OCTOBER 8, 1940
HYDE PARK, Monday—We had a birthday party last night at the big house, even though it was not my birthday! On the 11th, the President will be on a train in Pittsburgh, and I shall be starting to fly to the West Coast, so we decided that this would be an easier place to have a party and celebrate with a few friends.
My brother, who is grand at arranging parties, obtained the most wonderful music from New York City. It was played on an instrumment I had never heard before, which is like an electric piano but has stops to make it sound like a whole orchestra. We were all thrilled and everyone asked for the things they liked best. The very versatile musician seemed able to play everything asked for, from Mozart to Chopin to Wagner to Debussy and Ravel.
My brother had made a comic phonograph record which gently teased me in song and rhyme. It started the party off in great style. I think it is a good idea to celebrate at parties which are actually not on your birthday. Then you do not have to think gloomily that another year has gone by in which, on looking back candidly, you count so little accomplishment for time sped away.
Yesterday afternoon, a group of people, some Quakers, both middle-aged and young men, spent a couple of hours with me explaining the point of view of the various conscientious objectors. They were anxious to make me realize that theirs was a genuine conviction, that they could not take human lives and some of them even felt they could not engage in any activity sponsored by a government which they felt was tending toward war.
None of these men, young or old, had to convince me of their sincerity. I can well understand that to live up to these convictions will perhaps take more courage than to risk their lives in the army. Yet, I can also see the point of view of other people whose boys are in the army or who are in the army themselves if a war should ever come, particularly of a defensive nature.
The test of democracy and civilization is to treat with fairness the individual's right to self-expression, even when you can neither understand nor approve it. I hope we are going to show now, when we simply are asking young men to train for useful purposes in peace time or in any emergency, that we can respect individuals who differ from the majority and find useful work which they are willing and able to do under the restrictions imposed upon them by their conscience.