MARCH 21, 1951
NEW YORK, Tuesday—If you have not yet read Gerald W. Johnson's "Incredible Tale" you have much real enjoyment in store. I don't say this just because I think the section about my husband is extremely penetrating and good, or because the chapter he devoted to me amused me greatly. My chapter was so kind that it left me purring like a well-satisfied pussycat, and made up for many of the less nice things said. Nevertheless, I don't mind the latter; I like to profit by them, for criticism is good for the soul. It is good, that is, if you don't resent it and simply try to find out honestly whether it is justified or not.
The other sections in this book are all just as penetrating and just as delightful. Mr. Johnson knows a good deal about us—the average Americans—and his analysis and appraisal of President Wilson, for instance, is remarkably fine and sensitive. Because the pictures of our own public figures are so good, I am inclined to believe that Lenin and Stalin are fairly well understood, too. The last chapter is an encouraging chapter for those of us who are the average men and women, 50 years and over.
One significant passage I want to quote:
"Surely, there is one profoundly significant remark which the ordinary American of fifty can make to the ordinary American of thirty; it is the remark of Abbé Sieyès: 'I survived.'
"Sieyes was in Paris during the reign of terror; and that gives to his laconic statement immense significance. The ordinary American is here—still relatively free, still the final authority in public affairs, still better fed, better clothed and better housed than the common man in any other country. If he has been here since 1900, the mere fact that he has survived means a great deal; for twice within that period a coalition of empires has risen against him to beat his political system down, once his economic system crashed about his ears, practically every year some part of his social system has given away and has had to be remodelled and rebuilt, and for the past five years his form of government, his economy, and his faith have been sternly and relentlessly challenged by the most redoubtable foreign power in existence. Yet he survives."
These are things for those of us who are over 50 to ponder and remember. Faith, belief in our own destiny and in each other brought us through our early days and through these last 50 turbulent years.
We had some leaders, but leaders without followers are impotent. Usually the times call out a leader. Perhaps we will have some more, and perhaps if we have matured as much as Mr. Johnson suggests, his hopes for our next great leader may be justified. The followers may be good enough to take him far ahead of anything achieved in the past. But that means in the interim we must be growing in spirit and in understanding.