FEBRUARY 23, 1944
WASHINGTON, Tuesday—Today is Washington's birthday, and living here in the White House makes you think a great deal about the kind of men who stand out in our history and whose birthdays we celebrate annually. Washington chose the site for the capital and discussed the plans for the city and the White House, although he never occupied it.
To me, the days at Valley Forge best show the stuff of which Washington was made. He went through great discouragement, with an Army that was ragged, poorly fed and never warm, with insufficient ammunition, and with a divided government back of him which often provided no money with which to pay his soldiers.
His soldiers were deeply concerned about their homes and families. Because they knew that food would be lacking at home if the seeds were not planted and the harvest garnered, they frequently asked to go home in groups which made the strength of his army uncertain, even though they promised to return.
What vision Washington must have had of the future to make him fight the Revolution through to victory! No wonder he was tired at the end, no wonder he longed to join his wife and live in peace at Mount Vernon. How simple the little problems of farm management must have seemed as he labored at his desk at Valley Forge!
There is one good reason for paying homage to our leaders of the past—it makes us remember our history and it gives us courage to face the present. If the people of those 13 states could surmount their difficulties, surely our more than 130,000,000 people in 48 states can meet theirs.
Yesterday afternoon I received the newly appointed ambassador of The Argentine Republic, Senor Dr. Don Adrian C. Escobar, and his two very attractive young nieces. One of the girls is a professor of English and the other is just preparing for her last examination for a Ph.D. I do not think anyone need be afraid that their learning will keep them from enjoying life, however.
Do you know about the National Negro Opera Company? Mrs. Mary Cardwell Dawson runs it. They are giving a performance in English of Verdi's opera, La Traviata, at Madison Square Garden on March 29. Lillian Evanti, who once sang for us here, and Joseph Lipscomb will play the parts of Violetta and Alfredo. The aims of this organization are to offer opportunities to the Negro musician in the field of grand opera; to develop higher professional standards in all fields of higher art; to establish the proper appreciation and cultural background that opera offers; to inspire composers of both races, particularly the Negro composer, to create more interest in composition in the operatic field using the background of Negro folk tunes.
Long ago, Mr. James Weldon Johnson told me that we made a mistake in this country in not encouraging the greatest contribution from all our minority groups in the fields in which they are gifted. Music is distinctly a field in which the Negro people have a great gift.