JULY 18, 1951
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—We have had two tragedies in the last week.
The floods in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma have brought misery and great financial loss to a great many people. The House of Representatives has voted $25,000,000 for relief work.
I think I remember seeing or hearing of a report made either by the Army Engineers or by the National Resources Board a long while ago in which a plan for flood control of the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Red Rivers was detailed with the necessary expenditure. This was voted down in Congress or never presented and at the time I wondered if we were not being penny-wise and pound foolish. We have had so many of these floods, and if you add up the damage done over the period of the last 25 years we could have spared far more than it would have cost us to carry out the plans of the Engineers.
Somehow it always seems as though we meet disaster with great courage and generosity, but we never seem to have the foresight to prevent it. I find this is a most annoying policy. We can compute in dollars and cents what are the losses caused by all these disasters, but we cannot begin to gauge what they may do to old people and to young people who lose so much that they hold dear.
I have never understood why the people of these areas did not turn upon those who object to flood control and let it be known in no uncertain terms that they are not going to stand for such waste in government as we have been practicing now over a long period of years. We know what ought to be done; we know what happens when we don't do it; and yet we sit still and let it happen over and over again. It is really incredibly stupid, and one hopes that this last disaster will arouse the people to make certain definite demands that would prevent the repetition of all this damage.
The other serious disaster from the point of view of human relations and our reputation in the world was the riots in Cicero, Ill., brought about by the fact that a Negro family had moved into a certain apartment house.
I suppose this apartment had no other Negro tenants and it may even have been in a part of the city where few Negroes had resided. This is no excuse, however, for the kind of behavior that lowers our standing in the eyes of the world.
It cannot be repeated too often that two-thirds of the people in the world are colored and not white, and every time something like this happens in the United States we make enemies for our country and weaken the strength of democracy everywhere.
How can we stand in the United Nations and tell 59 other nations that we believe in equality of opportunity for all men, equal justice under law administered to rich and poor, white and colored, Jew and gentile on an absolutely equal basis?
The words fall on unbelieving ears when the Cicero riots appear in the next column in our newspapers. And such action moves some nations to ask if this is a manifestation of democracy.