Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (July 1940)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1, 1940

Hyde Park, Sunday –
And so Mr. Wendell Willkie is nominated for President on the Republican ticket, and has as his running mate, Senator McNary. I have always liked the Senator. He is an attractive person. Therefore, from all accounts, we have two people with charm running for office in this presidential election. I do not know Mr. Willkie, but the headline in one of the metropolitan papers yesterday said “Willkie Aims At Unity, Defense and Recovery.” I’m discouraged. In Heaven’s name, will anyone aim at anything else?

Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little. What is important, is how we expect to achieve the above objectives. That is the only thing that matters to the people of the country and, apparently, we are going to be very vague about these methods.

We can, however, judge parties and people by their records, and Mr. Willkie’s record is something all of us should study in the next few weeks.

It is sad to find Romania and Russia now fighting each other. I see, according to the paper, that King Carol is reported to have called upon Mr. Hitler to protect him, but it seems to me that we read not so long ago about a pact between Germany and Russia. That would seem to preclude any action which would be of real help to Romania. What a strange world that anyone, even in dire trouble, should seize on such a straw and hope for assistance!

We had a very pleasant party here on Friday night in honor of a combination of birthdays. A program of singing, music and dancing was provided for us by some young people who have been studying on an NYA program in New York City.

Three of them have jobs in summer hotels to provide entertainment this summer, one of them is playing with the NYA Symphony Orchestra in New York City. They came up here on their own time and they gave us such a pleasant evening, that I only hope they enjoyed themselves also.

Yesterday, our son Jimmy was here for a few hours and we sat in the sun and chatted before he had to leave to go to work. My niece and nephew, who were staying here, have gone back to Maine, and the house seems very quiet robbed of so much young life.

Mrs. George Huntington, who is staying with me, Miss Thompson and I motored down to Fishkill Saturday evening to dine with Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr.

The weather has continued to be as uncertain as possible, and we never know from minute to minute whether a thunderstorm is around the corner.

I have had very little exercise, for I find myself constantly catching up on work when I have a free day here. This week, however, I hope to take fewer trips to the city.

July 2, 1940

Hyde Park, Monday –
We ran true to form yesterday in weather. The morning was very beautiful, though the usual rain fell in the afternoon. However, I had a ride and a swim with a friend who came up for lunch. Immediately after lunch, Mrs. Lewis Thompson, who had flown up from Red Bank, New Jersey, to see her family, flew back with me to her home, where a pet show is given every year for the benefit of the Monmouth County Organization for Social Service.

I was to act as judge in two of the classes and give the prizes. I know nothing I dislike more than being a judge where children are the competitors, because all of them have tried so hard that you grieve at not being able to have a winning class for every one of them.

The first group I judged were pets with children dressed up to appear as some particular character. The child winning the first prize was a marvelous scarecrow and her pet was a crow.

I was told it fell near her with an injured wing some weeks ago when she was out riding, and since then has been tamed. It certainly sat on her extended arm in the quietest way imaginable.

The fourth prize was won by a little boy dressed as a butcher boy with a really wicked looking knife over his shoulder, while under one arm was a squealing little pig with the nails of its front feet painted red. The pig’s eyebrows and nose were also decorated in brilliant carmine.

This was the most consoling prize giving I have ever done. Those who won a fourth prize received a white ribbon and went to the prize table and obtained something as a consolation for not winning a cup.

The second class I judged was the most important of all, because all the winners of all the different classes appeared and out of them we were to choose the best pet in the show. Luckily, my co-judges were very good and I felt comparatively little responsibility.

After a few words of greeting, I said goodbye to my hosts and flew back again. I reached home just after the usual afternoon thunderstorm. It was a pleasant trip and I hope the charity made all the needed money.

I had a group of young people lunch with me today. Some of them are motoring out to Geneva, Wisconsin, for the annual meeting of the American Youth Congress. One of them, Miss Fradkin, belongs to a cooperative group which is producing plays this summer that deal with stories about the Hudson River.

The girls are Vass ar graduates. The boys, some of them, are still in college. Their headquarters are in Poughkeepsie, and they are opening their season with a performance on July 6 in Mr. Lowell Thomas’ theatre on Quaker Hill. I wish them every success and look forward to having them here some time this summer.

July 3, 1940

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
It is so rare in this world that anyone wants to take away from any credit given them, and give it to somebody else, that I must tell you that Mrs. Stephen Wise insists I created a wrong impression after going through houses for refugees the other day. These are run by the American Jewish Congress, and the Women’s Division founded and maintained them entirely through voluntary gifts.

I forgot to mention one rather important fact – that while the management has been entirely in the hands of the Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress, they have accepted refugees on an entirely non-sectarian basis. Not only Jewish, but Catholic and liberal Protestant refugees from Germany, have found a haven here.

