Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Oct. 1939)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

October 2, 1939

New York, Sunday –
I have paid two visits to the New York World’s Fair since I have been in New York City, and I really feel that I have seen a good deal. I have been through the Federal Building again and each time I find it more interesting than the last. I saw the General Motors show that gives one visions of the possible discoveries which may be made in the next few years in the fields of science. I think it is probably the most encouraging thing that I have seen, for, in pointing out how the first telephone was received and then explaining what we know about certain scientific facts and how little we really understand them, the vision of what may lie before us must come even to the most unimaginative. Great fields of new employment lie open to our young people if our scientists are able to delve further into the mysteries which lie all about us in the universe.

A fitting climax to this show is to walk through what is supposed to be a New York City street of 1892, lighted by gas, with shops and houses of that period and the cobbled streets. I understand that the young man who arranged it is English, and that explains the fact that I felt I was walking in an English street rather than in one of the streets of my childhood in this country. However, this makes no difference in the illumination of the change that has come in this short period.

The Eastman Kodak show, with its beautiful colored pictures, must put ambition into every photographer and shows one what charming pictures lie all about us.

Mr. Hungerford, in his “Railroads On Parade,” has created a delightful pageant. Here again it seems incredible that such changes have come about in such a short time. We would hesitate to consider the first tiny sailboat safe in the Hudson River… I think the thing that amused me most was the train that was drawn by horses because the engine was delayed in arriving. The Pennsylvania engine was not very polite to us, and we were almost as wet as though we had been out in the rain when it finally reached its station in front of us!

Friday night, I went to see The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn. It is a most entertaining play, but I cannot help feeling that even a sophisticated, disagreeable child could be as odious as Dinah. Perhaps Mr. Barry, the author, had to point her up in this manner, and perhaps there is no need for sticking to reality so long as you get your point across – but to me she seemed a very unreal phenomenon. We had a delightful evening and I think Miss Hepburn and all the cast do so well that this play deserves its great success.

Last night we saw Billy Rose’s Aquacade Show out at the Fair and it is so delightful that it should not be missed by anyone. We watched the fountains from the French Pavilion during dinner and the colors seem more beautiful to me each time I see them.

October 3, 1939

Seattle, Monday –
Yesterday afternoon, I left Newark, NJ, at 5:00 on my way to Seattle, Wash., to see Anna, John and the children. I confess to being quite excited at seeing my youngest grandson again after such a long time. Children at his age change more than they do later on and, while Eleanor and Curtis are just about as they were last spring, their little brother is now a real personality. Even at 9 and 12 years, however, they did change a good deal in six months.

The weather was not very pleasant yesterday and I started with a feeling that this might be a longer trip than I had anticipated. The weather was none too good after we left Chicago, but I arrived only three hours late.

There seem to be a number of interesting things going on in the field of art these days. I received an invitation to attend the free concerts which are being given from October first to seventh at Rockefeller Plaza, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. American music by our best composers will be played by symphony orchestras and the best swing bands. The financing of this free festival is being done by the membership of this society as a gesture of appreciation to the American public. Mr. Gene Buck is president of the ASCAP and anyone who is familiar with his abilities as an impresario will know that every one of these concerts will be worth attending. I only wish that I could be in New York City, but I am just about as far away as one can be and still remain in the United States.

The newspapers are less and less cheerful reading, and so, in a world where hatred seems dominant, it is interesting to see the September publication of the International Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, which is called “Today’s Youth and Tomorrow’s World.”

Tomorrow, October 3, in several hundred cities in North America, the Young Men’s Christian Associations will begin the observance of the 50th anniversary of their world service program. The YMCA has spread all over the world since two secretaries set out on October 3, 1889, from their posts in North America, John T. Swift to go to Tokyo, Japan, and David McConaughy, Jr., to Madras, India. These men went in response to requests from missionary groups and representative leaders in these far away countries, to help develop a work similar to that being done in this country.

This work has led YMCA workers since into fields of danger in many different countries. It has inspired many young men both at home and abroad, and has drawn together young people of many different nationalities and creeds. One can only hope that even though the world seems to be turning to force and hatred at present, that societies such as this may grow in strength during the years to come.

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October 4, 1939

Seattle, Tuesday –
It certainly is fun to visit one’s children. I found myself marvelling at the strength of my youngest grandchild yesterday. He is the most friendly, happy baby I have seen in a long while. As he sat in his father’s lap at breakfast this morning, I couldn’t help noticing how alike the two heads are in shape, though I can’t say I have ever been able to see close resemblances in features when a baby is only six months old. The older children are fascinated by him and when he grows up I suppose it will be hard to keep them from spoiling him.

Anna, Sistie and I took a walk yesterday afternoon with the two Irish setters. “Jack” never forgets me and greeted me warmly, but “Jill” is a fickle lady and took very little interest in my arrival, but she has no objection to be petted, which some will say is a woman’s trait. My trip out this time was very uneventful, though the rain and fog kept us two hours in Billings, Mont., which gave us a chance to go to a hotel. I had a bath at 5 a.m., and breakfast at the airport at about 6:30 Mountain Time, which was 5:30 Pacific Time, and this meant I was very pleased when we sat down to lunch here in Seattle. I don’t think one feels really weary until evening, but I have to own that I was practically falling asleep standing up when I finally went to bed at 9:30 p.m.

