FEBRUARY 10, 1948
HYDE PARK, Monday—I have had a letter from the Dunkirk (N.Y.) Society to Promote Friendship and Understanding Among All People. They make the suggestion that what has been done by the city of Dunkirk to aid certain European communities might easily be done by every city and village in our country. They suggest that the work of government agencies and even of the general relief agencies cannot give the sort of personal satisfaction that has been built up in their community through the contributions of their citizens and through the response from individuals in the places where the gifts have gone. They started by collecting, for Thanksgiving Day, 1946, supplies of all kinds for the city of Dunkerque, France, and then last year they chose Anzio, Italy.
Just in their own community they raised about $400,000 worth of material gifts in the short space of one year. They say that it has done a great deal for them as individual citizens, and that they have learned much about conditions in other parts of the world. Hence, all of them are more willing to take part in this sort of endeavor and more able to understand the Government's foreign-aid plans because of their own contact with people overseas. They are ready and willing to help any other American city or town to build up friendly relationships with foreign cities and towns.
This kind of activity, I think, is the best background for successful operation of the United Nations or the Marshall Plan. If people all over our country were interested enough in the welfare of people in other countries to devote their Thanksgiving Day to the culmination of a campaign of the type initiated in Dunkirk, then I am sure there would be no trouble in making Congress understand what is in the hearts and minds of the American people.
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Curiously enough, a campaign of this kind would also educate the community as to its own needs. In the course of getting together in committees and making such a program a success, people who ordinarily have little opportunity to rub shoulders would come in close contact with one another. A great many of them would learn about conditions existing at home which they had not had a chance to see before, and this in itself would be valuable.
For instance, in my neighboring city of Poughkeepsie, the Community Chest has not been successful. And Lincoln Center, a settlement house which should be able to do much more work for the youth of the community, is hampered by the fact that very few people are really interested. Not enough money is raised, so the staff is small and their appeals have to go to people living outside of Poughkeepsie!
This happens in many of our smaller cities because people do not get together enough to understand their own needs. For that reason, I think a great community undertaking such as the one in Dunkirk, N.Y., would be of great value in thousands of places all over our country.