JUNE 26, 1948
NEW YORK, Friday—Anyone who has served either in the United Nations General Assembly or on any of the Commissions where freedom of information comes before us will remember the constant attacks on the press of the United States—the insistence by the Soviet Union that our press is controlled by groups of people who propound certain ideas of their own, doing great harm, and are not too scrupulous about telling the truth.
I have defended our press. I have stated that I agree that we may have some publications that do harm, but that the harm was counteracted by the intelligence of the reading public. I have always maintained that it was better to have freedom of expression, even if you had to count on the public to sift good from bad.
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Yesterday I received an advertisement that, I think, points up what makes us vulnerable to such attacks by Russia. It should receive attention from us.
By cutting off and sending in a form with $1 enclosed, I was told I would receive a six-months subscription to a magazine and with it get a free copy of a book entitled, "The Roosevelt Death, a Super-Mystery."
In the advertisement they ask the most foolish questions and they rehash all the rumors that certain groups in this country have thought it profitable, for some unknown reason, to circulate ever since my husband's death. Because he and I did not believe in the practice of "lying in state," these groups have thought they could create a mystery where there was none. They forget, of course, that there are perfectly reputable witnesses alive who could answer their accusations.
This same thing is true of such foolish statements in certain articles regarding the subject of making vast fortunes out of the Presidency. The answer is simple: both my husband and I had less money personally when we left the White House than when we went there. If vast sums were made, they were spent on the business of the people of the United States.
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Most of the time these things are ludicrous and we shrug our shoulders and say this is the price we pay for priceless freedoms. But the freedoms are worth the license that some people take unto themselves.
The only thing that makes it even worth mentioning is the fact that in the international field it lays us open to accusations by the very people to whom we would like to prove the value of our system as opposed to theirs. They live under a dictatorship, whereas we live under a free government—for the people and by the people—and we want to prove our worthiness to govern ourselves.
The people of the United States over the years have developed an unerring instinct about persons in public office. By and large, their judgment may go wrong for short periods of time, but in the end they are nearly always right. Our two-party system of government is good, because there is always criticism of the majority. That is healthy, and means that no one gets away with anything for long that the conscience of the people of our nation has come to believe is wrong.
We can be led, but we must understand our leadership. We can refuse to follow when we become convinced that our leadership is wrong.