OCTOBER 17, 1947
NEW YORK, Thursday—The other night at a dinner party, I found myself sitting next to the United Nations delegate from Ethiopia. I began to question him about his country—the climate, the opportunities for development, the type of agriculture, etc. Among other things, he told me he had come with Emperor Haile Selassie to see my husband in the White House, and they had been surprised to find that he knew almost more about the history and some of the ancient things in Ethiopia than they did themselves!
I explained that stamp collecting and reading the National Geographic Magazine in the days of his youth had given my husband a good background not only for the reading of history but for every contact he had with people, who told him things which his remarkably retentive memory never seemed to let slip.
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I remember once asking him about the means of transportation in Ethiopia, and he gave me the whole history of how the one railroad there had been financed and built. He went on to say that he thought there should be a clause in any development undertaken in a foreign country which would permit that country to recapture a railroad or a water development after the original capital and a reasonable return on the investment had been made by the investors.
This would mean, of course, that undeveloped countries would still offer a tempting field to the adventurous investor, but it would not permit any financial group or any outside government to profit for an unlimited period of time. And exploitation would be avoided in the case of weak countries.
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I was interested to learn that, on the high plateau in Ethiopia, the climate is somewhat like California's—"perpetual spring," my dinner partner called it. He said they grew wheat and corn and all kinds of fruits, and were now beginning to ship by air since their one-track railroad is not sufficient to get their produce out. They have no outlet to the sea, but the country is potentially very rich, with many minerals as well as agricultural products.
Ever since I flew over a considerable area in the northern part of South America, I have had a deep interest in what eventually could be done to bring into use much of the land which is still complete jungle and supports such a very few people. When I hear of over-population, I think of the miles and miles of uninhabited land I've seen, and I realize that there are still many years of development ahead of us in this Hemisphere as well as in other parts of the world.