Courage Then and Now

As a member of that generation of Friends who used World War II as a springboard for the growth and development of Quaker witness, I applied for and was accepted, at age 22, in the Reconstruction and Relief Training Program at Haverford College. I was in the second group to go through the program, arriving on campus in September 1944.

The program director was Douglas Steere, with whom we had almost daily contact for nine months. Rufus Jones was retired from the Haverford faculty, but lived on our campus and was especially interested in my roommate and me because we were from Colby College in Maine, his home state. We had leisurely chats with him. Since the R and R program had been designed, in part, to support the relief work of American Friends Service Committee, we (20 to 25 of us) had sessions with Clarence Pickett, then executive secretary. We also went to AFSC annual meeting in Philadelphia, where I first saw Henry Cadbury. As Douglas Steere was intensely interested in Pendle Hill, we adjourned to that campus for weekends, where we had personal interactions with Howard and Anna Brinton.

Then in 1947, after I had initially decided against an overseas assignment, I met E. Raymond Wilson of Friends Committee on National Legislation, with whom I worked for four years. That work included coaching Henry Cadbury in preparation for his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject of the North Atlantic Treaty, which FCNL opposed.

In 1947-8 I saw Friends of all ages, all areas of the United States, and all stations of life come to Washington to tramp around Capitol Hill to lobby against universal military training. I was aware that conscription was a very restricted issue with special meaning for the traditional peace churches.

The country certainly seemed ready to enter into the NATO alliance, and the few Quakers in the 1949 FCNL annual meeting did not seem to me convincingly persuaded on the matter of mounting a major lobby effort in opposition when Raymond Wilson proposed opposing it.

Nevertheless, Raymond Wilson told me that he and I were going to write a persuasive argument against NATO. Fortunately, he knew what the thrust of that publication was going to be, since the best I could do at the outset was follow directions. Except for the issues of conscripted military service, conscience, and related civil liberties issues, I was still a pretty conventional political thinker. He was going to pose questions and develop Quaker answers in the larger area of world politics and international organization, and he was even ready to dive into the economics of weapons trade and the need for world dis-armament. I filled in some of the information gaps for him and set out from scratch on a few questions with which he was having trouble. I was having trouble, too. I really was not ready to go where he was going. Once I took the whole manuscript to Elton Atwater, then on the history faculty at George Washington University, and asked him if it really made sense—or if we were going to be laughed at.

We eventually produced a 32-page pamphlet: "22 Questions and Answers about the North Atlantic Treaty." We printed one for every member of the Senate and tried to get meetings across the country to buy one for 25 cents and discuss it. The final Senate vote was 82 in favor, 13 against. We never had a chance, but I have since realized we were right to try.

Who in our time will say loud and clear that war is wrong, killing is evil, and that they believe in reason, reconciliation, in the processes of government, the rule of law, and the growth and development of international organizations? If not Friends, then who? I write to give credit and honor to those who have gone before us and to invoke their courage and daring in our times.

Barbara Grant Nnoka

Barbara Grant Nnoka, a member of Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.), celebrated her 80th birthday last May.