JULY 9, 1945
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I was deeply grieved when I heard the other day of the Honorable John Curtin's death. As Prime Minister of Australia, he carried heavy responsibilities during these war years; and like so many older men, he drove himself beyond his strength.
When I was in Australia there was a strike on among the dock workers, and since I had the opportunity of talking with the Prime Minister, this was one of the subjects we discussed. He was a labor man, but he was also head of the government and he felt that his obligation was to see that Australia gave its maximum effort in the war. Above even his duty to labor was his duty as the head of the government to protect the land and its people. He knew that ships were playing a major part in this effort, and he made up his mind that there should be no slowing up because of strikes, if he could possibly prevent it. As a labor man, of course, he carried more weight with other labor men than an individual without that background could possibly have done, and I think his attitude was well understood and accepted by the people as a whole.
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Lord Gowrie, who was the King's representative at Canberra and Governor-General of the whole of Australia, and many of the other Governor-Generals of individual provinces, spoke to me in the highest terms of Mr. Curtin, which meant that he had risen above the point of view of the average citizen and become a statesman.
Most of us are primarily interested in the things that affect our particular interests and opportunities. A statesman, however, must see how each particular interest will affect the interest of the whole, and he cannot allow even his own inclinations to sway him one way or another, since it is the whole people that he must represent. Prime Minister John Curtin achieved that point of view, and I think his people, and we in the United States, owe him a deep debt of gratitude. His leadership meant much in the smoothing out of difficulties which might well have arisen when such large numbers of American soldiers descended upon the Australian homeland. He was held in high esteem not only by General MacArthur, but by many of our other officers who had the good fortune to meet him. The good feeling which existed between our men and the people of Australia was due in great part to his leadership.
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When he and Mrs. Curtin came to Washington, my husband and I were rejoiced to see them. I know what a great sorrow Mrs. Curtin and the children now bear. Mr. Curtin managed to be a public man who fulfilled his duty to the people as a whole without stint, but who still loved his private life and was the central figure in the family.