OCTOBER 1, 1948
PARIS, Thursday—I must own up to the fact that speaking at the Sorbonne seemed to me altogether too great an honor for a woman who never even had earned a degree after four years' work in college.
I was nervous and apprehensive, but there is something in the atmosphere of an old building like that and its beautiful hall that has an invigorating effect on speakers. Of course, the French language lends itself to oratory, and long before I spoke I was lost in the admiration of the way this language provides the words to say things that one would find it difficult to say in almost any other language.
The president of the university and Professor Rene Cassin spoke before I did. And when they speak of the Sorbonne one can tell by the feeling and emotion they put into their words that they are not merely talking of an institution of learning. This is a building they love, in which traditions have been built and which mean a great deal in the intellectual life of the French people.
Our students at home and our universities who have sent help to the Sorbonne and to the students here would be gratified by the remarks made by the president of the university in his speech. He told how much it has meant to them to receive tons of dried milk, for example, just before examinations so that they could give the students more nourishment at that particular time. He emphasized his gratitude not just for the material things, much as they have needed them, but for the spirit of generosity and affection which has come to them here from the institutions of learning in their sister republic of the United States.
The Sorbonne president also made mention of Benjamin Franklin and how he first came to speak for the United States in this capital city of Paris. And this reminded me of the fact that John Golden, who was here for a few days, made me walk to the end of the block of buildings in which our hotel stands to show me a bronze table that commemorates the fact that in this building Benjamin Franklin and other American statesmen signed the treaty that brought us help from France in the days when we needed it more than France needs our help today.
Our two republics have a long history of friendship and it is good now, when they need a lift to their spirits, that we are able to help them through these arduous years. I was only too glad to be able to thank them not only for what they did for us years ago, but for what they have done in the fields of literature and the fine arts for us and for the world over in all the years of their history.
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A few nights ago a number of people from the U.S. delegation were invited to spend the evening in a typical French apartment. It was the home of a cousin of one of the young couples in the American delegation, and at this little get-together also was James Carey of the CIO, who brought along some movies he had taken in Russia, Czechoslovakia and Italy.
Jim Carey is not what might be called an expert photographer, and if he had not told us the names of the various people appearing on the screen who were sitting in on the labor meetings we might not have been very sure of just what we were seeing. But he had some excellent outdoor shots of both people and places, showing various streets and buildings of Moscow and some of the countryside. I understand that the Russians themselves like these pictures, and I should think they would, for they certainly make a very delightful impression.
Some of the pictures of Italy took me back to scenes that I have not visited in many long years, and the changes seem very slight. The buildings more or less stay the same, but the people everywhere change, and the faces of those who appeared on the screen were to me most interesting. I began to wonder whether a pictorial diary of this kind might not actually bring a more accurate picture than all the words we use in trying to paint what we have seen and record what we have done.