I hope that the October issue of the Survey Graphic will be read by everyone who can possibly get a copy. It deals with the schools of our country and tries to answer some of the questions which most of us have been asking ourselves these last few years. You cannot see a great deal of our young people without being concerned over what our system of education really accomplishes for them. In this October number are observations of 31 expert educators and journalists who try dispassionately to answer three questions with which we are all concerned.

  1. What are goals of our schools? Are they meeting the tests of American education in the American way?

  2. Are our children learning how to think for themselves as citizens of a democracy, or are they likely to fall in line behind a rabble rouser?

  3. Can we cut across economic and racial barriers and really provide equal opportunities for education for every young man?

Some of us know, for instance, that approximately 800,000 children in the U.S.A. did not attend school last year because there either was no school owing to the poverty of their neighborhood, or they belonged to a family which was too poor to provide them with clothes and books, etc. We also know that because of economic conditions in certain parts of our country, the school year has been curtailed, in some cases only a few weeks, but in some cases several months.

It is true that some great men succeeded without schooling, but most of them somewhere along the line came in contact with a great teacher who pointed out the way whereby they might educate themselves. In many places we are giving little thought to the development of great teachers today. We think more about curtailing their salaries than we do about improving their qualifications. A really good teacher can never be paid, and they do not develop well on starvation wages.

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October 5, 1939

San Francisco, Wednesday –
It was with real sorrow yesterday that I read of the death of Cardinal Mundelein. He was not only a great man in the Church, he was a great man in our country. He used his influence to increase the goodwill and understanding among people of different faiths and races. He had a real concern for those who suffered and a love for young people.

When he came to see the President, if it was possible, I always made it a point to go in and see him, if only for a few minutes, because contact with that kind of personality always gives one a sense of encouragement about human beings. He radiated goodness and you could not despair of humanity in his presence. Many of us who are not of his church will long remember him with gratitude for what he was and for what he did for others.

I think he would have approved a publication which has just come to my attention called The Voice For Human Rights, published by the Committee of Catholics For Human Rights. A strong stand is taken in this paper for tolerance. Instead of hating our neighbors, it urges us to try to understand them. It raises its voice against anti-Semitism and urges tolerance for different races and creeds. This is the kind of paper which will be of great help in these troublous times to keep us all bent on cooperating and removing injustices wherever we find them and to alleviate suffering as far as we can.

As the war drags on and the debate in Congress opens to decide what our attitude in this country on the Neutrality Bill shall be, I cannot help hoping that we will remember that there is work at home which has a bearing on the ultimate peace of the world.

We have set ourselves a difficult task here. We are trying to find the answers to the economic problems of today. We have the responsibility of proving that a great democratic nation can do this. We must show that we can find a way of expanding industry, of sharing the benefits of invention, of distributing production, so that even the lowliest may have at least the necessities of life in this land which has before solved problems of production, but not of distribution. This does not mean curtailment of private initiative or of ultimate rewards to those of special abilities or those who wish to strive for material returns. It does mean, however that we cannot be successful in offering the world something it may desire unless we can prove that.

None in our midst need be homeless or hungry or lack the necessities for a comfortable and satisfactory existence. It is true that it is said:

For ye have the poor always with you.

That should not apply to people who are willing and able to work, but to those who, through illness or misfortune are unable to look after themselves. To think of future peace is our first responsibility in a war-torn world.

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October 6, 1939

San Francisco, Thursday –
I had it so firmly fixed in my mind that this was a purely personal and unofficial trip that I was taken rather aback on reaching Medford, Calif., yesterday to find the Mayor and some Democratic ladies waiting for me and bringing me a delicious box of apples grown in their region. A little girl who had been in Warm Springs was also waiting in the airport. It was a very pleasant stop and I was notified that in Sacramento the Governor would be at the airport to meet me.

It was nice to see Governor Olsen looking so well and strong again, for when I was here last he was far from well. I felt very guilty at disturbing the Governor for I know only too well how busy all public officials must be at the present time, but I shall carry his greeting to the President.

In San Francisco, my friend, Mayris Chaney, met me and the sun was out to make the afternoon a success. I was nervous for we were rather late and I had kept her and a group of newspaper people waiting. While I stood talking to them, a kindly old gentleman begged me to accept a large box which he wished to send to the President and I had to explain to him that when travelling by air extra luggage is not easily taken on. I was really sorry when I saw his hurt expression.

One cannot be in San Francisco without being conscious of the Western Union strike, particularly if one has a column to file by wire. I could not help wondering why the war situation did not bring home to us the necessity for an attitude of conciliation between individuals and between groups. How can we ever hope that different races will sit down and in a spirit of justice and goodwill consider the difficulties confronting their nations, if we in our own country cannot even persuade groups with different interests to meet and arbitrate their difficulties?

