Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (1944)

October 30, 1944

Westbrook, Connecticut – (Sunday)
I was very glad on Friday night that I had kept my promise to speak at the United States Student Assembly at Simmons College, and to go and visit our grandson.

I think young groups find it harder to get speakers, particularly in the middle of a political campaign when most speakers are doing campaign work and the young people are not basing their meetings or their forums on a political subject. In addition, I learned long ago that having once told a child you will do something, if you wish to build up confidence in the future promises, it is well to keep those you make right along.

I was sorry, however, not to be able to go to Philadelphia and Chicago with my husband. But I listened over the radio to both speeches, and I am quite sure my husband was so surrounded by crowds that my presence was not necessary. In previous campaigns I have always made certain engagements during the week before election, and there are some that I must keep in this campaign.

This morning in Connecticut, where I am visiting Miss Esther Lape, is cold but lovely, with white clouds blowing across a deep blue sky. Leaves are nearly gone from the trees, but there is still a little red color and much russet and gold, and the grass is still green. On my dressing table was a little vase of mignonette. Mignonette always carries me back to my grandmother’s garden, where it grew in great quantities. I loved the smell when I was a child, and I love it still.

We spent last night in the old done-over farm house where my head nearly touches the ceiling in the bedroom, and where I am sure in the old days no such warm carpets and comfortable chairs greeted the children as they climbed to their very chilly attic bedroom. Today, however, the sun shone in on the warm pink colors, and I woke to the smell of a wood fire burning somewhere in the house to take off the early morning chill. We went for a walk in the woods this morning, and this afternoon I will continue my journey back to New York City.

I can hardly believe it, but I have received an anonymous letter which says nothing but pleasant things. That has never happened to me before. Both the letter and the verse accompanying it are very kindly meant, and certainly helped to do the thing the writer wished to do. She says: “Even Mrs. Roosevelt must need morale lifting too.”

Sometimes I do, so many thanks to an unknown friend.

October 31, 1944

New York – (Monday)
I reached New York City yesterday afternoon in time to visit my cousin, Mrs. Henry Parish, after having supper with a young family who were much more interested in a pumpkin face, and the way the candle burned inside it, than they were in eating supper!

Halloween is one of the times which I think children enjoy very much. All the work which goes into hollowing out the pumpkin, and making the face, somehow makes the finished product very satisfactory. Children love to put all the lights out in the room and, night after night, enjoy the pumpkin and the eeriness that shines out from within.

When we were children, we used to put the pumpkin head on a high stand, drape a sheet around it, and add a broom, frequently placing this creation around a corner, hidden from sight until you came upon it suddenly. I realize now that it was not as terrifying to the grownups as we thought; but they were very obliging and played up very well, letting us children think we had thoroughly frightened our elders.

I hope a great many people yesterday read the New York Times article giving some interviews with aviators returned from overseas and now being reconditioned. More and more, I hear about boys who want to go back to the front as fast as possible, because they cannot reconcile the “life and death” existence of the men in uniform to the “business and pleasure as usual” which they find among civilians at home. I have always been a little afraid of this, because it is so hard for us in our safety to understand the feelings of those who have had such close acquaintanceship with death.

The owners of a Washington restaurant wrote to me the other day about a practice they have made of entertaining servicemen from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital without charge. They suggest that other restaurants, not only in Washington but everywhere in the country, might get some satisfaction out of doing the same thing. They write:

It is a very great privilege to offer some relaxation to these wounded men, and we wish no recognition of our small deeds. However, we feel that the other restaurants in Washington and perhaps all over the nation would like to share the pleasure and privilege of inviting servicemen to partake of their hospitality.

I am sure that wherever restaurants can afford to do this, it will give everyone, from owner to waiter, a great deal of pleasure.

November 1, 1944

Washington – (Tuesday)
Though I was not here last Sunday, a very successful party for 40 disabled veterans was carried through by the members of the White House staff. These veterans came from the naval hospital at Bethesda, the Walter Reed General Hospital and the Forest Glen Hospital for convalescent men.

The arrangements were made by the Disabled American Veterans and the Junior Board of Commerce, who are very active in all these hospitals. The men were taken first to the Pitt-Redskins football game, and then came to the White House, where they saw the house and had light refreshments. I hope that we can have these parties regularly from now through the holidays, and I shall hope to be here myself to greet them.

Miss Thompson and I got back last evening, and as usual found considerable mail waiting for us. After talking for a while with the family, listening to Director of War Mobilization James F. Byrnes on the radio, and walking the dog around the circle back of the White House, I settled down to work. The moon has been so glorious the last few nights that I cannot resist going out late to have a final look at it.

