MAY 21, 1940
WASHINGTON, Monday—More and more pitiful stories of what is happening to masses of people in the invaded countries abroad come pouring in day by day. Under the trees on the White House lawn the other day, an unemotional, calm-voiced Quaker, Mr. Kershner, who has been working for the International Commission, first in Spain and then in France, told a group of high school students from Arthurdale, West Virginia, what it was like to see a half a million people leaving their homes under the threat of invasion. Then, later, he described to me the evacuees of France for whom he and Lady Abingdon are trying to obtain assistance. All we can do over here is to give money to help those who are doing this work of mercy. As time goes on I feel that all this work should be coordinated. The money raising, at least, should be done under our leadership, and then distribution to the various established agencies working in different localities, both in Europe and Asia, could be done equitably on the basis of need as it shifts from time to time.
The ladies of the Senate lunched with the ladies of the Cabinet and me on the White House lawn today. We were showered upon for a few minutes, but were shortly able to go back to our seats at the tables under the trees. I enjoyed the party very much, for anything which makes one forget the clouds that seem always ready to gather around one, is a blessing these days.
I was interested and encouraged at lunch to find that some of the things which were almost universally accepted in 1917 and 1918 seemed to be recognized today as belonging to a past era. Many of you will remember how we refused to listen to German music and felt that in some way we were condemning the Germans at war by this gesture. I recalled it to some of the ladies today and they looked positively shocked, which pleased me very much. Music should remain, like all works of genius, the heritage of all nations. In this troubled world the arts should be a reminder that there are still possibilities of unity among us.
While I talk of music, I wonder if any of my friends who live in and around Chicago, went to the Chicago Negro Light Opera Company? I hope they are still playing and making enough money to keep the company going, for our Negro citizens make their greatest contribution to the culture of the nation through the arts. All of us should appreciate this contribution and give them our support.