AUGUST 2, 1947
CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, N.B., Friday—I have been reading to my grandchildren "Ensign Russell" by David Gray, a book which is now out of print. It is a collection of short stories which Mr. Gray wrote many years ago after he had been a guest of a U.S. naval squadron in the Pacific.
At that time, we had recently taken over the Philippines, and insurrection was going on in parts of the islands. And as usual in this country, there were members of Congress insisting that the Administration's policy was wrong. They had to find out whether the Navy was living in ease and luxury in the Philippines and whether it was maltreating the Filipinos. And so some of these gentlemen went on investigating trips.
One of Mr. Gray's stories deals with the Hon. Simeon Spicer and his secretary-reporter, Mr. Deming, who undertake to do a personal investigation. They are, of course, fictitious characters. But if anyone can find a copy of this book, written long ago, I would urge them to read it for present-day amusement.
The difference in point of view which training in one of the services gives you, and which a businessman turned lawmaker may have hasn't changed very much in thirty years. When I read the other day that a Congressional committee of nineteen, dividing itself into subcommittees, was starting out to tour Europe, the Near East and perhaps Asia, Mr. Gray's story, so fresh in my mind, made me chuckle.
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I was glad to see that, in each of these Congressional groups, an effort will be made to have constantly on hand at least one member who speaks the language of whatever country they are visiting. It requires, however, a little more than a knowledge of the language to make these trips valuable. You really should know the history of the country. You should have been there many times over a period of years so as to have a comparative view of the changes which have occurred in the conditions under which the people live.
If we could find members of the House or the Senate so equipped to go on every trip, one would feel that they would return with a great contribution to offer in the field of foreign affairs. But if only one man in a group is able to talk the language of the country to be visited, and if there is no prescribed preparation, I can't say that I am very hopeful of having light thrown upon complicated situations.
Every time any of us gets out of our home groove, I suppose we learn something. And undoubtedly, the fact that members of Congress are visiting other countries, looking with a critical eye at the results attained by those countries with our help, will jack up the efforts being made. Even our own officials abroad should welcome intelligent visitors anxious to make helpful suggestions. But it does not seem sure that these investigating trips will produce a true evaluation of conditions. Instead, we may find ourselves with some very conflicting or misleading reports.