Today promises to be a fairly busy day. My first appointment is at 10 o’clock, then a press conference. In the afternoon I hope to spend a little time at the Naval Hospital; receive 40 French fliers, together with one or two other visitors, and finally have a young colonel and his wife to dine. He has been in our son’s command in the European theatre.

Among other things in my mail last night, I found a copy of the actual telegram telling about the young Russian woman who received the household kit which I had given through the Russian war relief. It sounds like an interesting family, and as though the 36-year-old mother had done a remarkable wartime job in managing a home and five children on the government allowance, with what little help the union could give her in addition. If these household kits really do bring so much joy to the women and children of Russia, I hope we will go on sending them in increasing numbers, for it is certainly not very hard to do.

A great many people in this political campaign seem to be moved by the poetic muse. In my mail last night were a number of poems written by children, by men and women of middle age, by old ladies, and even by one or two elderly gentlemen. I liked one in particular, which an old lady of 80 wrote in answer to a Republican poem published in her local paper. I must say I admire her spunk in coming back in opposition to the minister who had written the poem for the Republicans!

November 2, 1944

Washington – (Wednesday)
Before leaving New York City last Monday, I went to a lunch given by a really enthusiastic group. The Theatrical and Motion Picture Committee for Roosevelt, Truman and Wagner put on a real show.

It was held at the Hotel Astor under the joint chairmanship of John Golden and Louis Nizer. The room was crowded, and though Senator Wagner spoke well, I think he would agree with me that the honors were carried off by Mayor La Guardia, who spoke for all the candidates. The Mayor kept everyone listening intently through his whole speech, enjoying it, but at the same time recognizing the truth of what he said, and remembering many little items which will be useful in future arguments!

I spent an hour yesterday afternoon in Washington, seeing the patients in the malaria ward at the Naval Hospital. Most of these boys are marines who look back to Guadalcanal as the probable source of their malaria attacks. One poor boy was going through bad chills, and I must say I never get accustomed to seeing those boys suffer without a sense of rage that we have had to put our youth through the horrors of this war.

I have been reminded that October 22-29 was Hard of Hearing Week, and I imagine that money was raised at that time by many organizations which help the deaf. Because this has been a war of high explosives, we will have many men afterwards whose hearing will be impaired. This must be looked upon, therefore, not just as a civilian interest, but also as an interest which will affect many of the younger generation who will have to adjust themselves to deafness in the future.

I have had an appeal from a small business which is having trouble getting paper. They beg people not to waste paper, but to conserve every scrap. I must say that I suffered as we drove past the assembled crowds in New York City on our tour the other day, when I saw torn paper floating out of many windows. I know it is hard to express one’s enthusiasm without some tangible object, but I think we should restrain ourselves and really remember that every scrap of paper is valuable.

This particular printing company tells me that they have made an appeal for additional paper to WPB. If they cannot get it, they may have to go out of a business which they have built up over a period of 60 years. They naturally feel that not only should there be no destruction of paper, but it should not be used for anything which is not of absolutely vital necessity.

November 3, 1944

New York – (Thursday)
Yesterday Miss Thompson and I came to New York City and in the evening I went out to Rockville Center, Long Island, to speak at a meeting. This is, of course, a rock-ribbed Republican area, but there seemed to be a few Democrats, since the hall was filled and there was a crowd outside. In fact, one speaker made the remark that the reason the Democratic Party has not grown in Nassau County was that the Republicans would never build a hall big enough for all of them to meet.

I got back rather late, and began my morning appointments at 9 o’clock. There were a few other appointments throughout the day and the usual mail had to be attended to.

As I rode downtown in a taxicab, my driver entertained me greatly by making grave political observations really worthy of some of our best politicos! Looking straight ahead, he suddenly said: “It will either be a landslide for the President which will carry everyone else with him, or it will be a landslide the other way and we will be completely Republican!” I burst out laughing, because it sounded like so many of the prophecies and polls which are constantly being quoted. The only answer I could think of was: “Well, I imagine we have to wait until the votes are counted on Election Day.”

Now that Holland is gradually being liberated, one of the things which many of us were interested in before the war will assume even greater importance. Before the war, the Netherlands-America Foundation, in collaboration with the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce and The Hague, had established a fund large enough to exchange five students a year, and the University of Leyden, during its summer session, conducted a one week’s course in Dutch civilization for American students.

It is hoped that this beginning in good cultural relationships between the two countries will become more active in the postwar period. On December 5, the foundation is giving a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House for the Hendrik Willem Van Loon scholarship fund. The money raised will go to support the interchange of Netherland and American students, and the concert will pay special tribute to the courage of the Dutch people. The Dutch conductor, Dr. Hans Kindler, will bring the National Symphony Orchestra from Washington for this occasion, and the soloists will be Helen Traubel, Metropolitan soprano, and Egon Petri, pianist. It will be a great occasion, and a cause in which I hope we will all be interested.

