The Strongest Force in the World
In December of 1950, my father, Paul Greenberg, was a Private in basic training at the US Army’s Engineer Replacement Training Center, Fort Belvoir, Va. My mother, Esther Novogrodsky, was a student at Sarah Lawrence College and living with her parents at 160 East 3rd Street in New York City. He was 23 and she was 19. They were secretly married in the fall of 1950 and would go on to have a public wedding two months later, on February 10, 1951. In this excerpt from a letter Paul wrote to Esther on December 19, his idealism is in full force. It was an idealism he for the most part maintained until he died in 1997. I do not have the letter my mother wrote, prompting my father’s urgings against pessimism.
Honey, about the future; that pessimism will get you nowhere. That is exactly how “they” want you to feel. The strongest peace force in the world is the will of millions of little people who like us, want to work, play, learn, and be happy with those they love, in peace. The moment too many give up on this[,] then hope for peace is lost. If you do nothing else but plan and build for that future you are struggling for peace. We must try to make our own happiness no matter how those uncontrollable forces affect us.
We may do without some of the things we hold dear for periods of time. However we must keep trying and keep going towards what we want. We are separated now by no fault of our own. But that doesn’t stop our love which is stronger than any of “their” hate. You may have to go to an inferior school someday or to no school at all but that will not prevent you from learning how to teach and to teach the truth. The strongest force in the world is still the normal peaceful desires of people. I believe that this is the biggest reason why we are not now at war. I also believe that [it] is possible for this same force to avert a new war. No dogma for mystics need be used. Just the hatred of war may be enough. For this is the one hatred that is actually love. It is the love of life, love of people for people, and love of individuals for their family and home.
This post orignally stated that my parents were secretly married on February 10, 1951. As my sister Francine has pointed out, this was the date of their public wedding after they had eloped earlier in the fall.