Only public opinion will bring this about and since so many women are asking me today what they can do to prevent war, I can only pass along my own conviction that the first thing we can do is to desire justice and goodwill to prevail at home. We cannot have peace unless we begin with the individual and we must build up machinery to bring this peace about, a lesson which we should carry into our international thinking.

There must be representatives of varying points of view. There must be disinterested people who listen and patiently and try to solve the difficulties. There must be a place for discussion. This is true at home and true in international affairs. Someone should tell the human stories that lie back of picket lines. I think it would help the management to a better understanding of the actual human needs that are the background for some of the difficulties that result in strikes.

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October 7, 1939

Los Angeles, Cal., Friday –
I didn’t have time to tell you yesterday of two things which I greatly rejoiced in San Francisco. First I paid a visit to the Fair. The grounds are so beautiful, with flowers blooming and color and water used to make the scene aesthetically satisfying at every turn. I could not bear to miss the art exhibit here and enjoyed seeing some of my old friends from Italian galleries. There were many other famous paintings I had never seen before except in reproductions, so this was a delightful experience.

We also went through the part of the building which is given over to Pacific cultures. We enjoyed the Chinese and Japanese exhibitions and many of the interesting things from the Pacific Islands. Some of the northern islands have much work that is reminiscent of our own Eskimos in Alaska. After seeing their exhibits, I wanted very much to revisit our American Indian courts in the Federal Building, for that made such a deep impression on me when I last was here, but time would not permit.

In the evening, we went up into a room at the very top of our hotel and, from one of the windows, saw the lights of the fair grounds sparkling below us like so many brilliant jewels. A walk around this room gives you a beautiful view of the entire city at night. Out of my room at the hotel yesterday morning, I stepped out on the balcony to view a lovely panorama. The clouds were rolling away, the bay lay below me and one white gleaming building stood out as the sun shone on it. San Francisco is a beautiful city.

Yesterday morning two old friends, Mrs. Denman and Mrs. McCauley came to see me. Then we went out to visit Mayris Chaney’s hat shop, where I bought myself two winter hats. This is a new venture for her, but I think she ought to be successful. It is always fun buying things which you feel are made especially for you, and in a shop like this it can be done. Afterwards we took a hurried trip to Chinatown and went to Gump’s especially to see the miniature silver display. Any child would fall in love with these exquisite copies of beautiful silver tea sets and full dinner services.

After lunch with James and some of his friends, he and I started back to Los Angeles by air. He had flown up in the morning to join me, which was very nice for it added a good deal of time to our visit. I am staying with him in his charming little house here. It was pleasant yesterday afternoon to see some old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Storm, who are now out here working with James for Mr. Goldwyn. I leave this morning to fly toward Texas.

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October 9, 1939

Washington, Sunday –
Every time I fly across the mountain ranges and deserts, I realize what a great country is ours. The trip on Friday was interesting and colorful. Near Phoenix, Ariz., I saw some of the government homesteads and camps. An official from the Farm Security Administration, who happened to be on the plane, told me they were working out successfully.

I managed to do a great deal of reading on this trip. There is an autobiography dictated by Dan Beard, who is now about 80 years old, which you will find delightful if you are interested in stories of the people who made our country and the recollections of a man who has lived a long and interesting life.

I think you will also enjoy a novel by Rose Franken, called Claudia. This story of a young married couple will give many people a chance to say; “Why, that’s just what happened to us,” or “How funny – we did just the same thing.” It is a record of everyday life, but the people who lived this daily round were rather unusual youngsters. A few of the sentences from the book remain with me and so I pass them on to you.

“But you pay so much when you love like this,” Claudia whispered.

“Then pay it darling. Don’t be niggardly with life. Open your arms to it. Be friends with happiness and be friends with pain.”

Then again:

Everything you have in life is only lent you – a loan is more precious than a gift and brings with it a greater obligation.

How many of us, I wonder, in our daily relationships think of our time together as a loan? It might considerably change some of the things which we do. It might heighten our happiness and minimize our pain.

My day in Fort Worth, Texas, yesterday was really delightful, in spite of the fact that the Texas climate is warmer than one expects it to be at this season of the year. The two grandchildren are very attractive and I am always fascinated when I hear “Tony,” aged 3, solemnly address me as “Grandmother Roosevelt.”

Ruth and I went to the broadcasting station in the afternoon and listened to Elliott’s broadcast. As he had to do this twice, once at 6:15 and again at 9:00, I was interested in seeing what was done in the control room. We sat through the first broadcast in the room with him, and the second time we listened over the radio in his office. His voice is toned down, whereas the announcer’s voice is given more volume, all by the proper use of machinery in the control room. I left Fort Worth last night on the sleeper plane and reached Washington this morning.

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October 10, 1939

New York, Monday –
Dr. Harvey Cushing’s death on Saturday was a great loss to the nation and a great sorrow to all who knew him. I left Washington by plane last night and went up to New Haven, Conn., on a noon train in order to be at the funeral, but I shall be back in Washington tonight.

It seems to me that the unexpected is always happening in life. One never knows from day to day what fate may have in store.

Going round the United States in a week, gives one a feeling of having travelled far and steadily, but I met so many men on the way who seemed to think nothing of travelling from coast to coast several times in the same month, that I feel I should also take it more casually.