November 4, 1944

New York – (Friday)
We listened to my husband’s speech last night, and I do feel sorry that he has not been able to leave Washington this week. Every woman knows, however, that the choice between first things and second things must be made almost daily in everybody’s life. If a child is sick, you subordinate everything else in the house to the care of the child. If the country is at war, there are bound to be a constant number of little problems as well as big ones, but even the little ones may not be shirked.

I do not think, however, that making campaign speeches and traveling to different places is time wasted. I have a feeling that every public servant should renew his contact with the people as often as possible when he is in office, and this is doubly true when a campaign is going on. It is only through the actual sight and feel of the crowds that the man in public life really gets to know what the people who back him believe in. I have known men who could sit at home and read the newspapers from all over the country and get a fair idea of what men and women everywhere really wanted. I think this is a useful thing to do, of course, and should be cultivated. But nothing speaks to the heart like personal contact, and every leader must know the hearts of the people who follow him, as well as their intellectual convictions.

A lady from California wrote me an amusing little anecdote. It is about her little daughter, who once fell into conversation with an elderly woman and made a discovery! “Know what, Mummy?” she said after the conversation. “That woman isn’t grown up.” Rather baffled, her mother asked her how she knew, and the child replied: “'Cause she didn’t vote.”

Then my correspondent went on to tell me that they make it a family custom to take the children with them when they go to the polls on election day. The children hear the political discussions on the way to the polls and back; they meet people who differ in their political points of view; and, most important of all, they learn that when you are grown up, you vote – which becomes for them a sign of maturity.

I think this idea of family voting experience, even when a child is very young, is an excellent one. It might be a way of bringing about a consciousness of our responsibility as citizens at a very much earlier period than is now generally the case.

November 6, 1944

Hyde Park, New York –
Yesterday afternoon was a very exciting afternoon for me, because four of the officers from our son’s reconnaissance wing in Europe, who have been sent back on business turned up in the late afternoon at our little apartment in New York City, bringing me a letter of very recent date and telling me many things of great interest.

Some young people who have been staying with us had also heard from a pilot friend of theirs whom they had not seen for many years, and when he came in all these returned aviators found they had come back on the same airship.

Our son always writes about his boys as though they really were his responsibility almost as if they were his children. This must sometimes irk them a little, since he is probably not more than ten years older than the youngest among them. There is, of course, even less difference in age with some of the others but the attitude is of extremely fatherly interest and censure, which amuses me greatly. He wrote me to be sure to see that the visiting officers had a place to sleep. I found that they had already taken care of themselves quite satisfactorily. The all seemed happy to spend today up here in the country with us and two young wives have joined them, which is an added pleasure.

Yesterday was a busy day. My husband was touring New England, while I was doing my customary “Saturday before election” rounds in New York City. A luncheon in the Bronx to meet the workers there, a tea in Manhattan presided over by Mrs. William H. Good, our Democratic national committeewoman, and finally a train to Peekskill where I spoke in the evening before coming on to Hyde Park. Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt spoke at our Hyde Park rally but I got there in time to say a few words of greeting to our friends and to take her home with me for the night.

The war seems so much closer to me than the campaign that I have to remind myself very often of what I tell other people – namely, that our business of citizenship is just as important in its way as the gruesome business of war. When you sit night after night and read letters from boys in the service from members of their families at home and realize what this war means in human suffering you have to keep reminding yourself that without the active participation of every citizen in this government there is no chance that we can keep it from happening again.

Most of us live so much in the present that when we read of sorrow we want to do something now to alleviate it. But this mass sorrow that exists for us all can only be prevented by a mass determination to understand the problems of the world and to act wisely as individual citizens in the future.

November 7, 1944

Hyde Park, New York –
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Brandt joined us for lunch yesterday. Since Mrs. Brandt could not come here earlier in the summer, she had her first glimpse of the President’s library, in which both she and her husband seemed much interested. All the young aviators visiting us seemed to like ship models and the curious collection of things in what is called the Oddities Room, so everyone had an enjoyable time.

We spent most of the day in the open air yesterday, walking to the top of the hill, seeing the President’s cottage, and having tea around an open fire in the living room at my cottage. Everyone looked cold as he came in. Even the President and Admirals Leahy and McIntire looked as though the country air was snappier than anything they had been experiencing except in driving through New England. They had had long, official talks, but everyone was relaxed and chatty before the open fire over the tea.

One of the aviators kept remarking, “This is like a real Sunday at home,” and then added: “I haven’t been home yet, but I talked to my family several times and now they just begin to make sense. At first, we couldn’t think what to say.”

