JANUARY 5, 1939
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—We have just returned from Congress where the President read his annual message. It is curious how differently your surroundings affect you. I had read the President's speech two nights ago, quietly and alone and in a critical mood. I had questioned some of the things, had discussed them in a perfectly objective manner. Today we sat in crowded galleries with a solid block of people beneath us who were opposed on general grounds to anything which might be said by a representative of the opposite political party.
I found myself analyzing, not so much the speech, but the reaction of the people sitting immediately beneath the executive gallery. I saw several of them sit up straight, at the point where it was pointed out that our gross debt, both public and private, today is the same as in 1929. Several of them looked at each other in a questioning way until one, evidently the eldest and wisest, nodded his head as much as to say, "That is true." The fact was accepted that the government debt is greater, but private debts have decreased so the aggregate of indebtedness is approximately the same.
Men below us would almost applaud sentiments with which quite evidently every American must be in agreement, and then remember that applause was not in order for them! Without doubt human beings are the most interesting study in the world. As the speech progressed, I was, in spite of myself, swept into emotions that lay back of the speaker's words. When it ended, I doubt if anyone in the room remained entirely cold.
Last night the diplomatic dinner was held and after it we had one of the most beautiful programs I can remember having here. Few violinists compare with Mr. Mischa Elman and he gave us his best. Miss Helen Jepson sang beautifully and her encore: "Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be," was delightful. La Trianita danced some very lovely Spanish dances. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.
I said I would tell you something about the play which I went to see with our two youngest sons and their wives on Monday evening in New York City. It was beautifully cast and beautifully acted, but the story of Oscar Wilde must still be the story of Oscar Wilde. I do not know how it affected anyone else, but to me his story is unpleasant and the end was tragic. One must recognize beauty when it exists and there is beauty in Oscar Wilde's work and must therefore have been some beauty in his soul, or he would not have written "The Happy Prince" and other fairy tales. Since I am not obliged to know him as an individual, I think I would rather forget him and enjoy only what he has left us in literature, which can be enjoyed and leaves no bad taste behind.