I spent yesterday glued to my desk in the White House, because, with all of Miss Thompson’s efforts, there were a great many things waiting for my personal attention. I imagine I shall be catching up on mail most of this week. Holidays usually result in extra work some time.

It seems to me that in California, particularly in San Francisco, one has a sense of interest which everybody takes in the various arts. After seeing the exhibition of old masters and contemporary artists at the World’s Fair out there and hearing of various other artistic ventures, I feel I should mention to you the existence of an interesting exhibition in the East.

There is, at present, at the Yonkers Museum of Science and Arts in Trevor Park, Yonkers, NY, an exhibition by contemporary artists, which will be there through the whole month of October. It includes both oil paintings and water colors.

Anyone having the time to stop on the way in or out of New York City, will find this a most interesting exhibition, for there are many of our best known American artists included in the list of those who have sent their work.

I also have just had a most interesting letter telling me about a new musical organization. It is called “The Little Symphony Society of Philadelphia.” This group is dedicated to the purpose of creating more opportunities for young American artists by providing excellent accompaniment for outstanding soloists who wish to make their debut in a great music center, by offering guest-conducting experience to rising directors of merit and by furnishing an available medium for promising composers to hear their works performed by a fine professional orchestra.

This should mean an opportunity for young Americans to be heard, which has often been difficult. I hope the support will come from many parts of the country and not only from Philadelphia, for it is thrilling to help in the development of young American artists.

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October 11, 1939

Washington, Tuesday –
By dint of working on my mail until late at night the past two nights and using every minute on the trains and the planes yesterday, I think I am nearly caught up.

Before I took the train yesterday morning, I had a few minutes in my own apartment in New York City to attend to a little of my long distance housekeeping. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is as reckless as I am about trusting other people to imagine what I want them to do. I have a maid who has been with me for a long while, she looked at me rather sadly yesterday and said:

Before you get too busy, could I talk to you for ten minutes?

It occurred to me that once in six months wasn’t a great deal of time to spend on running even a small apartment.

Life is full of little coincidences. On the train to New Haven I sat next to a lady who told me that she came from Rhinebeck, NY, and knew well a lady whose family had lived for years in Hyde Park. People who live on the Hudson River always have a sense of knowing each other, largely, I believe, because all of us love the Hudson River scenery.

That reminds me that if you have not seen the photographs of the Hudson River in Life, you still have a pleasure in store for you. I wish something like this could be done for all the beauty spots of our country.

I joined my mother-in-law in the church in New Haven and she drove back to Hyde Park after the funeral service for Dr. Harvey Cushing. It was an impressive service, but very simple. The people there indicated how many and how wide had been Dr. Cushing’s interests. For all his honors, which made him an international personality, he always seemed such a simple person. You felt that he enjoyed talking to you, even if you were not one of the brilliant people of the world. I think he would have appreciated the tributes paid to him, but perhaps he would have read them with a little smile which would imply that he set his own standards and lived by them, and that, while he liked the praise of other people, neither praise nor blame was really important unless it came from within his own conscience.

I confess that when I found myself sitting in the bus waiting to drive back to the Newark airport, I was somewhat weary, but the gentleman who sat down beside me introduced himself as a friend of a friend, and we chatted intermittently on our way to Washington.

One should never make rash observations, but it had been borne in upon me as I travelled through the West that the preponderance of men on planes was very great. On the train yesterday, there seemed to be many more ladies in the diner, and so I made the casual remark that for some strange reason, men preferred planes and women preferred trains. Then we boarded the plane for Washington and the ratio of women was two to one in favor of the female of the species, so generalities are always dangerous.

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October 12, 1939

Washington, Wednesday –
I worked late again last night and have come to the conclusion that there is something in the air in Washington which obliges one to burn the midnight oil.

I had a small luncheon today for Madame Peter, whose husband has retired as the Swiss Minister. She has so many friends here that it is a happiness to know that her children, living in this country, will always keep her here for part of the year.

I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Reeves this morning, who is carrying on the work of the Youth Commission so ably begun by Dr. Rainey. They have done a most wonderful piece of research work and I am most anxious to know what conclusions they will come to as a result of their findings. Their suggestions for the use of their facts which they have discovered will be valuable to every community.

I feel that one of the most important things to work on today is the problem of jobs for youth. This is the basis of all the other problems which they face. The problems of work for older people and of old age pensions for those who are beyond their working years, are important problems but they do not press in on us in quite the same way, because youth brings to our labor market every year a new crop which will become either usefully productive, or remain an idle burden. Every community should make this problem a community problem, for habits are important when you are young and one can so easily become a worker or a loafer according to the circumstances of environment and opportunity.

I hope that before long there will be formed some central group which will coordinate all the kindly feelings which are at present scattered throughout this country and which are taking shape in a variety of organizations that do a variety of things here for the rest of the world. This multiplicity of small organizations means tremendous overhead and, frequently, an overlapping of work. Until some central organization is established where all this work can be coordinated, these groups must continue to flourish by themselves.