I did a considerable amount of work yesterday, even though I felt I had spent a very free day. After our luncheon guests departed, Miss Thompson and I sat at our desks until 6:00, when we called on some of our neighbors. Otto Berge, the head man who took over our furniture shop a few years ago and who makes beautiful pieces of furniture in his own barn with the help of the machinery we gave him, has made a lectern for me to send to an Indian church out West. It is made of oak because the rest of the woodwork in the church is oak. As a rule, I do not care much for oak as a decorative wood, but Otto Berge has finished this so beautifully that I was very happy over it. I hope that when it reaches its destination, it will look well in the little church.

I am giving my broadcast today from the big house up here for the first time. It has been wired for the President, so that makes it possible for me to speak from there.

So Romania has had to join Hitler in order to gain protection, and the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey in the English Channel, which are demilitarized and half evacuated, now have the swastika flying over them. This should help Hitler from the point of view of dairy products, but then perhaps the children in Germany feel as some of our children did who had been unable to have butter for a long time. A butter substitute seems to become a habit and children prefer it to real butter.

The importance of these islands, of course, is simply that they become another base from which Germany can operate more easily against Southampton, which is an important shipping port.

We have heard so little lately of submarine activity that one feels encouraged to believe that the ships which carry children from Europe will come through safely. The responsibility of the crew and the people who care for the children on this trip must be heavy indeed and one hopes that no submarine will have the heart to attack them.

July 4, 1940

Hyde Park, July 3 –
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and this year it seems to me that this particular date should have a very deep meaning for all of us.

Our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and on that Declaration our Constitution was based. We fought as a young nation for the ideas that were expressed by the men who wrote this document. Though sometimes it seems as though, during the intervening years, we had forgotten all that document implies, the events of the last few months have made many of us think over carefully what are the things which really matter to us as individuals in the United States of America.

We will have to be very sure what we want for ourselves and our fellow citizens in order really to organize our strength and live or die for the things in which we believe.

I personally want to continue to live in a country where I can think as I please, go to any church I please, or to none if that is my desire; say what I please, and within the limits of any free society, do what I please.

Long ago, we decided here that if we held views opposing those of other people, it was against the interests of our country to try to persuade those others by force to agree with us. We could go on talking about our own ideas in the hope of eventually winning a majority, and it seems to me that this is the essence of democracy.

I am willing to be asked to sacrifice time and money for the good of the country as a whole. I am willing to be asked to share what I am able to earn with other less fortunate people, and I am willing to consider any curtailment of personal liberty which I can be persuaded is for the good of the majority, but I want to be able to discuss it.

I want the right to work, and I want that opportunity to be extended to all my fellow citizens. I want them to have an equal opportunity for educational development, for health and for recreation, which is all part of the building of a human being capable of coping with the modern world.

I want to have within my own hands the choice of my leaders, and if the majority opinion is against me at any time, I want the right to differ, while recognizing the necessity of cooperation on my part in order to prove fairly whether the majority opinion is right or not.

On this Fourth of July morning, I hope each and every one of us will dedicate ourselves to the service of our country and the service of our fellow citizens, never forgetting that we hope through our example to strengthen the ultimate brotherhood of man throughout the world.

July 5, 1940

Hyde Park, Thursday –
I seem to be in the business of correcting statements these days! Apparently, in saying that Park Commissioner Moses and Mayor La Guardia gave the people of the lower end of Manhattan a very lovely parkway, I left out many of the people who really did the work.

This I did not intend to do, and I think we should all be grateful to Borough President of Manhattan Stanley Isaacs who had complete charge of the construction of the East River Drive; to Walter D. Binger, Commissioner of Borough Works and Lester C. Hammond, Chief Engineer in charge of design and construction.

The letters giving me all this information came from Mrs. Mabel H. Pooler and Georgia C. Van Veln. I am very grateful to them for correcting me. I have also heard from two or three other interested citizens, and one of them, Mr. A. J. Davis, suggests that I should thank the taxpayers whose properties were condemned, and bemoans the fact that depositors in the savings banks are only getting 2% interest on their money because the banks owned most of the condemned property.

Of course, we are always grateful to taxpayers who make any improvement possible, but the 2% interest we receive on our savings accounts does not seem to me so small, for if we desired we could take out our money and put it to work in some way in which we might employ more people and bring us a higher rate of interest. We put it in the savings banks because we feel that there it is entirely safe and guaranteed by the government. Savings banks are restricted in their investments in order to insure the safety of our deposits and that is why we accept a smaller amount of interest.

It certainly was nice to greet my husband and our son, Jimmy, when they arrived at the house this morning. Major Hooker and I had a nice, but rather short, ride, since I am trying to do a number of things before my regular broadcast which precedes the brief ceremonies, when the new library will be finally turned over to the archivist.

Perhaps the fascination about even the smallest place in the country is that there is always something you want to do. I have discovered a stone mason nearby who lays walls in the old-fashioned way. Our lane leading off from the main highway has always been unmarked, so now I am planning two low stone gateposts and some wrought iron letters from Mr. Denny’s forge in Poughkeepsie, which should make it easier to identify the entrance to these cottages.

We are very proud of our garden this year. The vegetables seem to be thriving with plenty of rain, even though the sun visits us fitfully and the weather is more nearly like autumn than mid-summer.