Great emotion is seldom very well expressed in words, and this boy is very close to his family. He has been away two years, and his brother is out in the Pacific. It must be a rather frustrating emotional experience for parents to be suddenly called on the telephone when they have had no inkling that their boy might return, and not be able to have him come immediately because he has work to do.

I enjoyed every minute of yesterday, and was very glad to watch them all drink milk and eat the things which had not been on their diet list during the long months abroad. The open air and exercise made everyone sleepy, and by 10 o’clock one after the other had gone up to bed. They greeted me this morning saying they had had the best sleep they had enjoyed in months.

I saw them off at the train, and look forward to seeing them all again in Washington before they go back overseas.

I do not know whether you are a devotee as I am of Bonaro Overstreet’s poems, but there are five lines in yesterday’s poems that I do not want to forget. They are:

I do not ask of any man alive
That he know all the answers. I only ask
A great caring – an honest and humble caring
About what happens to human beings and their hopes,
And that I ask of myself as much as another.

November 8, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Tuesday)
The President went yesterday on his usual pre-election day round of neighboring counties. He and Secretary Morgenthau have made this round on so many pre-election days that it has become a tradition. They always stop at the same places, and I think the one in Beacon is the very spot where the President made his very first campaign speech when he entered politics as a young man, running in a “hopeless” district for the state Senate.

We had an early lunch and saw the cavalcade off. Later, at 5:30, I met the party for the last meeting in Poughkeepsie, in front of the post office. I dashed from there to the train, in order to spend a little time yesterday evening at the dinner of the New York State workers. Both the staff and volunteers were present, and we wanted very much to thank them on the President’s behalf for the work they had done in this very arduous campaign.

I would have liked to do the same tonight when the National Democratic Committee, under Mrs. Charles Tillett, holds its party for their workers and staff, but election night I must be in Hyde Park. All I can do is send Mrs. Tillett a written message telling her of the President’s appreciation of the work which they have done. The men, of course, will hear from the President, and they have much more frequent access to him; but I always feel particularly drawn to the women workers, who do so faithfully the many details which underpin the success of the whole campaign.

I came back this morning to Hyde Park on the early train and, as usual, my husband and I are going up to vote today. The afternoon will be calm and undisturbed, but in the evening our neighbors and friends will be coming in to join us and await the returns. Whatever happens, I feel that on the Democratic side the President has made a good fight; and in political life I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the very best you could.

Campaigns certainly are an interesting study in human nature, and they do bring out the things which are important to different individuals. In reading through the very numerous letters which have been coming to me during the past few weeks, I have been struck by the variety of reasons which move people to write. Sometimes it is a recollection of hard days lived through, and gratitude for a helping hand which changed the hardships into comfort. Sometimes it is devotion to an idea, such as the hope of world peace or international understanding. Sometimes it is the devotion to some boy fighting in a faraway place who had written home that he likes his Commander-in-Chief. Personal feelings certainly translate themselves into public action.

November 9, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Wednesday)
Yesterday afternoon was just as quiet as I had anticipated it would be. My husband took some of our guests to his top cottage for tea, and our neighbors began to come in at half past seven for a buffet supper at the big house. By 9 o’clock the dining room was cleared and the President started the real business of watching the vote and tabulating it as it came in.

When this begins, I always think of Louis Howe, who really enjoyed sitting in his shirt sleeves and calculating percentages. I can’t say that it means a great deal to me. Nor does it to most of our guests, who wander into the big room, sit around and talk, listen to the radio, and get reports from the dining room, where the people who really are doing the tabulating are hard at work. Later in the evening, when the returns began to seem to have some meaning, the newspaper people and photographers came up from Poughkeepsie, and even the radio men were along.

More people than ever came down from Hyde Park with flares and a band, led by Moses Smith and Elmer Van Wagner, who is the Democratic supervisor in our district. They always report apologetically that “the President has carried his own district by a few votes, but lost the town of Hyde Park.” “Nevertheless,” they add, “in spite of the fact that they vote against him, all his neighbors love him.” This little speech always amuses me, for it seems to me that they must vote as a tradition, but hope to be beaten – which doesn’t make any real sense.

Until a very late, or rather a very early hour, I heard nothing definite from Helen Gahagan Douglas, candidate for Congress in a California district, in whom we are much interested.

There was a good deal of excitement all through the evening among many people about us, but I can’t say that I felt half as much excited as I will feel the day that I hear the war is over in Europe. That news will mean that the war in the Pacific will be nearer an end; and when I hear that the war in the Pacific is over, I shall feel a sense of far greater relief than any election returns could possibly bring me. Whatever happens in an election has to be all right, and one can only trust that the collective wisdom of the people is in the best interests of the country.

