JANUARY 21, 1944
WASHINGTON, Thursday—I returned to Washington yesterday noon to find the usual tremendous accumulation of mail.
At four-thirty the President of Venezuela arrived and we had a very pleasant time with him at tea. I was interested to learn that in Venezuela they have obtained assistance from experienced people in the social security field, and are already concerning themselves with laws to cover many of the problems which face us and, I suppose, face the people of the world in varying degrees.
Venezuela is an agricultural country, and has suffered during the war because of her inability to import the things she needs, and to export her own products. Now it is becoming easier to do this. I was interested to learn that besides coffee and cocoa, which have always been the main exports, they are beginning to produce other things for our market.
Later in the afternoon, a young Merchant Marine officer, who used to be a lawyer in New York City, brought some of the members of the Naval gun crew of his ship to see me. The four young men, James Nicholson, Joseph Bridges, Gerald Goode and Robert Layman, all come from New England. They were on the famous "Forgotten Convoy of North Russia," and spent eight months in Russia after they reached port.
I was interested in what they said because it showed how much our boys observe. They told me that although the people in Russia seem to have a pretty low standard of living, from our point of view, they are happy and believe in their own progress. They seem to have a natural appreciation for music and art. In fact, they said that the soldiers were always singing, and that one of the songs the sailors sang was beautiful. They brought it back with them.
When our boys come home from these distant places, they have a better appreciation of what our country has given us, but they also have a better understanding of the contribution of other peoples and of their aspirations.
I showed the Navy boys around the White House, including the state dining room where the table was set for the formal dinner to the President of Venezuela. I told them that the table decorations had been bought by James Madison and brought from France in the early days of our republic. This always gives me a thrill and interested them very much as it seems to bring the past years of our history so much closer to us.
Now I must be off to do a recording for the Iowa State College "Farm and Home Week" with Martha Duncan. This afternoon I shall visit more of our undesirable housing in the District of Columbia.