To my desk come daily reports of new ideas. They vary from relief of Chinese and Spanish civilians, to mothers anti-war clubs. Finally, a day or so ago, there came a letter about a children’s club called “The Goodwill Club,” which features a Christmas shoe box to be sent to soldiers in all armies and to contain a great variety of articles – more than I ever dreamt one shoe box could hold! This particular activity is being started by a young lady in Massachusetts. Though one may wonder what will be done with all these shoe boxes, one can only applaud the spirit which prompts young people to want to do something for others not as fortunate as themselves.

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October 13, 1939

Washington, Thursday –
I want to thank today, through this column, all the many people who sent me cards, telegrams and letters on my birthday. I am deeply appreciative of their kindness and thought of me on this occasion. If they do not receive a personal acknowledgment, they will perhaps forgive me, because the volume of letters which ask me actually to do something definite has been so great the past few months, I am afraid I shall not be able to thank all these kind friends.

It always contributes to one’s happiness to be so kindly remembered and, while yesterday was a very busy day, all these good wishes were a very pleasant background to many activities. It was particularly nice that Jimmy and Elliott happened to be in Washington. My brother also came from New York City, so with a few other guests, we had a pleasant party at which to distribute the few pieces of birthday cake after we all had made our wishes on the traditional 21 candles. It is fortunate that we stopped adding to the number there, or we would soon have to have a mammoth cake to support all the candles!

I had a delightful lunch with various executives of the Department of Labor. I think the Secretary of Labor is justly proud of their cafeteria, for she spoke of the fact that they bought fresh vegetables and knew how to cook them. I particularly liked the WPA pictures which lined the corridors. What a difference it makes to have an interesting picture instead of a blank wall. It lends color and warmth even to the corridor of a public building.

On leaving the Labor Department, I spent a few minutes with the ladies of the Postmasters’ Convention, who were having a lunch at the Shoreham Hotel. Mrs. Burke, wife of the Postmaster of the District of Columbia, introduced all the wives of the Post Office Department officials, and then had time for a short greeting. This group is so large that they have more or less taken over the city of Washington, but everyone seems to have enjoyed the visit.

In a little while, 1,500 of these ladies will be coming to the White House for a tea, and later the South American goodwill delegates will be received.

I read today a little book about the life of Mrs. Thomas Masaryk and of how much she went through and how valiantly she lived. Transplanted from the United States to a foreign nation, she carried her ideals with her and lived them all her life. One little sentence in a letter to her daughter impressed me very much:

I like clarity in religion, and most of all sincerity, otherwise the heart of all life is paralyzed.

Her own sincerity seems to have been an inspiration to her adopted people.

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October 14, 1939

Washington, DC, Friday –
Last night, we attended the dinner at the National Women’s Democratic Club, which I imagine really opens their season. This club offers Democratic women all over the country, who come to Washington, an opportunity for any information or assistance that they may need. It caters to women not only on business bent, but also those seeking diversion in the nation’s capital. I think the club will gradually become a center where women from all over the country may meet, become acquainted with each other, and with the Democratic party as it functions in other parts of the country.

I was surprised in talking to some Democratic women from different parts of the United States, to find that when the call had come to them to organize a money raising day for the National Democratic Committee and the National Democratic Club, that many of them felt they could not undertake this burden because of previous local financial campaigns or because of some other work for the party which had been going on during previous months.

This happens to be a country where the two party system is necessary to the proper functioning of our democracy. Therefore, it seems to me that when the women in either party are asked to make a special effort for some party activity, it is part of their obligation as citizens to do so. You may be collecting money which seems unimportant, but you are also obliged to give reasons for the need of that money. It is an opportunity to get across the ideas of the various parties and that is fundamental to the proper functioning as citizens in a democracy. It seems to me the women should be the first to grasp this fact and should give their full cooperation with the sense that they are performing not only a party obligation, but an obligation to the country which functions under a party system.

This morning, I had an opportunity of talking with a number of people on various types of educational programs. I am much interested to find that the labor unions are now recognizing the value in adult education of giving people a knowledge of various arts and crafts. The possibility of creative work is important and appreciation of these arts adds greatly to the cultural life of our people.

I attended the luncheon of the B’nai B’rith Auxiliary of the District of Columbia, which celebrated its first birthday. The organization as a whole is 96 years old in this country and this auxiliary is a very vigorous baby. The record of work accomplished during this first year took my breath away. I only wish that every organization would put forth as much energy and enthusiasm, for we would have remarkable results.

In a few minutes, we are leaving for New York City and tomorrow night, I shall attend a meeting and speak in Lenox, Mass.

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October 16, 1939

Hyde Park, Sunday –
We came up the Hudson River yesterday and, even out of the train windows, the colors of the trees were marvelous to see. Later in the day, we drove over to Lenox, Mass., where the Democratic Women’s Club held a nonpartisan gathering. Many people asked me how I liked the Berkshires. They seemed to forget that I live near enough to them to have known them quite well in the past, particularly during the years when our boys were in school in Groton, Mass. We used to try every new road when we drove over once a term, which was all the visiting the rector smiled upon. He always felt that intercourse between parents and boys during the school term was a little distracting to concentration on school interests.

