JULY 2, 1955
HYDE PARK—On Wednesday the children and I had an early lunch, and my little cousin, Barbara Morgan, went with me to the commencement at Wiltwyck School. This school is run by the New York City School system. But the scholars have to be treated a little differently than those you would find in the average school. Some of them have had the unfortunate experience of having everyone decide that they were too dumb to learn anything, and it takes a long time to get them back to the point where they realize that if they work hard they may not only be able to learn something but they may eventually find it rather interesting and end up by doing very well.
I remember one little boy who came to Wiltwyck after the judge in committing him, had said, "We think this child is a moron. Everything we ask him he answers with 'I don't know,' no matter how simple the question is. If you will take him you can have a try."
It turned out that the child was anything but a moron. He was just a frightened youngster who found that if he never knew anything at home he might escape a beating from his drunken father. Since he did not want to tell them at school why he was late or absent, it became a confirmed habit to answer every question, "I don't know." He couldn't learn to read because he couldn't concentrate; he was too miserable.
For the first few days at Wiltwyck he was frightened, too, but when he discovered that nobody was going to do him any harm he perked up. And by the time that my annual picnic came around in July he had had six months in Wiltwyck and he was the best reader in his class. Whenever anyone else had any trouble he was the first to volunteer to show him how to study. He always understood other people's difficulties because he had had so many of his own.
The main speaker at this year's commencement was the head of the Little League baseball organization in Port Ewen, New York, which has included our boys at Wiltwyck in its program, and he gave them a very good talk.
Our boys, who were in Boy Scout uniforms, looked extremely trim and military, and I thought that the report of the year's achievements was most satisfactory. I was glad that I could be with them.
I shall see most of the boys again on July 9 when I give them their annual picnic here. I was told today not to forget either the hot dogs or the corn on the cob. Evidently the old boys have told the new boys what to expect and they don't want anything left out.
I was beseiged by autograph hunters and couldn't sign them all, but suggested that I sign one for each child at school and give it to them on July 9. Dr. Papanek thought that was a very good idea, so I will use my spare minutes next week signing 101 cards.
I have just received from the Fund for the Republic, two publications dealing with the use of the Fifth Amendment. One was written by Erwin A. Griswold, dean of Harvard Law School and the other by C. Dickerman Williams, who is a member of the New York bar and has been general counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and chairman of the Legal Commission of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom.
I would advise the reading of both of these articles. The one emphasizes the abuses in the past of the Fifth Amendment and the obligation of the citizen to give evidence when it is required for necessary information in regard to a legal proceedings. The other deals primarily with the abuse that has grown up of late and which labels anyone refusing to give evidence and using the protection of the Fifth Amendment as a Communist. Both are interesting reading and should be a part of our knowledge today.
(Copyright, 1955, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 2, 1955
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30
TEI-P5 edition published on 2017-04-28
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