DECEMBER 28, 1949
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—The other day at a luncheon in New York City I sat where I could watch author Lillian Smith. Her face is an interesting study, responsible to inner emotions, keen and alive and yet calm and controlled. Her latest book, "Killers of the Dream," is not fiction, and though some Southern critics think it a poor book, a prejudiced book, in fact, a dull book, others among the Southern people had the courage to praise it. Almost all of them agree that Miss Smith is a sincere writer.
Of all the previews I read I think the one by Vincent Sheean brings out one point which seems most important to me. He said: "What she points out in her concluding chapters, particularly the last, is that the hand of fate has thrust us now into a position where the whole world is involved in our doings. Freedom and the dignity of man are words we use often (there is another called democracy). They correspond to a dream which most human beings have cherished for centuries. We shall not be believed abroad while we daily kill the dream at home."
If your contacts have been frequent with men and women from all over the world you will be very conscious of the fact that the dream which we, in America, have held before ourselves—and which has come to mean the United States to the rest of the world—is somewhat tarnished today by our own actions. There was a time, of course, when we felt that this dream belonged to us alone. If we did not choose to fulfill it completely, it was nobody's business but ours.
That day is past. The dream now belongs to the whole world. People everywhere now long to have a country where there is freedom, order and democracy. It can only be a country of freedom when the people themselves are united in achieving the dream. Any group among them can kill the dream. In killing it for us at home temporarily, we may kill it permanently for some people in other parts of the world.
It is remarkably courageous for a Southern woman to express so clearly what the dream is. But the people in the southern part of our country are not the only people who are "killers of the dream," and the dream is not concerned only with race relations in the South or in any other part of the country. Nor are the Negroes our only concern. Our relations with the Mexicans or any other foreign groups may make it impossible to realize the dream. In fact, the inability of people belonging to different groups in our country—whether economic, racial or religious—may mar the dream and make it seem impossible for people elsewhere to approximate the ideals that lie back of the dream.
It is not fostering prejudice to expect people to have deep convictions and to fight for them. In a world where different dreams hold sway one of the most important things is that we should fight with all the spiritual and moral power we have to prevent the "killers of the dream" from successfully accomplishing their ends.