FEBRUARY 13, 1950
NEW YORK, Sunday—Friday night, after speaking in Larchmont, I took the night train to Rochester, New York, and here I am back again on Sunday morning, having taken the night train home last night!
It was well worth the trip to hear Carl Sandburg speak on Abraham Lincoln. The City Club of Rochester had conducted an essay contest among high school children who, after some study of their subject, had been given 40 minutes to write their essays on Lincoln. They were short, but I thought the two winners of the first and second prizes, who read their papers at the luncheon given by the club, had done remarkably well.
In Carl Sandburg, who has an impressive appearance and a resonant voice, we also had a speaker who really knows and loves his subject. He gave us a special treat at the end by bringing out what he calls his "box" and singing some ballads to his own accompaniment. The songs were delightful, and he also got in a neat little rebuke for those of us who know so much more about other parts of the world than we do about our own neighborhood. He sang part of the Erie Canal Boatman's song and told us that when he picked it up he found that most people living in the area of the Erie Canal knew the Volga Boatman's song but did not know their own Erie Canal song.
Mr. Sandburg is proud of his two charming-looking grandchildren and showed me a sweet colored photograph of the boy and girl on horseback. We grandparents have in common at least our pride in the younger generation, but I wish I had Carl Sandburg's knowledge of Lincoln.
There are few of our Presidents whose influence will be more widely felt in the world. When all the superficial things are said, the spirit of Lincoln will never be forgotten because he believed in human beings. He thought there could be justice and mercy in the world if people could live in freedom and "act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
One of the editorials on Lincoln that I read this morning said he was too human to become a symbol, but I don't think I agree. I am sure that, to many young people and their elders in this country, Lincoln is the symbol of what is best in the character of the American citizen.
Saturday morning I spoke with Dr. Ralph J. Bunche at a convocation of students at the University of Rochester. It is a heartening thing to see how much Dr. Bunche's achievements, in bringing about one bit of peace in the world through mediation, has appealed to both old and young in this country. Both at the morning meeting before the students and at the evening meeting in the big auditorium, under the auspices of the City Club, Dr. Bunche received a real ovation, and in each case gave a thoughtful and thought-provoking speech. On the whole, I think I got out of "my day" much more than I put into it!