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August 20, 1951

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—Day by day, those who are responsible for our policies in the Far East must revise their actions in the light of new events. I constantly get questions asking why we do not have a definite policy and stick to it. The reason is simple. We cannot govern other people nor control what may happen in the various parts of the world. We can only meet what happens as best we can, as it occurs, keeping always in mind our basic objective of peace.

I think perhaps we might play a better game of guessing what is going to happen if everyone were gifted with foresight and imagination. Many of our diplomatic representatives, prior to their arrival at the country in which they are stationed, are not very well versed in its history and literature. Hence they are not always successful in interpreting the reasons for the actions of people living in parts of the world which are little known to the greater part of the people in the United States.

Someone offered me a plan the other day for bringing in an ever-increasing number of people to this country, both old and young, and letting them stay for a few months before going back to tell what they have seen and heard. Of course, there is nothing so valuable as firsthand information, and it would help us, too, if we sent people abroad. You may think you can get the feeling of something by reading, but you do better if you actually see it.

I don’t know whether any plan of travel exchange could be carried out on a sufficiently wide scale to be of any value in the fight against Communism, but I am sure that every incident which brings better first-hand knowledge is important. For instance, I was told at the World Youth Conference that one of the delegates from the French Cameroons, on reaching here, found that he had to put one of his fellow delegates in a New York City hospital. He did this with great reluctance; but when he went to visit his comrade he found two colored boys in a room with two white boys, and all were getting the same attention from a white doctor and a white trained nurse. This completely changed his opinion of race relations in this country. He confided in one of the World Youth Assembly staff members that he had been told by the Communists that in the United States no colored man was taken into a hospital, no matter how ill he was, nor would he be allowed to eat the same food as the rest of the people.

People who preach isolationism or do anything to lessen the bonds between the United States and the United Nations are deliberately fostering fears which will eventually bring us war. Not supporting the continual strengthening of our forces at home, and not fostering a sense of responsibility for our work with the United Nations to create closer world relations and wider acceptance among our own people of their position in the world and their ability to accept leadership, will do us great harm in the long run…”

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June 27, 1958

“HYDE PARK—Since it is impossible to get anything into the Soviet newspapers except their government’s own story and explanation, I suppose the Soviet people have to believe that the United States government inspired all the demonstrations at Soviet Embassies over the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates.

One can hardly expect, nevertheless, that the people here in the U.S. will feel any happier as they read the facts that have been omitted in the Soviet press.

The execution of the Hungarian leaders, which may or may not have been inspired by the Soviet Union, was, however, a very serious mistake for the U.S.S.R. Perhaps it was not such a serious mistake as concerning the Soviets’ relations with their own people, who are kept from communication with the outside world, but it certainly was a mistake in its effect upon the uncommitted areas of the world.

These countries are bound to realize that when leaders of a movement against a government in power must be executed, that government is uncertain of the control of the people. And they will understand, too, that the mere fact of the executions contradicts the Soviets’ own story that the Hungarian uprising was not really a people’s revolt.

The action of the Kadar government in these executions shows that both it and the Soviet government underestimated the change that has come over the world conscience.

This leads me to something I have been wanting to say about the recent House Un-American Activities hearings in New York involving such personalities in the entertainment field as directors, actors, musicians, etc.

Because they refused to answer questions concerning past affiliations with the Communist party and took refuge in the First and Fifth Amendments, several of them lost their jobs.

I wonder whether the public realizes that many people really believe that nobody has a right to ask anyone about his political affiliations, past or present? We are not at war.

In these cases there was no question of any action to overthrow our government, so the question is based on one’s right to hold opinions and beliefs contrary to the usually accepted pattern. Down through history this has been the American citizen’s right, and it still is his right to claim, under either of these Constitutional guarantees, the refusal to answer.

In addition, the pattern followed in questioning a person who is willing to answer consists of asking him to divulge the names of those who were Communist party members with him. In wartime this may be necessary, but at present in the entertainment field it is nonsense.

I was taught as a child that to be a tattle-tale and thereby get other children into trouble was a despicable thing, that it was better to bear unfair punishment than to tell on a friend…

We do things in wartime because then the protection of our country comes first, but in peacetime we first must protect the liberty of the individual in thinking, speaking and changing his mind.”

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June 1, 1948

“HYDE PARK, N. Y., Monday…Our Attorney General has just come to the conclusion, according to the papers, that Communism all over the world stands for the overthrow of existing governments by force, and that therefore no one who declares himself a Communist can be a good citizen of a democracy. I have known a number of theoretical Communists who certainly were not going around with guns.