November 10, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Thursday)
It seems to be settled beyond any question that the President is going back to Washington to assume during four more years the very heavy responsibilities which those years must bring. One can only hope that the people and all their elected representatives will join with him in helping to meet these years with courage and efficiency.

Constructive criticism will be needed, of course, and I have always believed it to be very helpful; but even more important is cooperation and willingness to bear the burdens that we must bear to win the war and then to start the world on its journey to what we hope will be permanent peace. As individual citizens we will all need to educate ourselves and to think through many personal and local problems, as well as national and international ones.

Along the educational line, I think you will find that a list of books which has just been published by the National Conference of Christians and Jews will be very helpful to you. You can get it from their Chicago office, and it includes not only adult reading, but reading for the very young and intermediate ages.

Yesterday morning I went down to New York City to attend the wedding in the afternoon of my friends, Mrs. Trude Pratt and Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lash. Sgt. Lash is just back on a temporary assignment after 18 months in the Pacific. It was a very happy wedding. But the shadow of the war must hang over even the happiest hours, and for people like these two, who have so much desire to make their lives of use, one can only hope that when the war is over they can begin quickly to realize their dreams of working together usefully for society as a whole.

In the evening I saw Frank Fay in Harvey. Without his remarkable acting, so well seconded by Josephine Hull, there would be little to this play. As it is, it has charm and humor, and I can recommend it for a pleasant evening.

On the way back to Hyde Park on the train this morning several people – particularly the trainmen, who are old friends of mine – came up to express their pleasure at the outcome of the election and to ask me to give their regards to the President. I think some strength must come to a man when such a great volume of good wishes pours in on him, and when I arrived home I found him sitting surrounded by a sea of telegrams.

November 11, 1944

Washington – (Friday)
Yesterday at Hyde Park I spent most of the day trying to get the orders given for winter arrangements on the farm and in the house, arranging for the closing of my cottage, and finally finishing as much mail as Miss Thompson and I together could get through.

After dinner a few people from further up the river, in Rhinebeck and that neighborhood, came down to speak to the President, and he went out on the porch to greet them. By 10 o’clock we went to the train, and little Johnny Boettiger, who had taken a nap after his supper, seemed to feel that this was great excitement! His only annoyance was that he had not been allowed to stay up all evening. I was a little afraid that one of our two dogs would run off and not appear when it was time to leave, but both Fala and Ensign were on hand and we all left in good order.

We arrived here this morning, and the members of the Cabinet, Representatives of the Congress and other officials all greeted the President before he left the train. We stopped for a few minutes on the plaza in front of the station while Under Secretary of State Stettinius read a scroll from the government workers assuring the President of their support and continued work for the duration.

Mrs. Wallace and our daughter and I were in the car behind the President, the Vice President and the Vice President elect. We were sorry that there were no loud speakers around the plaza, because we could not hear either Mr. Stettinius or my husband, and we were sure that the crowds round about were also disappointed.

Once at the White House, we stopped with the Vice President and Mrs. Wallace and Senator Truman in the Diplomatic Reception Room to receive all the people in the White House itself, and those from the executive offices, as well as the guards about the grounds.

Most of us had had our breakfast before we left the train, but the President insisted that he was going to have his after he got here. I found him in his study at 10 a.m. still enjoying his tray, and we had a little chat with various other people.

At 11:00, I met with the ladies of the press. The President had held his press conference at 10:30, so a few ladies came dashing over breathless from his conference to mine.

I have had one appointment since then, and shortly Mr. and Mrs. Charles Taussig are coming to lunch, when I shall also have the pleasure of seeing again Sir Gordon Lethem, Governor of British Guiana, who came to meet me at the American airfield when we landed there last winter.

November 13, 1944

New York – (Sunday)
On Friday afternoon I had a number of appointments, ending up with a little time spent with Ambassador Winant, whom I have been trying to see ever since he came back from England.

We had a quiet dinner at home, and at 9 o’clock I went to a meeting of the UNRRA staff society, whose members are preparing to go overseas. They held this meeting in the Pan-American building, and after the speeches there was a short, informal reception. Many of the workers come from the countries in the world where they are now going to try and rehabilitate the people. Some of them were driven out by persecution and some were here before the war, but all of them have grave responsibilities ahead, and it is heartening to see with what courage and interest they face the future.

Few people realize the difficulties of accumulating supplies and transportation and of making arrangements with the governments of various countries while the war is still going on. In spite of it all, however, former Governor Lehman and his staff manage to find solutions to the many problems, and I know that as good a job as it is possible to do under present conditions is being done at all times.

I took the midnight train back to New York City in order to do some Christmas shopping in the morning. At noon I attended the luncheon of the United Parents Associations, where I spoke. This group is facing the challenge to parents in the present and in the immediate future, and certainly there never was a time which presented parents with a greater variety of problems.

