Survey Award Acceptance Speech, (14 May 1951) Atlantic City, NJ

Speech Text

[1] Miss Randall and members of the Conference, I shall not take time thanking you for an honor that I know is completely undeserved. Over the long years, the Survey has done a great deal for the Conference, and it is fitting that a Survey Award should be given at one of the Conference sessions.

[2] My sister Grace and I went together to our first Conference in 1909 at the end of the first year of our long period of residence at Hull-House. The year 1909 was important because, although the Conference was then thirty-six years old, it had never elected a woman president, although a majority of the members were women. In that year 1909, Miss Addams was finally elected president, but there was so much feeling among some of the members about its being unsuitable to have a woman president, that Miss Addams was advised to make a nice little speech to thank the Conference and then withdraw in favor of the old tradition of having a man for president. But they didn’t know Miss Addams! She did make one of her nice little speeches but she said that as the men had thirty-six years to think it over and finally decided to elect a woman no one could say they had done anything rash or had acted hastily and without giving proper thought to the new policy.

[3] I want to use my last minute for what I consider the next important step for us to take in social work and that is, to get rid of the “means test.” I never make any kind of speech these days without using the opportunity to urge that the great objective of social workers today should be to destroy the means test. How? Well, for example, by substituting Children’s Allowances—a benefit for all children as a substitute for ADC. Canada has done this, and England has done this, and surely we can do it too. Social Security is still not social security if we give only to those who can prove that they are destitute.

[4] I believe that we should get rid of the means test and give children’s allowances instead of ADC and Old Age Pensions to everyone at a certain age without any question as to need. This is one of the new Roads to Freedom that we need a little courage to find.

[5] You remember an English friend who said to the Man who stood at the Gate of Time, “Give me a light that I may go forward into the Unknown.” And the Man at the Gate replied, “You do not need a light, you can go forward into the darkness if there is courage in your heart. That is better than a light and better than a known way.”

[6] Our early leaders had courage and they taught us to look forward—too eagerly perhaps—to the social welfare country—our undiscovered country—where there shall be

“No glory or beauty or music of triumph or mirth
If it be not good for the least of the sons of the earth.”