FEBRUARY 1, 1961
NEW YORK —It was natural that the Republicans in the Congress should sit in somewhat "cool disapproval," as described in one of our newspapers, during President Kennedy's first State of the Union message. For there were grave differences between the outgoing Republican Administration's point of view on the overall state of the Union at home and abroad and the picture painted by the new President.
For eight years now the people of the United States have been treated like children. They have been told that all is well, and because a majority were still comfortable and we were apparently not actually at war the pleasing picture painted for us was easily acceptable. In the past few months the burden of unemployment has been steadily mounting, however, and signs here and there have pointed to the fact that difficulties were coming to a head both at home and abroad, and the time has come when the American people must be rudely jolted into an acceptance of the fact that we are in trouble.
Much of our ability to meet our problems depends on the people of this country being actually willing to face them. It has been proved over and over again that we are resourceful, vigorous, capable people, and can usually meet any challenge that we really understand. We have been lulled only temporarily, I hope, into indifference and apathy over the past few years. Now the question is whether this has really seriously affected our character as a people or whether we will face the challenge now put before us with zest.
I do not think it will be difficult for our people to understand the challenges at home. We have able economists who can explain the needs not only to our industrial leaders but to our people as a whole.
In the field of foreign affairs, however, the President has perhaps a more difficult challenge. There has been for a longer period certain trends of thought in the State Department that will have to be reversed. President Kennedy has named a wonderful team, but under that team much change must come about in the thinking of many of those who carry out foreign policy both at home and abroad. Certainly, anyone who listened to the State of the Union message or who has read it with care must be impressed by the President's comprehensive grasp of the many problems that face the nation.
There are still many things, of course, that have not yet been thought through in all their implications. I have a feeling that the fundamentals of our defense policy have still not been completely covered. The peace corps, it seems to me, should be more closely linked to the defense of the nation than has so far been done so far as one can tell. And our diplomatic approaches to representatives of other nations must be warmer and more flexible, or some of the fundamental things that the Administration wishes to accomplish will be stymied by the wrong people handling policies which they either disagree with or do not understand.
That there is the will in this Administration and the ability to meet the problems before us seems apparent from everything that has so far been said and done. On the whole, every appointment gives one greater confidence in the ability to appraise where definite qualities in the people can be useful.
For instance, the appointment of Dr. Kenneth Galbraith as Ambassador to India is, I think, a most fortunate one. Here is a man with keen understanding, with training in all the areas where India most needs help, a sensitive human being who will, I feel sure, understand the leaders of the Indian nation. Appointments such as this give one hope that the challenges in foreign affairs are going to be met.
I was also delighted to see that Mr. Thomas Finletter had been appointed Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I can think of no one better able to fill this job, which will require great tact, firmness, and understanding, for NATO needs a complete reappraisal as to its value and a decision as to how it can be made of greater value in the future.
Neither the domestic nor the foreign aims set by the President can be accomplished overnight, but that there is a will which has not existed before—a will to face the realities before us at home and abroad and to get the cooperation of the people of the U.S. by telling them the truth—augurs well for the future solutions which the President hopes for.
(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 1, 1961
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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