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Our Horizons

Creator: E. Arthur Whitney (author)
Date: October 1945
Publication: American Journal of Mental Deficiency
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Elwyn Training School, Elwyn, Pa.


THE honor and privilege of addressing you as your 69th President is one which I very deeply appreciate. My predecessors, both recent and remote, have left but little in the way of new thoughts to place before you. Yet, I expect that like each of my predecessors, I would like to offer some suggestions that may stimulate thought, research and investigation.


It is quite noteworthy that we in our day are discussing in our regional and annual meetings many of the same problems as to etiology, diagnosis and prognosis that were subjects of papers in the early days of this Association. Dr. William C. Dickerman has expressed this thought by saying: "Man, as part of his sublime folly, takes it for granted that the infinitesimal segment of time with which he is concerned is the most important in the entire world's history, that his problems and the problems of his world at that time are the most complex ever faced by mankind, and that what has gone before is of little importance in the awful immediacy of the present and future."


We are now in the birth period of that long-awaited era of peace. Newspapers, magazines and the radio have heralded this as the beginning of the new scientific age; the atomic age. Yet there are many misgivings abroad about this new scientific age. Raymond Swing, in his broadcast on Friday, September 21, 1945, has expressed his feelings about the situation in what seems to me to be a challenge to both scientists and politicians: "Among the numerous consultants of the U. S. delegation at the San Francisco Conference, selected and invited by the State Department, was not a single scientist invited because of his knowledge of science. Among the men so far invited to attend the educational meeting in London for the U. S. government, a meeting that is to set up an international education office under the United Nations Organization, is not a single scientist invited because of his knowledge of science. These two facts are about as symbolic as anything that can be said about the release of atomic energy having caught this country and its leaders incredulous and unprepared." This association with its colleagues in the field of education and science are vitally interested in the era that lies ahead. We have a very deep concern for that future.


Dr. Raymond in his Presidential Address last year ably demonstrated the fact that marked progress has been made in every phase of our problems from the early beginnings to the present. He also suggested future fields of investigation that may yield valuables returns within the seeable future.


It is highly desirable for us to try to project ourselves into that future and to make plans. Progress is always the result of care and planning. Many plans for intensive research in this special field have been held in abeyance because of the war. Others are still in a nebulous state and perhaps there are others not as yet contemplated.


I should like to discuss with you tonight that future and for want of a better title have chosen the subject of "Our Horizons." In trying to get a glimpse of our horizons it seems to me that these horizons cover in a general way one or more panoramas of distinct interest to us.


The first has to do with the prospects of this association. It has gone through many vicissitudes in the past and some of its most serious dilemmas were experienced during the depression of the 1930's. That is behind us. What does the future hold? To me the possibilities of this association for the future are limited only by the degree of effort we as individual members put forth in its behalf.


Our scope of influence should be both national and international. In this postwar world the problems will be many and our particular field may be lost in the shuffle unless we become a wide-a-wake aggressive authoritative mouthpiece for the retarded child. We could and should become the nucleus of a world-wide organization. Here I would like to offer a suggestion which could be incorporated with the plans made in Philadelphia last year. I refer to the plans for the annual convention of 1948 to be held in Boston in order to celebrate the centennial of America's first schools for retarded children.


The suggestion is this: Plan now to make the 1948 meeting one of an international congress on mental deficiency. This could be the first of regular congress meetings to be held in different countries once every decade. I would like to suggest that here in Cleveland we appoint a committee to plan for the First International Congress on Mental Deficiency with 1948 as the tentative year for the meeting.


In visualizing the future along this same line of thought, our energetic editor, Ed Humphreys, in a memorandum to several of the officers of the Association, dated January 5, 1945, suggests regional subdivisions of a worldwide association. He lists the following regions and associations:

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