Later in the afternoon I went to the reception given by Tech. Sgt. and Mrs. Joseph Lash, and today I am trying to visit a number of my family and friends here who have been laid low by various ailments. I often think how fortunate it is that the Lord has kept me so far in such excellent health. I can’t think how I would ever have time to be ill, but I suppose the day will come when I will be forced to find time, and how I shall hate it!

The War Production Board is asking all of us who speak before groups of people if we will not continue to emphasize the need that exists for conservation and salvage. Paper is their immediate concern, but I think they are anxious that conservation should extend to everything we use in our daily lives. It may not always be directly for a war purpose, but many things otherwise wasted might go to free some war materials, and so we should never think of anything as being useless.

November 14, 1944

New York – (Monday)
I plan to go back tonight to Washington, but in the meantime I am doing as many things as possible during this day. My morning is filled with appointments of various kinds, and at 2 o’clock I am to speak to a group at Brooklyn College under the auspices of the United States Student Assembly.

In the evening I go to a meeting at Cooper Union under the auspices of the Committee for Refugee Education, Inc. These refugees, who came here as strangers in our midst, set themselves to learn the language of the country which has given them shelter. Many of them have also wanted to learn more about our people and about the processes of democracy. Ordinarily they meet in small neighborhood groups, but for this occasion they are all coming together in one large gathering, and I am looking forward very much to this opportunity of meeting with them.

This is a bewildering country to those who come from far away, and the processes of democracy, which seem to us simple and easy to understand, must seem very chaotic to strangers. An election such as we have just been through, for instance, proves to us our freedom; but to them it probably spells misunderstanding, disunity and bitter hatred!

Take, for example, the oft-repeated statement, made in the hope of befuddling American mothers, that the President had “broken his promise to them that their boys would not be sent to fight outside of the continental United States.” The end of the sentence, which said: “Unless we are attacked,” was rarely quoted; and never was it explained to the mothers that the fight would be harder for their boys if they waited until the attack was on our own soil. It would be a much harder fight for them because it would mean that the other nations fighting against the common enemy had already gone under, and we were fighting alone in the world. The fact was also carefully ignored that if the fighting were done on our own soil, the suffering would be borne by the whole population and the years of recovery would be long, hard years.

None of this, however, was ever mentioned, and I sometimes wonder whether the writers and speakers who try to befuddle other people are really befuddled themselves! If not, then they deliberately go about assuming that people in this country are so stupid they will neither know the truth at the time, nor realize later the type of effort that was made to control their thinking. I doubt if people as a whole, in this country, like such an assumption.

November 15, 1944

Washington – (Tuesday)
The meeting at noon yesterday at Brooklyn College grew to such proportions that I had to speak from the balcony outside the president’s offices, with the students assembled out of doors on the campus below. It is a charming campus, and I must say that that part of Brooklyn, with its detached houses and lawns and trees, struck me as being a very nice and almost suburban residential section.

I was happy that the sun was shining and that it was not bitterly cold. It seemed quite enough to ask those young people to stand for over an hour during these ceremonies held in commemoration of International Students Day.

At 5 o’clock I had a small tea at my apartment for some of the young women who did volunteer work for Mrs. David Levy in the campaign. I think the experience has made many of them realize that they want to go on working along citizenship lines to assure the results which they fought for in the campaign. This is a great gain for the nation as a whole if it holds good all over the country.

The meeting of the Committee for Refugee Education at Cooper Union in the evening was very well attended, and I got back to my apartment by 10 o’clock in time to spend half an hour with a gentleman who had been trying all day to see me. Then I went to the broadcasting station, where at 11:15, I gave a five-minute summary over the air of what I had said at Cooper Union. Finally I made the midnight train for Washington.

I am only one day behind in the mail, but it looks as though there is a great deal of unfinished work piled up. I found the President looking very well, but a little depressed also by his accumulation of mail. Our daughter returned yesterday from seeing her elder son at his military school. This afternoon I am seeing a number of people at half-hour intervals, but I hope this evening I shall be able to catch up with all accumulated work.

I have an appeal from the Camp Fire Girls to mention their difficulty in finding leaders. I imagine that the Girl Scouts, as well, suffer from the fact that women are very busy these days. I have always been a great believer in these two groups, and have felt that women who gave their time so unselfishly were doing a fine piece of work. I cannot help feeling that, in spite of all the war work which women now have to consider, these agencies should not be neglected. They help to keep down juvenile delinquency, and I feel that that is of paramount importance. No time given to the leadership and guidance of the girls in these organizations could be better employed.