July 6, 1940

Hyde Park, Friday –
There was a nice little ceremony at the library when the key was finally turned over to Mr. R. D. W. Connor, the Archivist of the United States. The President was gently reminded by him that the building now waited for his papers. The prompt answer was that 32 cases of books, papers and prints were already there, and more were on the way.

After the flag was raised in front of the library, we came over to my cottage and gradually all the people who are my closest neighbors, from grandparents to babies, began to gather. A little after 4:00, the President drove up. He read the Declaration of Independence, leaving out only the part which has direct reference to our situation in 1776. Then he talked to us all for a few minutes on the historical happenings of the last few years and the situation in the world today.

Mr. Arthur Smith, aided by one of the small boys, pulled the flag to the top of the flagpole. The colored baritone, William Bowers, sang “America” and everybody joined in. Afterwards, he sang one or two other songs, including “God Bless America.” Everyone said goodbye to the President and went up to enjoy a few refreshments on the lawn and chat together for a little while before returning to their homes.

At about 6:00, the President came back again, and Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau with their daughter, Joan, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon, and various members of our family gathered at the cottage for a picnic supper. The newspapermen, photographers, office force and other friends were all with us. The sun came out and made it quite warm and pleasant, but we were a little afraid that the ground would be damp so we served our food indoors.

Mr. Bowers sang for us again, accompanied on the guitar by Mr. Vincent Catanese, who has his own orchestra on Staten Island. Mr. Catanese was really remarkable, for he was able to play almost any song that was suggested if someone just hummed the tune. Everyone enjoyed Mr. Bowers’ singing. I was sorry that a call from the Secretary of State took the President back to the big house about 8:00 and made everybody else go back to work.

I was moved to a patriotic feeling today by the little ceremony with our neighbors around the flagpole, because it is so significant of what we stand for in this country. The President of the United States observing this Fourth of July with his neighbors in that close companionship which should exist between all of us in this democratic nation, challenged the relationships in the totalitarian countries. If we talk to each other in honesty and simple faith, our light will shine forth to the world.

July 8, 1940

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Early Friday morning we started to drive halfway across this state. My husband had a grand time asking everyone where Odessa was, and when the natural response would come – that Odessa was in Russia and on the Black Sea – he would gleefully remark:

My wife is going there on Friday and will be back Saturday night.

There is an Odessa in New York State in the Finger Lake section. We enjoyed its beautiful location and the historical interest of the old Fontainebleau, where we dined. A group gathered after dinner, at the invitation of the proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Ericksen, to ask me questions about the problems of youth, with special reference to the American Youth Congress.

At this meeting, I had expected to talk in a nonpartisan way on a nonpartisan subject, and then to be asked questions by people who were really anxious to know something about the problems facing young people today. Rather to my surprise, I found that, while I might have thought in this way, the meeting was to have a political tinge. Our hosts, and I suppose the neighborhood, had not been able to forget that I am a Democrat, and so had provided an eminent Republican, Mr. Mark Sullivan, to speak with me.

Although I have made it a rule never to speak at a bipartisan meeting, or to enter into debates, I enjoyed this occasion. I was particularly grateful to my delightful opponent because he gave me an opportunity to bring out many things which I would not otherwise have thought of saying.

The only thing which troubled me was an accusation made by my opponent against the Dies Committee. He said that this congressional committee charged with the duty of investigation for the protection of the people of the United States, had been influenced by my attendance at two of their hearings. It was claimed that the committee had therefore not said as strongly as it might otherwise have, the things in which it really believed.

I cannot for a minute entertain the thought that a Congressional committee, headed by patriotic Mr. Martin Dies, would put consideration for any woman, no matter to whom she might be married, ahead of duty to the nation as a whole.

It is a long time since I have driven in leisurely fashion through any part of New York State, and I enjoyed it very much. There is great variety in this state. Though I love and enjoy many other parts of the United States, I cannot help having an especially soft spot in my heart for the State of New York.

We spent Friday night with Miss Flora Rose in her house on the Cornell University campus. It was an inspiration to see her, as it always is. Our drive back on Saturday was as beautiful as the drive out had been. After the radio program, given in Poughkeepsie last night, we went rather wearily to bed. Today is lovely again and the President is taking us all to church.

July 9, 1940

New York, Monday –
As I look back on yesterday, I spent most of the day in a very church-like atmosphere. After morning service, and lunch at the big house, with the Postmaster General as our guest, I returned to the cottage. I worked for an hour and then groups of people began to stream past my window. Little by little, our picnic grounds filled up.

We had agreed to give the grounds for a meeting of the Christian Action Committee for Scandinavian Relief. It is a church group in which many Scandinavian churches have joined to collect money and send what they can to alleviate suffering in the Scandinavian countries. Considerable sums have already gone to Finland.

We waited some time for the buses to arrive, so I went out to the picnic grounds at intervals and talked to various guests, until finally, the service started. There was singing by the Norwegian choir and a very lovely young Norwegian girl. The hymns were sung by the entire gathering and I thought the simple prayers and talks both dignified and impressive.

