OCTOBER 11, 1961
NEW YORK—I have just returned from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, of which of course Newfoundland is now one, since it became a province a little more than 10 years ago.
Two fine buildings dominate the capital city of St. John's — one is the Confederation Building and one is the new university. This school, Memorial University, is Newfoundland's first school of higher education and is a great milestone in its progress. Now many young people who cannot afford to go away for their education may be able to have it in their own capital.
The land around St. John's generally is poor land. To the west, I was told, the Ice Age was kinder and the top soil was not carried down into the sea. But the people of St. John's have lived, in great part, by the sea. The "banks" were probably formed by their top soil, and for that reason the fish are fed plentifully there.
The dedication ceremonies of the new university, which was my primary reason for being in St. John's as the representative of President Kennedy, brought back to the city many people from South Africa, the United States, Great Britain and many other areas. Many Newfoundlanders had gone out into the world to seek their fortunes and had made great successes of their lives.
Jestingly I was told that because of the American bases that were established in Newfoundland during World War II the Newfoundlanders had made a peaceful penetration and conquest of the U.S.A., for some 25,000 to 30,000 of our military forces have married Newfoundland girls! The tie, however, between the U.S. and Newfoundland is not a new one nor entirely one-sided, for many men from Newfoundland seem to have married American girls.
Our day on Monday began with a parade of school children, and I was proudly told that Newfoundland had the highest birth rate of any part of our continent and the lowest death rate. The children certainly looked well and handsome, and the hardships of the climate quite evidently agree with them.
There are no public schools as such. The schools are all run by the churches, but the government foots the entire bill. Whether this gives the government control over curriculums I do not know. But in the university, which of necessity must be under government control, it seems to me that the standards set for entrance will mean that the government will have some kind of control over the general standards of education. There will be fees paid at the university, but I was told they will be low and that the number of scholarships granted by the government is already fairly high and will be higher.
I was also told by everyone how popular our country stands with the people of Newfoundland, and I was accorded every consideration. Since I stayed at Government House, certain formalities were observed, and both at lunch and dinner Lt. Gov. Campbell L. Macpherson arose after the dessert and proposed a toast to the Queen. Then all sat down. A second later he rose again and proposed a toast to the President of the United States.
The highlight of the daytime ceremonies was in the afternoon at the university. Everyone was asked to wear academic gowns and hoods and it was a most colorful occasion. Representatives from many universities were seated on one side of the center platform and the clergy were on the other. Officials of the new university and guests were located in the center.
Premier J.R. Smallwood made a speech giving the background of the story of the university, and then asked me to present the key to the Chancellor, Mr. Roy Thompson. This gentleman is a publisher of newspapers all over the world, and his two most recent acquisitions are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is a delightful person and at the ceremony wore a most impressive gown.
Premier Smallwood also gave token keys to a number of other persons as a remembrance of the occasion, including the Duke of Devonshire, the representative of the Queen; the Prime Minister of Canada, Hon. John G. Diefenbaker; Lieutenant Governor Macpherson and myself. Following this all the universities represented brought messages of congratulation.
A most colorful part of the whole program was the participation of the Royal Jamaica band. It contributed music at various functions throughout the day, and at the evening banquet was joined by a choir of 80 voices, which sang folk songs very delightfully.
I am happy to say that I came home with most delightful memories of a part of the world which my husband and I enjoyed for many years.
(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 11, 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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