November 16, 1944

Washington – (Wednesday)
When shopping in New York, the other day, I went in to America House, where I saw Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb. She told me of a very interesting plan which is being developed by Dartmouth College in cooperation with the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council, Inc., of 485 Madison Avenue, NYC. They are working out with the Veterans Administration a way in which veterans wishing to take advantage of this plan may do so.

The plan is designed to give men and women training in careers as craftsmen. Every step is pointed to one end, the financial independence of the individual, either through self-employment or employment in the manual industries. The course of instruction, given at Dartmouth College, is open to men and women, both civilians and returning veterans. Those who are disabled or suffering from combat neurosis may also take advantage of it. Since handicraft production is usually easier to carry out in rural communities, the plan should be of especial interest to those who may wish to settle in the country.

If they have the proper qualifications, veterans wishing to take the course of study will be aided by the government. In the case of civilians, they must be able to pay the tuition. I hope that many people will be interested in looking into this program, which has a cultural as well as an economic value.

My mail recently brought a letter from a mother who lives in Maine, enclosing a poem which she says she “just found.” Since it has been a consolation to her, she felt that many other mothers working in war industries, as she is doing, would like to know it. When their load of anxiety seems almost more than they can carry, it may bring them strength and consolation. And so I quote it here, hoping that her wish may come true:

A Parent’s Silent Prayer

Dear Lord, –
You gave your Son to save the world.
You didn’t count the cost
In blood and sacrifice;
You gave your Son that we might live.
Dear Lord, –
Can I do less?
I give the world my son
That he may help to save
The things for which your Son
So nobly died.
If, when the victory’s won, dear God,
And you send back my son,
I’ll press him to my breast and thank you, Lord.
And if he goes to join your Son, I’ll understand;
And through my tears, rejoice
To know that my son and the Son of God
Go hand in hand. – Amen.

November 17, 1944

Washington – (Thursday)
One of the sad things about being in the White House is the fact that so many people mistakenly believe that living here makes it possible for you to further any project in which they happen to be interested.

People come to me with touching stories, and I would like nothing better than to be able to wave a wand and change the rules and regulations under which government actions are taken. When they realize that I have no influence, they then place their whole trust in my putting the matter before the President, who they believe, certainly can wave a magic wand.

Alas and alack! If the President did, the whole fabric of orderly government could easily fall to pieces. Sometimes the kind and individual acts of President Lincoln are cited as examples. People forget that the Washington of Lincoln’s day was a very much smaller place than the Washington of 1944. Nevertheless, it is sometimes a heartbreaking experience, and there have been many days when I wished that I really had the magic wand attributed to the White House occupants.

Yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Florence Kerr brought to the White House the members of the National Advisory Committee on Child Care, and also some of her staff and the members of Congress interested in administering funds under the Lanham Act for the service projects in the Federal Works Agency. Of course, most of us know that there is never any question in Congress about the appropriation of money needed for munitions of war, or for the buildings in which they are to be made.

The people who work in these buildings, however, and who make the ships or planes or guns or ammunition, still have personal lives which have to be lived. They cannot shed their families simply because they are needed in a new locality. They cannot go off to work and leave their homes unless their children are cared for. People may not understand that money is necessary to take care of the children, to provide recreation, to prevent illness or, when it comes, to assure proper care and treatment. The result is that to get money for these services is far harder than to get it for the more obvious, clean-cut making of munitions of war. Yet, without these services, people simply could not meet the demands made upon workers at the present time.

All this was stated by some of the people in Congress, and in reports made by members of the advisory committee on the extent of work accomplished and the results achieved in various parts of the country. Out of the conference I gathered the strong impression that communities should find out now about what was being done and what was still needed, and determine what they wanted to do now and in the future. If proper provision cannot be made with local resources alone, the citizens must begin to educate the state and national representatives on the nature of these needs as they arise both now and in the future.

November 18, 1944

Washington – (Friday)
Late on Wednesday afternoon I went over to the Walsh Club, where a group of government girls were entertaining wounded servicemen from Walter Reed Hospital.

These girls are planning to use their club, which is really very attractive, as a place where they can invite servicemen for parties, and they would also like to be able to visit them in the hospital. This first group of men from Walter Reed were invited partly so that the girls could ask their advice as to the best way of breaking the ice, making friends and getting on with the men. I think I was asked over in the hope that I would be able to contribute something to the discussion.

Unfortunately, I cannot help a great deal, because the only real value that I have when I visit hospitals is that I bring the men the assurance of the President’s interest in them. When I ask them how they are or where they come from, they are not thinking about me as an individual; they are just thinking that the President is interested in them, and that usually gives them a lift. In addition, I have traveled a great deal in this country, and the chances are that I will have some familiarity at least with the part of the country from which they come, and that makes it easy to find a point of contact. I also have four sons and a great many friends in the services in different parts of the world, and therefore know a little about what most of them have been through.