I particularly liked the pastor, who reminded the gathering what their people had come to do in the United States, and who ended with a number of very apt suggestions. One:

There should be more paint on the home and less on the young girls’ faces.

…provoked considerable laughter.

Scandinavian-American children, like nearly all other children nowadays, collect autographs and I signed a considerable number before I left my picnic guests. Then I drove over to Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt’s house to have a little talk with Bishop Atwood, who is staying with her.

He is always full of the latest political news, frequently coming up here directly from some of his more conservative, Republican friends, so I always enjoy a little chat on the trend of feeling in foreign and domestic affairs.

The President left again this evening. I hope, next time, he can stay for a week, but, of course, nothing is certain these days.

We left Hyde Park this morning for a very busy day in New York City. The first important engagement was one at noon at LaGuardia Field, when the Walter Mack Job Awards for American Youth were presented at a reception and lunch at LaGuardia Field. The idea seems to me a very interesting one, and the awards seem well worthwhile and should stimulate young people to put forth their best efforts.

I understand that Mr. Mack hopes that his idea will be followed by other business firms. I certainly think it would do much to encourage a great many young people if more firms showed real interest in giving them job opportunities.

July 10, 1940

New York, Tuesday –
Mayor LaGuardia said at luncheon yesterday that the Walter Mack Job Awards for American Youth were of great importance to business and industry, as well as to government and youth itself. The prominent people attending the party were certainly a cross-section representing a great variety of interests in American life.

In front of us, at table, sat the 13 young people who had received their contracts in the morning. They may go to work any time between now and September 1. They choose the part of the country where they wish to work and the kind of work they wish to be trained to do. These jobs are created as scholarships to train young people for positions in business.

As I looked at the young faces in front of me, I thought how attractive, poised and intelligent they all looked. I wanted to talk with them all and get to know them better. They came from all over the country and I am sure they represented different racial strains, different religions and variegated family backgrounds, but they are starting out with hope. I pray that life will treat them kindly and give them useful and happy lives.

After we left LaGuardia Field, I spent a very short time at a meeting of Dr. Frank Kingdon’s committee, which is a subcommittee of the United States Committee for the Care of Refugee Children. I am so glad that our money-raising committee has such a simple name, for anyone wishing to send a check will not find it difficult to remember the “Refugee Children’s Committee, New York City.”

I met Mr. Drew Pearson and Mr. Robert S. Allen before dinner for the rehearsal of my brief part in their Monday evening broadcast. My son joined us for dinner by the fountain in Rockefeller Plaza, which I find a pleasant summer dining room.

Then back I went to NBC for the Washington Merry-Go-Round broadcast. I am very grateful to Mr. Pearson and Mr. Allen for giving me this opportunity to launch the money raising campaign for refugee children, which starts today.

A little after 9:00 p.m., Miss Thompson and I joined Jimmy at the theatre and we greatly enjoyed seeing Louisiana Purchase. There is something irresistibly funny about Mr. Victor Moore. In these days, a really amusing, pleasant evening is a great relief. The whole cast seemed to me excellent and the ladies are all so pretty they are a pleasure to see.

An early start this morning. A chance to talk with Mr. Marshall Field and we are now returning to Hyde Park.

July 11, 1940

Lakeside, Ohio, Wednesday –
Yesterday morning, we drove back to Hyde Park from New York City. A group of some 30 ladies came to tea with me at 4:00 to discuss the possibilities of a documentary film to show the progress made by women in the last hundred years. In a film of this kind, there are great possibilities to show what problems the women of the past had to meet and to point to the development of this country. Women do so much to create the spirit of a nation that it will be particularly interesting to see the contribution made by our various racial strains to the formation of the idea on which America is built.

After dinner, we motored back to New York City to take the night train for Ohio, and here I am in Lakeside, preparing to give a lecture tonight.

I was very much interested in the “Declaration Against Conscription” issued by a group of 240 educators in yesterday’s papers. It seems to me that these learned people who are excited about conscription and tie it up with military training alone, miss the point of the situation we face today. The American Youth Congress and these educators seem to me to be discussing the world of a year ago, not the world as it is today.

A year ago, there was plenty of time to talk over indefinitely whether it was necessary for people to serve their country by developing themselves physically, by acquiring certain mechanical skills, and even by learning how to be soldiers if necessary. Above all, there was plenty of time to discuss what democracy meant to us and what we were willing to give in the way of service. Today that time is lacking. The quicker we learn to discipline ourselves, to acquire mechanical skills, to organize ourselves for real use in our communities, the better for us.

Above all, we should accept the fact that democracy requires service from each and every one of us, not just from those who happen to want to volunteer. People say this can be done voluntarily and all they oppose is compulsory service. Here again, I would say, let us be realistic. We know human nature well enough to know that even the best of us, unless we have to do a thing, will try to get out of it now and then, if it is not quite convenient.

We think the other fellow needs to give service – and we will, too, some other time, but we need not do it now, for we are always prepared to serve if the need arises in the future. Educators know human nature and they realize that real democracy is only achieved when everyone has to do something.

