OCTOBER 12, 1944
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—Yesterday afternoon I represented my husband at Wendell Willkie's funeral.
Only twice did I ever have the opportunity of meeting Mr. Willkie personally, and I never had an opportunity to talk with him. Yet no one who has watched his political career during the past few years could have failed to recognize the growth of the man and his great leadership qualities.
The loss of a man of courage is deeply felt at all times by any American citizen as a loss to the country, but especially at the present time it affects each one of us to know that such potentialities for good leadership have been removed from this troubled world. It leaves us all poorer; for men of honest convictions, though they may differ, are bound to make a contribution to the thinking of the world.
I never saw a church with so many flowers, which spoke of the love that people felt for this man. I know that among the friends who knew him well there was the deepest sense of personal loss, as well as of public loss.
Mr. Willkie's son, who is on the high seas and will never see his father again, has nevertheless something bequeathed to him which will be very precious as the years go on. The gift of making friends, and of binding his followers close, is a thing one's children are always grateful for, for it means much to them throughout their lives. To Mrs. Willkie and all the family, the heart of this whole nation goes out in sympathy.
Mr. Willkie placed great emphasis on the need we have in this country to be just to all of our citizens, because without equality there can be no democracy. His outspoken opinions on race relations were among his great contributions to the thinking of the world. I thought of that last night when I attended a "register and vote" rally in Harlem. In that great crowd of people, when his name was mentioned, it was quite evident that he was held in great respect and affection.
I came down on the night train, and this morning had a very large gathering at my press conference, which I think was largely because it happened to be on my birthday. Everyone wanted to see if, having lived 60 years, a very sudden change had taken place overnight in my appearance!