OCTOBER 21, 1940
HYDE PARK, Sunday—My trip home was uneventful. I was glad to be able to fly from Chicago to St. Louis for a few hours yesterday in order to see my young friend, Mayris Chaney, who is dancing there just now, and still get into New York from Chicago in the evening. I motored up to Hyde Park this morning in order to have the pleasure of meeting the Governor—General of Canada and his wife, who are spending the weekend with the President and his mother.
Miss Thompson met me in New York and told me that too many birthday cards had come on October 11th for personal acknowledgment to be possible, and so I am taking this opportunity to thank the many kind people who sent me good wishes on the occasion of my birthday. It is very thoughtful of people to wish me well and I deeply appreciate it, particularly at a time when kindly words are not as often expressed as those engendered by personal bitterness.
There are two books I read on this trip across the Continent that I would like to call to your attention. One of them, called "Guilty Men," is written by a young Englishman whose nom de plume is "Cato." The book has an American introduction which points out why we should have a special interest in it.
As brought out in this book, the important point, to me, about the chronology of the years from 1920 to 1940 is that when individuals and nations begin to fool themselves, they are building up a dangerous future. You can fool yourself with high ideals and wishful thinking and refuse to face reality and the hard facts of the world in which you live. So many leaders of different groups in these past years have done this in one way or another. Good intentions seem to have paved the way to one tragic situation after another. It is trite to say it, but the courage to face the real facts, and act upon those facts, is the thing we need most today. We must pray that here, in the United States we will learn the lesson of the last twenty years of history and profit by it by facing situations that arise from now on.
The second book is Hendrik van Loon's "Invasion." He sent it to me himself, and suggested that I do not read it at night for fear of being kept awake. I did not feel that way about it. It is fanciful, but no more fanciful than actual occurrences have been in many parts of the world. His estimate of what the people of Vermont would do under certain conditions is most encouraging, because Vermont is no different from the State of Washington, or, for that matter, any state in the Union faced with the same situation.
That does not make the book any less important. The lesson it teaches is that it is not safe to believe, because your immediate surroundings look peaceful, placid and very familiar, that nothing unusual can possibly happen. In addition, it shows that time to prepare for any eventuality is vitally important. We must be willing to consider even the things that seem incredible if we are going to have time to meet successfully an unknown situation.