Surely the value of our suffrage in a democracy is well proved, yet look at how many people find it inconvenient to vote. The test of democracy is before us today. Can we face the situation realistically, and voluntarily vote for ourselves the disciplines which are needed to make us able to meet the force of totalitarian governments?

July 12, 1940

New York, Thursday –
Lakeside, Ohio, where I spoke yesterday, is very like Chautauqua in New York State. It is run by the Methodist Church people, and offers a religious program as well as many other types of educational and pleasurable entertainment. The location on Lake Erie is very beautiful and the opportunity for sports and out-of-door recreation must make it a haven for many families.

The auditorium holds about 4,000 people, but they have smaller auditoriums which are turned over to the young people for meetings. This is a favorite meeting place for groups of the Epworth League. The Northern Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs was holding its meetings there, and the head of the Toledo, Ohio, club came to see me.

Perhaps I am wrong in feeling that a great many of our women are still living in the world which they hope exists, rather than in the world which really does exist today. They are still talking of world peace and what we can do to bring about peace in this world, in the hope that it can be accomplished at the present time and in the same way that peace groups have worked for many years.

This is discouraging to me, for I feel that our situation in the world is so completely changed that old methods and old approaches must be changed in order to meet it. However, I hope sincerely that I am wrong and that we may not be facing as serious a situation as seems indicated by recent events.

I was impressed yesterday by the interest that people are taking in giving homes to refugee children. A young woman, who has started a nursery school in Toledo, came in to tell me that she would attempt to raise money to support a group of refugee children in her school, and she and her colleagues would donate their care. This seemed to me a very generous offer from a very small nursery school which is just getting on its feet. I hope she will be able to find people to sponsor some children, for she seems to have a very good plant.

Some members of the Sandusky Altrusa Club came in to present me with a very beautiful corsage bouquet. On every hand friendly people waited to greet me, which is always a pleasant experience.

We drove to Cleveland after the lecture, some 75 miles, but the road was good and we had an hour in a hotel to rest before we took a plane to New York City. This is the first time, I think, that I have been on a night plane and failed to see the sun rise, but I was so sleepy that it did not matter to me in the least when and how the sun rose. I slept until the stewardess awakened me to say that we would be in New York City in 15 minutes.

Today seems to me fairly warm and I shall be glad when our New York City appointments are over and we wend our way back to the country.

July 13, 1940

Hyde Park, Friday –
I went to a meeting yesterday morning of the Refugee Children’s Committee and, as usual, was impressed by the horrid legal details which enter into doing anything between governments. I came away feeling that all I could possibly cope with was something perfectly concrete and simple, such as finding homes into which to put children when they arrive.

How they are to get here, or how we are to live up to the rules and regulations of our respective governments, is something which requires such patience to find out and follow up, that I believe only trained legal minds can possibly learn it.

I gather from the accounts in some of the metropolitan papers this morning, that there is still confusion as to whether these children can be transported across the ocean. Some people assure us that the British government is prepared to bring 2,000 immediately. Other people, who should know, insist that the ships are not available.

However, most reliable sources of information seem to feel quite certain that several thousand children will come immediately if our regulations are made easy enough so that not only rich children, but poor children may also be admitted. This, I understand, the State Department and Department of Justice are arranging today. I hope that, from now on, the responsibility for sending children will lie entirely with the British Government. Our responsibility is to see that we facilitate their coming in every possible way, which I am sure is being done.

After the meeting, two friends had what was supposed to be lunch with me. We were so hurried, we only had a few minutes in which to swallow a mouthful of food at the little restaurant down by the fountain in Rockefeller Plaza. Then we went straight to the NBC studios for my broadcast. From there, I drove to Quaker Hill farm near Pawling, New York, to see Mrs. William Brown Meloney.

She always holds my profound admiration for her courage and ability to conquer physical ills through the triumph of her active mind. She feels as I do, that for the moment, defense on every front is the greatest issue before us. That the sooner that we discover that the old situations which we faced are no longer with us, the safer we shall be.

New situations have to be met in new ways and those who cling too long to the past, are not only useless, but dangerous. Instead of clarifying the real issues, they becloud their own and the people’s thinking.

Home to find a guest awaiting me, and to spend a very pleasant peaceful evening. I felt that we had been gone a long time and had moved in a stream of hectic activities, and yet we only left here Tuesday night.

Rain today, but that can be enjoyed with an open fire, pleasant company and the usual amount of mail on which to catch up.

July 15, 1940

Chautauqua, Ohio, Sunday –
Here it is Sunday morning and we are speeding through peaceful, pleasant American countryside. We passed a village a few minutes ago with people going to church, and now a golf course dotted with players. Along a country road, several young people on bicycles with packs strapped on the handlebars, are off, I imagine, for a day’s picnic and swim in some clear pool.

Thank God, these things can still be for us.

Yesterday I had a ride and swim in the morning, and Mrs. Florence Kerr, head of the Women’s and Professional Projects in WPA, brought her regional area supervisors for a picnic lunch. We sat in the sun on the lawn and I heard reports of the work being carried on in different parts of the country. We discussed at some length the relationship of much of the training which is going on under WPA to the emergency situation created by the need for national defense.

