JUNE 12, 1940
NEW YORK, Tuesday—The President, his aides and I left Washington yesterday at 2:00 o'clock for Charlottesville, Virginia. On the way down, he went over his speech and I could well understand his desire to weigh each word, for I do believe the time has come to speak out as to where we stand. Unless we do, there can be no moral unity and no spiritual preparation for the conflict of ideas.
Many years of public speeches have taught me how easy it is, for those who wish to do so and even for those who seek the truth, to misconstrue the meaning of phrases or words or to be confused. It is important, therefore, that every expression of opinion by a public leader should be carefully weighed.
Those who desire to read their own ideas into any expression of opinion will misinterpret anything which is said, but it is possible to cut down confusion. I do not think that anyone who knows the real facts of today's situation can feel that the United States is anxious for war. I doubt if there ever was a nation more anxious for peace.
However, I think that the leaders as well as the people have become convinced that peace in a world where force dominates can only be attained by a self-disciplined people who prepare themselves as efficiently as any dictator would prepare his obedient servants. For a people to do this, they must have a conviction of need and a religious fervor for the cause they are defending.
When the soldiers at Valley Forge wanted to go home, it was not only loyalty to George Washington which kept them suffering in the snow—for they grumbled and complained bitterly about his leadership and even about the cause they were defending—but deep down in their hearts they knew they could not live as free men unless they stuck it out, just as we will today if the need arises.
It was grand to see our daughter-in-law, Ethel, at the station in Charlottesville, walking without a cane after her long weeks of convalesence since her fall. She is still a little lame when her leg gets tired, but looks very well, far better than Franklin, Jr., who, I think, must have sat up a few nights before his examinations. Now he has his law degree, but somewhere in the near future there are the New York State bar exams to be taken and a job to be prepared for, so education always goes on.
Meanwhile, it is holiday time for all these boys. Two of Franklin, Jr.'s, classmates joined us at the White House last night, and before I left on the night train, I found all of them discussing world economics with the Secretary of Commerce. Though I mildly suggested that a little sleep would do them all good, I left them convinced that the discussion had just begun.
Gray skies greeted us here in New York City this morning, but I am not going to try to do many errands before we go to the broadcasting station. After that, a luncheon meeting and later in the afternoon a drive to Montclair, New Jersey, for an evening meeting is today's program.