MARCH 13, 1950
NEW YORK, Sunday—The broadcast with Mary Margaret McBride out at Lake Success on Friday was, I thought, an interesting event. I don't know how the magazine which gave us each a little gold medal hit upon the idea of getting newspaper women to compile the list of women whom they considered the most influential, but it was an interesting idea because it brought out a variety of factors which give people influence. The newspaper women were not content to vote themselves, but polled their readers to get ideas from the general public.
As far as I, myself, am concerned, I can truthfully say the responsibility of great influence bothers me far more than can be compensated for by any honors. If what you say and think really makes other people think, that is grand; but if any kind of blind following is developed, that seems to me dangerous.
Although my husband was often accused of wanting to be a dictator, I always felt that his great contribution was the fact that he made so many people feel that they understood the problems which he faced and that the decisions were in part based on their own feeling—and therefore that they had to participate in their own government. That was the reason he received so much mail; that was why after every fireside chat, to which nearly all of our citizens must have listened in their own homes, there would be such an avalanche of telegrams and letters. Of course, if you live long enough and carry responsibility long enough, you do build up sufficient confidence so that at times people may follow even when they are frankly told that it is not possible to give them the reasons for a decision. But that should be the result of the carrying of great responsibility.
In my own case, I would hope to provide points of view and information, and to stimulate people to be better citizens because they tried to get the facts on the problems of our day. My hope would be that, as a result of this effort, they would form their own judgments. Any other kind of influence would, I think, be very bad in a democracy.
It was fun to find myself sitting by Mrs. Emily Post, whom I had not seen for a long time. I think it was truly discerning of the newspaper women to realize that her type of training in manners has an influence on the way people live—deeper, perhaps, than most of us understand.
Anyone could quite easily understand that Dorothy Thompson and Clare Boothe Luce must be at the top of the list of women with influence. They are both intellectuals, with trained minds and skill in expressing themselves. Sister Kenny has captured the imagination of a great many people because of her humanitarian work and her strong convictions, and Ruth Bryan Rhode and Mary Margaret McBride herself, of course, exercise constant influence and have done so over a long period.
So it seemed to me that the question Mary Margaret McBride asked each of us was well worth asking, only I would like to do it on a wider scale among the thinking women of the country. What are the main things on our minds today? I wonder how we could get the answer.