I have recently been looking over a pamphlet called “If War Comes. M-Day Plan. What Your Government Plans For You” by Donald Edward Keyhoe. It is very interesting, though the War Department says nothing of the kind has been worked out in such detail and, so far as they are concerned, the whole thing is still in the realm of discussion.

My main objection to this plan is that, while the publication of such a plan may be of value in arousing the United States to the realization of the possibility of someday having to defend its own shores, the plan does not make clear that it is too late to undertake such mobilization when there is an attack.

Mobilization, if it is going to have any deterrent effect, must be perfected long before there is a war in which we can take any part. Our only hope of keeping the peace which we so prize, is to prove before there is any involvement in war, that we are a unified nation for defense, mobilized that each and every one of us know what job to do, how and where to do it. Therein lies the one hope for peace.

In the evening, a party of us went up for dinner to the Norrie Park Point Inn Restaurant. The sunset and glow reflected itself on the water. It was a beautiful and calm sight. We sat out on the terrace and someone pointed up in the air when an aeroplane was flying down the river, apparently almost touching the moon.

A man, in what looked like a Tyrolese costume, played his accordian. Some of the songs I have heard in European countries in happier days. For a moment I almost thought we were looking at some less familiar scene than the Hudson River which I have known since childhood.

July 16, 1940

Hyde Park, Monday –
I am beginning to think that all the Chautauqua organizations have chosen charming spots for their settlements. We drove out to Chautauqua, Ohio, straight from the train yesterday and, as we drove into this summer resort, we passed gay parties and boats on the Miami River. The big swimming pool and tennis courts were crowded with young people. The cottages looked unpretentious, but attractive and comfortable.

I could not help thinking that it was an ideal place for children and young people to spend a healthy, pleasant summer. The audience was large and most attentive and the questions showed real interest in the subject, though there were a few personal ones like “is the color on your hat Eleanor Blue?” This made everybody laugh and lightened an otherwise rather solemn talk.

We caught an earlier train than we had expected and arrived home this morning at 9:30. This gave me a chance to say goodbye to Mrs. George Huntington, who is leaving for a short time, and to look over the mail and to take a ride. The ride was not very satisfactory because the flies bother the horses so much. I shall be glad when this particularly “buggy” season is over and we can use the woods again.

The Democratic National Convention, which is opening today, is going to mean much more time spent listening to the radio. But isn’t it wonderful to have the radio? Some years ago, it would have been impossible to know what was happening from minute to minute. I turn on my radio for the foreign news at intervals all the time. However, just as during the Republican Convention, I don’t want to miss any of the colorful pageantry going on in the Democratic one.

I had a most interesting letter today from Mr. Frank J. Wilson, Chief of the Secret Service, telling me that during the past year the United States Secret Service has been trying to make the American public “counterfeit conscious,” and thereby to suppress the major crime of counterfeiting. They have used all the known ways to educate people through publicity and have succeeded in reducing the losses of the American people through counterfeiting from $1,151,839 in 1936 to $197,381 for the fiscal year of 1940.

The newest idea is the distribution of some colorful and attractive match folders bearing the slogan “Know Your Money” with a brief message from the Secret Service to the public. I hope to see a great many people carrying these match folders, for certainly this is an educational venture in which we should all be interested. I am grateful to the Secret Service for the work they have done to make us conscious of how we safeguard ourselves.

July 17, 1940

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
I have been watching with the keenest interest the growth of three little robins outside of my bedroom window. I never knew diminutive objects could eat so much and grow so fast. The nest seems much too small for them.

This morning, one of them is trying his wings. He almost flies out, but seems not to have the courage at the crucial moment. It reminds me of myself going off the diving board. I long to be able to communicate in some bird language that, if he just has self-confidence, it will be all right.

Some unexpected guests dropped in yesterday afternoon and we spent a lazy time sunning and swimming. This morning they are off again. The sky looks gray so there is little temptation to do anything but work.

The organization called “Bundles For Britain” is spreading and a branch has just been formed in Rhinebeck, NY, near us. This organization asks American women to send food, clothing, surgical supplies and comforts to both the soldiers and the civilians of Great Britain. I think there is a very warm response to their appeal.

One has a desire these days, to feel that one is doing something toward alleviating the widespread human suffering in so many parts of the world. Since it is almost impossible to do anything for a great many countries, we are fortunate still to be able to do something for Great Britain.

I have a letter today from a young university woman who makes the following suggestion:

If America, instead of pouring all her wealth into armaments and waiting to be attacked, would begin a positive program of relief to all, but no aid to either army, giving repeated promise of technical and material aid to both sides in the event of an equal negotiated peace, if the United States would do this, I believe we would undercut all loyalty to, and power of Hitler before he could endanger our own welfare.

This is the best example of wishful thinking that has come to me in some time, and that is why I am giving it to you today. Many of us would like to feel that this role was possible. It would be, if there was not one strong victorious nation which already has in her power many other weaker nations, and to whom “equal” peace would mean complete control for herself alone.