I sat beside the district attorney for the western part of the State of Massachusetts at dinner last night. He told me that no matter where he traveled, he always returned with joy to his New England countryside and even preferred the climate. If he were told that never could he travel, he would still prefer this part of the country for year round living. I can understand this, for I feel as he does, that every season here has its particular beauties and that the sharp contrasts which we have in New England accentuate these beauties.

I know people in many other parts of the country wonder how we can stand up under such changes of climate – our snow, our rain and our wind and cold. I suppose it is all a question of to what you are accustomed. What you grow up with in your youth probably gets into your blood and remains a preference no matter what you do the rest of your life.

When I read of the sinking of a great battleship yesterday afternoon and that this morning’s papers in confirming the disaster only spoke of some three or four hundred saved, I could not help but rage inwardly at the senselessness of it all. When we drove past a railroad station yesterday, I saw a group of our own very young boys in uniform getting out of a car to take the train, and I thought that on that battleship several hundred boys about that age had probably gone to their deaths quite unnecessarily. Something in your heart and head rebels against such senseless sacrifice, and yet the people of each of the warring nations are doing their duty as they see it and obeying their leaders.

They are being patriotic. The people of each nation think their own leaders want peace, but the rest of the world wants war. At least, every leader is telling his people that. Only we, who are on the outside, can evaluate today how many people are being taken in and try to study how a method can be evolved whereby in the future, leaders cannot fool their people. The fat is in the fire now for a great many people, but there is a future we hope, in which I pray that we may profit by the things which we are watching open up as a panorama before us in the world. Will we ever learn to use reason instead of force in the world, and will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders or to take away the freedom of other people?

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October 17, 1939

Hyde Park, Monday –
It is grand to have such perfect October weather for these few days in the country. I took another ride this morning through the lower wood. The air had just enough chill in it to make the horses want to go, so I enjoyed every minute of it. I lunched at Vassar Alumni House and took with me Mrs. Elizabeth von Hesse, who has had no opportunity to give me a voice lesson for nearly five months and never before heard me speak in public. I asked her to concentrate on all my failings in order to help me improve.

Mrs. Henry Morgenthau met us at the luncheon and we found a great many Poughkeepsie friends, as well as women of other sections of the county and from across the river. This lunch was the interlude in a day’s conference. This nonpartisan institute was run under the auspices of the Democratic County Committee to study the various social agencies of government.

I did not attend the morning session, but I understand the National Youth Administration work in this district was well described and that Vassar College was called upon to produce an expert on taxes. Mrs. Saltford, the Republican County Vice-Chairman, remarked in her few words of greeting in the afternoon, that she realized with a shock how we were always asking our representative to cut down on taxes and at the same time insisting that they do numberless things which required more tax money. She added that she wished all young people could have the benefits of the NYA and CCC camps when they were out of school and without jobs. I think we should all study our government set-ups with a view to cutting down the cost of administration in the hope of carrying on work which we all want done.

After lunch, Dean Thompson of Vassar, spoke on a general subject and then Mrs. Anna Rosenberg told of the amendments to the Social Security law. My subject was to deal with youth in general in this country, particularly with what youth is doing in an organized way. It always seems to me dangerous for an older person to try to interpret what youth may think or feel on any subject, but I find myself having to do this frequently. I always do it with a prayer that I am not misrepresenting youth or leaving out something which would be vital to it.

On our way out, a Frenchwoman spoke to me saying that she had been in Germany during the rise of the youth movement there and it had given her a fear of all organized youth. She did not fear fascism among our youth, but she did fear communism. Of course, it is easy to understand this fear in France, where their reforms were so long delayed that the Communist Party became strong. Undoubtedly this has had a great effect upon the youth of the country, but I do not feel that we are in the same general situation. I can only say that I trust our young people whom I have come to know well and believe they are working for the good of the whole people.

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October 18, 1939

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
I had a ride this morning. At first the sky looked very threatening, but later it cleared and the clouds were very beautiful. The horses felt so full of fun that it was hard to hold them down. “Dot” may be old, but a summer’s rest makes her behave like a two-year-old, and she can out-trot and out-canter the younger horse which I borrowed for the summer.

I motored down to lunch today with a friend of mine who is the dietitian at a sanitarium below Beacon. If one has to go to one, I think of all the places of this kind I have seen, this one is the most attractive. The views of the river are lovely. Besides the old Sargent and Howland houses, there are any number of smaller cottages where one can feel really at home. Running an institution of this kind, from the standpoint of food and service, must be an art, but my young friend seems to find it easy and interesting.

Back at my cottage, and it is so tempting out of doors that we are going for a walk to get the view from the top of the hill. At sunset it is very lovely.

Yesterday morning when I arose, I discovered that, as sometimes happens in the autumn, the mice are beginning to come indoors and one had undertaken to chew the wood by my closet and left a little trail of sawdust around the floor. We bought traps and set them temptingly with cheese, but so far have no reward. I think having so many people in the house has scared the little mice out again temporarily, but I suspect that they will come back and I hope they will be caught.