Yet these girls can bring with them what is probably the best medicine possible. They have youth, and the chance of giving the young man a feeling that he can do something for them. As one of the boys said:

It would be nice if you didn’t always try to do things for us, but let us do more normal things in the way of entertaining you.

Yesterday afternoon I attended the bazaar of the French-American Wives, and was very much interested in an exhibition of the first French clothes to be received here since Paris was liberated. Two of the dresses had the old leg-of-mutton type of sleeves which I remember in my youth, and I hope that it isn’t going to become a “must” for all of us, because I don’t think it was a very pretty fashion. An American officer bought these dresses on his first day in Paris and sent them back to his wife. I think it was an excellent idea to put them on exhibition for the benefit of French relief.

Later in the afternoon the Charge d’Affaires of Yugoslavia and Madame Franges came to see me and one or two other friends, and in the evening a number of young aviators, back from the European area, dined with us.

November 20, 1944

Washington – (Sunday)
Friday afternoon in Washington I spent an hour or more going through a ward at the Naval Hospital where the plastic surgery cases are being treated. We have made great advances in this art during the war, and I was much encouraged by seeing the really wonderful results which have been attained in many difficult cases. It will mean so much to young men who might otherwise have carried very bad scars for the rest of their lives.

In the evening I went to an open house meeting of the Camp Fire Girls and was presented with an adult membership pin.

On Saturday morning I attended the graduation exercises at American University of one of the Red Cross groups. Training courses for the various branches of Red Cross work are held there, and the activity really resembles a three-ring circus.

People come in every Monday morning for a course of training which lasts for varying periods. If they are not immediately needed, they are given some field work in this country before going overseas. Of course, some of them are going to work in this country permanently, and for them field training is not so important, since they can afford to get it on the job. But very often the need overseas is so great that they start for their final destination after a short period in the university courses. For this reason the training period has to do both a theoretical and a practical educational job. I think the faculty is really extraordinary in its achievements.

I had a few ladies at lunch on Saturday in honor of Mrs. Thomas J. Walsh. Then, after attending the bazaar of the Parish Guild at St. Thomas Church, I had a tea in honor of the South American women journalists who have come here as guests of the Women’s National Press Club and the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. These women are all distinguished journalists from Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay.

We went first to the President’s office so they could have an opportunity to speak to him. Then we returned to the White House for tea and coffee, where we were joined by members of the Women’s National Press Club and women representatives from the CIAA staff.

In the evening Governor and Mrs. Ingram M. Stainback of Hawaii, Mr. and Mrs. Chester Bowles and a few other friends came for dinner. Afterward Lt. Robert Catlow, who has been a patient at Walter Reed Hospital, came with Miss Barbara Nash and Miss Campbell to give us a short concert. Lt. Catlow will shortly be working out at Forest Glen on an entertainment program for the patients. His own recovery and ability to sing is a tribute to the wonderful care and the skill of the doctors at Walter Reed. I think he will be, in himself, a great source of encouragement to the men with whom he will work.

November 21, 1944

Chicago, Illinois – (Monday)
I have had a number of letters in the course of the last few days, some of them stating that I was wrong when I said in a recent column that the President did not promise, in the campaign of 1940, that our boys should not leave these shores. In other letters, the writers stated that they have read articles in the newspapers which said that I was wrong, and they wished to assure me they had heard the President qualify this statement over the radio, by the words: “Except in the case of attack.”

Therefore, in order to clear this situation up, I have decided to give the whole thing in chronological order.

  1. The Democratic platform adopted in Chicago, in 1940, stated:

We will not participate in foreign wars, and we will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas, except in case of attack.

  1. On September 11, 1940, in Washington, D.C., the President said:

I hate war, now more than ever. I have one supreme determination – to do all that I can to keep war away from these shores for all time. I stand, with my party, and outside of my party as President of all the people, on the platform, the wording that was adopted in Chicago less than two months ago. It said: “We will not participate in foreign wars, and we will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas, except in case of attack.”

  1. On October 23, 1940, in Philadelphia, the President again said:

We are arming ourselves not for any foreign war. We are arming ourselves not for any purpose of conquest or intervention in foreign disputes. I repeat again that I stand on the platform of our party: “We will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas, except in case of attack.”

  1. On October 30, 1940, in Boston, Massachusetts, the President said:

And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars. They are going into training to form a force so strong that, by its very existence, it will keep the threat of war far away from our shores. The purpose of our defense is defense.

It is this last speech which probably created a false impression, and yet every one of us knows quite well that once the bombs dropped on our soil at Pearl Harbor, the war was no longer a foreign war, but was a war in defense of our own country. Had we not fought on distant shores, we would soon have fought on the shores of the United States.