There never would have been a war if the sweet reasonableness for which most of us have been hoping for in international affairs had existed. Under the present circumstances, all that we can hope for is to keep alive in our own nation a desire to establish this kind of peace on earth, but to realize that a victorious force with a philosophy in back of it such as is preached in Mein Kampf can never be vanquished except by equal force.

July 18, 1940

New York, Wednesday –
This is the most delightful July weather that I can remember, warm enough in the sun to enjoy drying off after a swim, but cool enough so that even a good walk is not too exhausting. I tried walking in the woods yesterday afternoon, but found the mosquitoes were still in undisputed possession!

My little birds got out of their nest this morning and paraded along the ledge, exercising their wings by flapping them up and down, but they hopped back into the nest with great rapidity when their mother appeared with a worm.

The weather cleared up and it was lovely late yesterday afternoon. so I took my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt, to the Norrie Park Point Inn for dinner. They had never been there before and both of them found it a very attractive spot. We had quite a gay party.

The inn is quiet on a weekday night and I rather missed the young man who played for us last Saturday. But the sun made a beautiful, golden pathway on the water as it went down behind the Catskill Mountains, and there was a great sense of calm in that peaceful, apparently motionless water.

We arrived at home in time to gather on my porch and listen to the radio. My husband telephoned me to say that Senator Barkley was reading a statement from him, and though it had never occurred to me for a minute that the delegates to this convention did not feel entirely free to make their own choice, I suppose it is always wise to say exactly what you mean.

This is a serious time in our history, not a time for blind partisanship but a time for careful consideration of what the two major political parties have to offer, not only for the service and safety of our own nation, but for the service that may lie ahead of us because of our position in the world.

There is no such thing as isolation. We desire peace for the protection of our people from the horrors of war, but we cannot cut ourselves off from the conditions which prevail in other nations. What they suffer, we must feel one way or the other.

In a newspaper, I saw that someone said, in effect, that we are a bankrupt nation. The allusion was entirely to our financial status. No nation is bankrupt which has natural resources and production potentialities, and undaunted and unified people. These things we have, and I count on our engaging in this campaign with a determination to use our best judgment to make this country a steadying force, and a beacon of light to all people who believe in freedom and the triumph of the theory of government which is based on spiritual values.

July 19, 1940

Hyde Park, Thursday –
My little birds have flown this morning out into a strange world all by themselves. I hope they lead happy bird lives and are preserved from the many dangers they must meet, long enough, at least, to give them a few months of whatever constitutes happy bird life!

We sat and listened to the radio last night until the early hours of the morning. Curiously enough, I feel a little the way those young birds felt when they finally flapped off the window sill. The world we are going into is certainly an unknown quantity to all of us. For anyone near you, to be nominated today for the Presidency of these United States, whether for a first or a third term, is a very serious thing. A heavy responsibility at home for domestic policies, and a heavy responsibility to shape a policy to guide this nation in the peaceful way that our people desire in the troubled world of today.

No one knows what will happen on election day, but during the next few months the two nominees must face the future and tell the people what their experience, their background and their vision makes them see as the mission of this country at home and abroad. Beyond that no one can know. It seems too solemn a thing for me to wish for more at the present time than that the candidates may be given the ability to put their beliefs sincerely before the people. God grant the people will be given the wisdom to choose wisely, not for themselves alone, but with a realization of the weight of their responsibility in the world.

We all went to bed so late it was rather difficult to get up this morning. So far, the day has been anything but a normal day, for, after several urgent messages came through from Chicago last night, my husband agreed that, since he could not go himself to the Democratic Convention, because of his feeling that he should not be so far away from Washington, he would like me to go. I think he hoped I might be able to give the delegates a personal sense of appreciation he feels for their confidence in him, even though the service required is such a heavy responsibility.

The various changes in arrangements which had been made here for the day, the plans for flying out and returning as rapidly as possible, have made this a very busy morning. I was in New York City all day yesterday, and so am somewhat behind in much of my work, but I hope to be back here early tomorrow morning.

Franklin Jr. is coming up from Washington to go out to Chicago with Mr. C. R. Smith, President of the American Airlines, and myself, and I shall be happy to see Elliott and Ruth, even though it will be for a very brief time.

July 20, 1940

Hyde Park, NY, Friday –
Since I wrote my column yesterday, I have travelled a good many miles. I cannot say that I was sorry to see my little cottage this morning.

According to schedule, Franklin Jr. and I met at LaGuardia Field yesterday afternoon. Mr. C. R. Smith, President of the American Airlines, had very kindly sent a small airplane to take me from New Hackensack, New York, to New York City, and I must record the thrilling experience of actually being allowed to fly the little ship for part of the trip down while in the air. It was so smooth that there was no difficulty in keeping it on an even keel. I watched the river below to keep it on the right course. I have always wanted to learn to fly a plane and even this small experience was exciting.

Our trip to Chicago was smooth and uneventful. The Postmaster General, Mr. Farley, was kind enough to meet me at the airport. Before I left it, I had an interview with some of the newspaper people. We couldn’t induce Mr. Smith to go to the convention with us, so Mr. Farley, Franklin Jr. and I were the only ones who drove to the Stevens Hotel.