I see in this morning’s paper that the question of credits in the neutrality bill, which has been so inexplicable to a great many people, has been taken out of the Administration’s bill. It would have been possible under the law as originally drawn, for the President to extend credit up to 90 days to belligerents making purchases in the United States and transporting goods in their own ships, whereas on a straight cash and carry basis, the governments will have to pay immediately. This plan has now been substituted and it looks as though the Administration, though barring American ships from Europe’s danger zones, will allow free travel in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as in the South Atlantic.

It is a curious thing how much we desire to be kept out of war and yet, as soon as staying out entails a loss in some financial line, we immediately have to make concessions because whatever else happens some people are always sure to feel that their pockets must be saved. If these provisions pass, certain rights which would be ours under straight international law are, of course, given up by Americans.

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October 19, 1939

New York, Wednesday –
We had a picnic last night at the cottage for six Vassar seniors and a few “elders.” They cooked my steaks on the porch for me and shivered in the cold wind while I sat by the fire inside and talked. Afterwards we all settled around it to talk. It was interesting to find that every one of these girls had a definite thing she wanted to do and while in college prepared to meet the future.

Mr. David Gray, who is staying with us, brought up his point of view on education: namely, that disciplining the mind, whether you do it through mathematics or Latin and Greek, is the main object of education. You are never sure you are learning the particular thing you need later on, therefore you can only train to be a good instrument useful in whatever situation you may find yourself. Young and old agreed that perhaps two years was long enough for preparation of a general type in college, and then if one had any special field of interest, one might concentrate on that.

We all started out bright and early this morning because I woke at 6:30 and decided that I could not let two of my guests start on a long drive without any breakfast, though they had insisted they wished to do so. It seemed too cold and cheerless and, as long as I was awake, I roused everybody else and we all sat down together at breakfast before seven.

The Vassar girls made quite an impression for even at that early hour David Gray remarked to me:

That was a fine group of girls who were here last night.

The Grays left for their day’s drive and, at a little after 8:00, Miss Thompson and I took the train for New York City. I finished buying my winter clothes, though I haven’t yet finished the fittings, and I made a dent in Christmas shopping which, however, is far from complete. Then I met two friends at the Cosmopolitan Club for lunch and we talked hard of the morning’s news. It isn’t very cheerful, this habit of always talking about the war, and yet I suppose it is inevitable.

We were all interested in Mr. Walter Lippmann’s column of a few days ago and in Dorothy Thompson’s column today. She sensed in Col. Lindbergh’s speech a sympathy with Nazi ideals which I thought existed but could not bring myself to believe was really there.

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October 20, 1939

New York, Thursday –
We went last night as Mr. John Golden’s guests to see Gertrude Lawrence in Skylark. As the play opened, Miss Thompson and I kept wondering if we had seen this play before, and then we both remembered we had read the story. Of course, it was very different, but it gave one an odd kind of familiarity with the people.

The dialogue is excellent and Gertrude Lawrence makes the best of it. She is perfect in this type of play, I think, just as as she was in Susan and God. Such little touches as the bachelor partner in the firm buying the gift for Tony Kenyon to give his wife on their tenth wedding anniversary, are particularly amusing and subtle. The last act, it seemed to me, lets down a good bit, but I enjoyed it all and think you will find it a pleasant evening’s entertainment.

It seems to me that this play has a special message for the men and women of this country. We have all made such a fetish of financial success and forgotten frequently that success of any kind, when it does not include success in one’s personal relationships, is bound in the end to leave both the man and the woman with very little real satisfaction.

Of course, I often wonder how men can be so stupid as to think they can give more thought to their careers than they do to home relationships, and still expect the women to develop with them, or to find satisfaction in their own interests and in the care of a house and children. So many men seem to live under the misapprehension that falling in love is a permanent state.

Because you are attracted and passionately devoted to “Jim” or “Alice” today, doesn’t mean at all you are going to continue loving during the ensuing years if you happen to marry during that first flush of attraction. Real loving means work, thinking of each other day in and day out, unselfishness, and effort to understand the growth of the soul and mind of the other individual, and to adjust and complement that other person day by day.

Keeping up romance, keeping up constant interest in each other by a meticulous care for the little things which were important when you were in love, this is all part of loving. It sounds very simple, but as you look around you, I think you will discover that it is almost a miracle when it happens. It won’t hurt us, however, to the think about an ideal!

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October 21, 1939

New York, Friday –
I have two letters from England this morning. I am going to quote them because they show two such different points of view, both of which are very interesting. Of course, all of us in both countries are deeply concerned with establishing a real peace eventually. One letter is written by a man who evidently went through the last war and must have suffered, for he is now an invalid. He poses this question:

If a great power who depends for her life blood on industry and commerce, refuses to accept real responsibility in defense of decency in international affairs, how can she possibly help when matters may have been allowed to go too far as they may well do?

The other is from a woman, and she says:

A very beloved brother was killed fighting in 1915. He said:

I don’t mind if my life may help put an end to war.

Now I feel his life was given in vain, for the peace treaties made further wars inevitable since they were not revised. Therefore, I take the liberty of writing to implore you to use all your influence to keep America out of war, so that there may be some sane neutrals to help toward a world settlement as just as is possible.

