you not help me in keeping this pledge?