MAY 18, 1944
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—Yesterday the ladies of the Cabinet, Mrs. Wallace and I entertained the Senate ladies at our annual picnic lunch on the lawn. We have been fortunate in having good weather almost every year. Yesterday was one of the nicest days we have ever had. I think the weather man must take a special interest in this party, for on many occasions parties planned for the garden had to come indoors, but never to date when the Senate ladies were coming.
I am very interested in the stories which are now being sent to me about the efforts which various industries are making to prepare themselves to employ handicapped people in their plants. This is being done largely as a patriotic gesture with the idea of re-training war veterans, but I think it will have a lasting effect on the employment of all handicapped people.
Two thrilling stories have come to me recently. One, of a man who was blind and a deaf mute, and yet strongly felt the urge to do something for the war. He presented himself at a plant, and traced the following words on the palm of the interviewer's hand: "I can't see, I can't hear, I can't talk, but I can work." They trained him, and his highly developed sense of touch and his great desire to learn proved great assets. He was hired as a bench-hand in the repair department where defective parts are inspected and sorted to salvage metal for future use. Now, less than a year later, he is outproducing his co-workers three to one, is working full time and is earning full time pay.
But the remarkable part of the story is not that he managed to go to work. It is that he has a very high record of steady hours of work, month in and month out. He comes to work all alone, transfers twice to reach the plant, and those who work with him have caught something of his fine spirit. They recognize his courage. In spite of his handicaps, he has kept a sense of humor and an understanding and appreciation of other human beings. All of these qualities make him a valuable co-worker, who puts to shame anyone who might feel entitled to let down in his efforts.
The other story was of a Czechoslovakian who spent many years on relief because of a stroke which paralyzed one side of his body. Finally, he was retrained, and he became a welder in spite of a paralyzed hand and arm. He is now earning $45 a week. He is a man again, life has changed, and out of his salary, he is weekly repaying something to the government. He says he will continue to do this until he has returned all that was given to him during the years when he accepted relief. The doctor who told me about him said that when he was given a prize last year, the expression on his face was one of the most moving he had ever seen. To the doctor, he seemed to epitomize all of the oppressed people in Europe and their determination to triumph and again win freedom.