We spent a short time there and many photographs were taken. Then we went directly to the convention hall. The atmosphere there was much like the atmosphere one always finds on these occasions. Everybody was very busy, very troubled or very elated about one thing or another.

To me, there is something very contagious about the friendly atmosphere brought about by meeting old friends. I was so glad to see them from all parts of the country. I like my fellow Democrats from wherever they may come. We may think differently on certain subjects but, taken by and large, there is a bond of real friendliness.

I was delighted when Mrs. Henry Wallace arrived to sit beside me. We watched the balloting which put the Secretary over as Vice Presidential candidate. Secretary Wallace is a very fine person and I am sure will strengthen the ticket. I have always felt in him a certain shyness and that has kept him aloof from some Democrats, but now that he will be in close touch with so many of them, I am sure they will soon find in him much to admire and love.

Somehow, I cannot feel this campaign is going to be in any way the type of campaign we connect with the routine of choosing a President every four years. Whatever the people decide in November, I hope it will be done with the realization of the critical times we are living in. Above everything else, that any candidate, or any President, in these times, is powerless without the active participation of every citizen in working out the internal problems of this nation and their relationship to world problems.

July 22, 1940

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Yesterday, I motored down right after breakfast to “Algonac,” Newburgh, N. Y., where my mother-in-law, her brother and sister are anxiously watching the life of their oldest sister, Mrs. D. D. Forbes, apparently fade away. She may, of course, rally, because even at 92 a marvelous constitution stands one in good stead. But, as I looked at her yesterday, I could not help feeling that, for her, it would be easier to pass on to a realm where the problems of this world are left behind.

Mrs. Forbes has lived for many years in Paris, and I think the things which have befallen the French nation in the last few weeks have been hard for her to bear. It is true that as one grows older and can look back on varied experiences, one becomes more reconciled and accepts whatever comes in a spirit of resignation. But Mrs. Forbes has always been so young in spirit, that I have felt these latest blows were hard for her to look upon with calmness.

To all the younger members of the family, Mrs. Forbes has been a symbol of how to grow old gracefully and still retain a hold on the interests of youth. Every one of my children is deeply concerned about her welfare, as well as that of their own grandmother, who feels this anxiety greatly.

In the afternoon, we celebrated little Franklin III’s second birthday. He had one small cousin at supper with him and the two sat on the south porch of the big house, at a little table which was gaily decorated with yellow paper napkins and tablecloth. On their first meeting, little Leila and Franklin had not been entirely friendly, but this time they had an amicable visit and seemed to enjoy their presents.

We sat up last night until a late hour discussing what kind of a world young people, starting out today, are going to find themselves living. I confess I think a good many of them have had rather poor training for the uncertainties of the future.

It seems to me that whatever may happen, the ambitions of the past and the expectations that life will be as it has always been, have very little justification in fact. These speculations, however, are probably good for us, for every one of us has to go on from day to day meeting the situation as it develops and hoping to find somewhere within ourselves, the qualities and the intelligence to encounter whatever the future may hold in store.

I woke this morning to rain, but it has cleared off now and we are planning on a peaceful day, walking and swimming perhaps. Some young people are coming to lunch and that always means gaiety and much discussion.

July 23, 1940

Hyde Park, Monday –
Two young girls came to lunch with us yesterday and, while we sat talking, the news came that my husband’s aunt, Mrs. Forbes, had died. In the late afternoon, Miss Thompson and I drove down to Newburgh to see the family there and to find out if there was anything I could do.

I telephoned my husband and Franklin Jr. and Ethel. I shall be able to go down this afternoon, for the funeral service is in Newburgh. I hope, since the interment is in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, our son John, will be able to meet his grandmother there.

I thought my husband looked rather tired and sad this morning. I know that having only three members of the older Delano family left, will make a real break in a very close family circle.

Last night, Franklin Jr. and Ethel had supper with us and we talked until late. This morning after my husband, Ambassador Bullitt and Miss LeHand arrived, Franklin Jr. and I went out for a ride. It was pretty hot, however, and the flies made life miserable for man and beast, so we were not gone long.

Before coming in, we rode into the garden and Franklin III was put up on the saddle in front of his father. He seemed to enjoy every minute of the little walk which the big hunter took with him perched on his back. When he was lifted off, he kept repeating, “Again, again,” and seemed disgusted that there was no further ride in store. I was amused, for when we tried to put him on the pony by himself, he refused to have anything to do with riding!

I have been asked to tell my readers that it is not an outright insurance by the government which guarantees their deposits in savings banks, but that banks which are members of the Federal Deposit Corporation, have their deposits insured to a maximum of $5,000 per individual account.

They buy and pay for this insurance and the government does not contribute to it, but I think it is only fair to say that this was initiated by the present administration in Washington. It is only because the government is willing to do this for the banks that you, as an individual, can have up to $5,000 insured in your savings bank account, if you choose a bank which takes advantage of this opportunity offered by the government. If this insurance had been available before 1929, a number of people might still have their life savings.