The only ones that I think have any real justification in being Communists, and who might possibly be tempted to overthrow any government by force, are those for whom democracy has not provided the basic needs of decent living. That is the point on which I wish we would focus our fight against Communism—not on repressive measures which drive Communists underground, but on the development of democracy so that no human being can find any great attraction in the rather drab program of Communism…”

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April 27, 1937

“HYDE PARK, Monday…I have been thinking a great deal about the peace meetings which young people held all over the country on the 22nd of April, and from the letters which I receive and the talks which I have had, there is no question in my mind that young people are definitely determined to do away with war, but they really are very indefinite as to the way in which it shall be done.

I often wonder if they realize that every new form of government, fascist, communist or our own democracy had originally for its purpose the making of a world in which people could be happy and content. As individuals, people felt helpless to accomplish their desires and so in different places they were led by different types of people to believe that these desires could be accomplished in different ways. To me the real strength of the democratic theory in opposition to the fascist or communist is that the fascist frankly states that certain people will tell other people what they shall do to be happy, and those other people have little or nothing to say about it.

In theory the communists were to do everything in common, in practice a small group there also tells other people what they shall do to achieve their objectives. So far more nearly than any other form of government, the democratic form has allowed people to shape their own government, and while people have arisen who have been more important leaders here and there, still on the whole the controls have been in the hands of the majority of the people. That, it seems to me, is more truly in keeping with the fundamental desires of the people who are groping for something which will give them a security from war and from want, and a chance to work out their little happinesses.

If these young people are going to really get anywhere, they must realize that inveighing against a thing is all very well, but their future success lies in controlling democracy. Only if democracy makes the individuals better able to attain their ideals will it survive the test of today. What the young people must do is to find out how their government can meet the demands of the people. Find out how business and invention and what we call modern civilization can bring a greater degree of freedom from fear of any kind, and therefore a greater degree of happiness to the average individual…”

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February 18, 1960

“NEW YORK—Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took the opportunity of his visit to India to attack foreign aid given by the United States as being purely selfish, whereas that given by the Soviet Union is, by implication, unselfish.

As a matter of fact, foreign aid given by any nation is never totally unselfish, because helping a nation to improve its economic condition means that that nation will produce something that is salable and, therefore, become a better market for the goods of some other nation. This means a better economic world atmosphere and is much to be desired by all nations.

Mr. Khrushchev also spoke slightingly of the new idea of several nations joining together to give foreign aid. Yet, this is a much more unselfish way of giving aid and is designed to give the country receiving the aid more sense of security, because then no one nation can be accused of attempting to dominate.

Mr. Khrushchev should understand that his remark, “If aid is to be rendered, we will render it ourselves,” will not be too reassuring to those nations that are rather hopeful of keeping themselves not only politically but economically free from the domination of any foreign nation. Also, his slighting remark about United Nations aid will not be acceptable in India, I believe, for India is very conscious of the value of work done by various of the U.N. specialized agencies.

President Eisenhower’s message asking our Congress for a foreign aid appropriation called for half the aid to be of a military kind, the other half economic aid.

I always question the value of military aid, though the assurance that this aid is given to strengthen other nations against possible Communist attack has an attractive sound for our Congress.

In reality I greatly doubt whether any nation receiving aid of a military kind could stand up long against a Communist attack, but I realize the advantage of having much of this money spent in this country, since it will relieve us of arms that have already, for us, become obsolete…”

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December 20, 1961

“NEW YORK—What can one woman do to prevent war? This is the question that comes my way in any number of letters these days.

In times past, the question usually asked by women was, “How can we best help to defend our nation?” I cannot remember a time when the question on so many people’s lips was, “How can we prevent war?”…

…Here is where the individual comes in. To the women and the men who are asking themselves, “What can I do as an individual?” my answer is this: Take a more active interest in your government, have a say in who is nominated for political office, work for these candidates and keep in close touch with them if they are elected.

If our objective is to do away with the causes of war, build up the United Nations and give the U.N. more control over the weapons of total destruction, we should urge that world law be developed so that people’s grievances can be heard promptly and judiciously settled.

We should begin in our own environment and in our own community as far as possible to build a peace-loving attitude and learn to discipline ourselves to accept, in the small things of our lives, mediation and arbitration.

As individuals, there is little that any of us can do to prevent an accidental use of bombs in the hands of those who already have them. We can register, however, with our government a firm protest against granting the knowledge and the use of these weapons to those who do not now have them.

We may hope that in the years to come, when the proper machinery is set up, such lethal weapons can be destroyed wherever they are and the knowledge that developed them can be used for more constructive purposes.

In the meantime, no citizen of a democracy need feel completely helpless if he becomes an active factor in the citizenship of his community. For it is the willingness to abdicate responsibilities of citizenship which gives us our feeling of inadequacy and frustration.

As long as we are not actually destroyed, we can work to gain greater understanding of other peoples and to try to present to the peoples of the world the values of our own beliefs. We can do this by demonstrating our conviction that human life is worth preserving and that we are willing to help others to enjoy benefits of our civilization just as we have enjoyed it.”

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