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October 2, 1951

“NEW YORK, Monday…A verse in the Bible we very seldom hear was used as a text in the morning sermon. Evidently back in Bible days there were people who thought the “good old days” were better than the present. This must always have been a way of escape for some of us. If life seemed particularly hard, all we had to do was to say how much better it used to be, and how dreadful it was to be born in a generation that had to endure all the modern horrors.

On all sides we often hear: “The young people are worse today than ever before”; “We used to get on well without all these modern inventions, which get out of order to make our lives hideous”; “When there weren’t any automobiles you could not go dashing around the country at high speed and suffering accidents”; “We did not have a crime wave or dope rings in the old days—they are all the product of the modern age.”

Yet, in spite of the low estate into which politics has fallen I have found that almost anything said by anyone of our modern candidates against his opponent can be matched in the “good old days” by things said against Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, for instance, and certainly attacks on a woman were never lower than those leveled against Rachel Jackson.

There are fewer drunken men reeling around the streets today than there were when I was a child. It seems to me that each age has its own drawbacks and they have to be met by the people confronting them. If you look back over several decades you can usually see how some people have done a good job in meeting the difficulties of their particular time and how some have failed.

So, I think it is a good idea to follow the advice our minister gave us yesterday morning. That was that we should not indulge in looking backwards with envy to the past, but to keep our eyes ahead of us with hope for the future.”

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September 22, 1942

“NEW YORK, Monday—…After writing my column yesterday, I began to think about how people, who have never been in public life, little know about the everyday things involved in living not as one chooses, but as one must.

Those of us who have lived in government houses know that no government house is ever our own, nor is it ever a home. For instance, I love the White House. It is a simple, dignified and beautiful government building. I take great pride in it, but it is not that intimate, personal thing—”my own home.”

I am always glad to see my children in the White House, because unless I did, I would often miss opportunities of seeing them. But it is at home, in our own house, in our own surroundings, that I really like to welcome them; for that is ours and we have an obligation only to our family and our own friends there.

It is a curious thing which is often stressed in electing a man to office in this country, we, naturally, do not elect his wife nor his children to office. Yet some people think that there is something very glamorous and much to be envied in this rather anomalous position, where you have certain responsibilities, pleasures and privileges imposed upon you through somebody else’s position.

You may find a woman living in the White House who has no interest in public affairs, and yet, willy-nilly, she must live there and she must entertain very often, for no reason except that her husband is in public office.

Many a shy and retiring child, I am sure, has suffered from being pointed out as the child of a President, or even the grandchild. No one will deny that there are great opportunities. To be the relative of a man in public life is useful in assisting those throughout the United States who need help, and it is also useful in meeting people of outstanding interest. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of drawbacks.

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April 21, 1945

“WASHINGTON, Friday—There is always a certain emotional strain about the last time for anything. When you have lived twelve years in a house, even though you have always known that it belonged to the nation, you grow fond of the house itself, and fonder still of all the people connected with your life in that house…

…I have always looked out at the Washington Monument from my bedroom window the last thing at night, and the little red light at the top of it has twinkled at me in friendly fashion. That simple shaft, so tall and straight, has often made me feel during this war that, if Washington could be steadfast through Valley Forge, we could be steadfast today in spite of anxiety and sorrow…

…I wonder if others have been thinking, as I have, of the rather remarkable way in which our people and our Government have passed through this major period of change. Ordinarily, when there is a change of Administration, there is a period between election and inauguration during which the outgoing President and his family prepare for their departure, while the incoming President and his family prepare to assume their new responsibilities.

Never before has a sudden change of Presidents come about during a war. Yet, from the time that Mr. Truman, followed closely by Secretary of State Stettinius, walked into my sitting room and I told them of my husband’s death, everything has moved in orderly fashion. There was consternation and grief but, at the same time, courage and confidence in the ability of this country and its people to back new leaders and to carry though the objectives to which the people have pledged themselves.

That this attitude established itself so quickly is a tribute to President Truman, to the members of the Cabinet, and to the Congress. But above all, it is a tribute to the people as a whole and it reaffirms our confidence in the future.”

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February 2, 1938

“WASHINGTON, Tuesday—We had movies for ten very well-behaved children yesterday afternoon. I decided the industry has learned how to appeal to the young, for even the one-and-half year old children sat perfectly quiet for three-quarters of an hour. I learned another lesson, and that is children do not consider they have received a present unless it is wrapped up in paper and tied with ribbon.

Because the children were small, I thought it would be less confusing if I placed a small gift at each place around the supper table. One little girl held hers in her hand, turned around and demanded a present. It was not until her aunt put it into an envelope and tied it, that she was content and seemed to consider it a gift.

I should have had sense enough to realize this, for I know that the outer wrappings are always half the fun of what I receive. We so often make the mistake of thinking children are different than we are, when, in reality, they react in much the same way we do to the pleasures and pains of life…”

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