I cannot help passing these two letters along to you, for I know our primary concern today is how we can eventually bring the world to greater security and peace.

Yesterday, I went to the luncheon given by two of the societies taking part in the Prison Congress, which is meeting here. At our places at the table were little printed slips bearing the following message:

My brother the criminal, I love him. The beggar, also my brother, I love him. The cripple, the poor, the unfortunate and the fortunate, are all my brothers. I can not separate myself from humanity, I am a human being, I belong to the human family and until the least of these are free, whole, perfect – I can not be so either.

The criminal, what is his crime? Unwelcomed, unwanted, underprivileged through all his life, till the doors of the prison close upon him, and even there he is unwelcomed, unwanted, underprivileged.

The beggar, the cripple, the poor, why are they so? Because you do not care – and because I do not care. Make the world safe for HUMANITY – and BE your brother’s keeper.

I had an opportunity of talking with the New York City Commissioner of Correction, Mr. Austin MacCormick, and the head of prison work in England, Colonel Patterson. They have a much less complicated problem over there. He told me an astounding thing about the number of prison visitors who give one night out of every week to visit five or six men in prison who are assigned to them. These prison visitors follow through with these men after they are released.

We are on our way today, with members of the Prison Congress, to the guard exhibition at Sing Sing Prison.

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October 23, 1939

Hyde Park, Sunday –
On Friday, we had a very pleasant lunch with Mr. Lewis Lawes at the warden’s house in Sing Sing, and then saw a most interesting exhibition of the physical training given to the guards in the Central Guard School. This school was, I think, the first one established in any state and has been discontinued this year because the State Legislature, as an economy measure, cut off the appropriation. There were two photographs in the program which showed guards as they looked in 1880 and as they look today. I think those photographs are the most eloquent justification of holding a guard school.

It is not just physical fitness which is important, though that in itself is a great thing. A man who feels well and moves easily, is always temperamentally more fitted to do a difficult job. In this particular case drill, calisthenics, jiu jitsu, boxing, wrestling and the defense taught to meet sudden attacks, have an important bearing on the confidence which the guards have in themselves. A man is much less apt to be a bully and to bolster up his morale by bluster and cruelty, if he is entirely sure of his own physical adequacy.

Of course, in this school, the guards were given many other courses, such as psychology and a knowledge of the criminal law and penal code, but, just as in English education, great stress has always been laid on the value of “the playing fields of Eton,” so would I lay great stress on the value of this physical development.

The Sing Sing band is extraordinarily good and I enjoyed hearing it play, and was only distressed that I missed seeing the trick dog, who through his cleverness has won the permission of Warden Lawes to remain with his master in prison. I understand that he knows some hundred old tricks and when they say “Warden” or “P.K.” to him, he runs to his hiding place and closes and locks the door.

It is many years since I have visited Sing Sing and there seems to me to be a great improvement in its physical condition. I am primarily interested, of course, in what we can do to help people in prison to rehabilitate themselves. Physical environment and proper treatment by the guards has a great deal to do with the success of both probation and parole later on.

We came up to Hyde Park yesterday, and I grieve to say that the colors are already fading and the leaves are blowing off the trees. Nevertheless, it is good to be in the country.

This morning, the Bible being presented to St. James Church is being dedicated and we are all on our way to attend the services.

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October 24, 1939

New York, Monday –
The other day I went to the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. The last one I saw was in Fort Worth, Texas, and perhaps there was a little more feeling of being in the land where the rodeos have their roots. This was a good show, however, and I enjoyed it very much.

I was terrified when I saw the boys thrown and apparently injured on two or three occasions, but I tried to reassure myself with the same remarks that used to be made to me when my own boys were playing football. I would see a boy carried off the field and be very much troubled by it, and someone would say:

Oh well, they are trained and tough. You’ll see, he will be walking around soon.

Very often he was, but sometimes he wasn’t. I remember a good many years when I counted on one operation and two or three weeks in a hospital for one of the boys every autumn as a result of injuries in games of one kind and another.

This going away on lecture trips does complicate life, for we try to do everything possible before we leave and we never quite get through. We left the country last night, having mailed away seven large brown envelopes filled with mail, and that gave us some sense of virtue. I am here in New York City today to attend the luncheon given by Parents Magazine in celebration of the opening of Better Parenthood Week. All of us who have had children must feel in our own hearts that there is always great room for improvement in us as parents.

I used to think that when your children were small, and therefore entirely dependent upon you for their physical well being, you owed them all your time and every effort you could put into their development. As I have grown older, I have not grown any less mindful of the importance of the physical care of small children, but I have come to believe that parents have the need for constant growth and development with their children. Every generation meets new problems in the world and our responsibilities as parents are never the same because we have to meet these changes ourselves. We must try to see ahead far enough to know what the necessary equipment will be for the child we are preparing to bear responsibility in the future.

Children have to learn to stand on their own feet today and that is sometimes hard for devoted parents to realize. The tendency is to do too much for our children, both physically and mentally. In the end, all of us learn that the best we can do is to prepare these young things to be self-reliant and to do what they think is right. This won’t always be in accordance with our ideas, but the day will come when we will have to trust them and simply stand as a background.

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