AUGUST 7, 1951
HYDE PARK, Monday—I was very much interested in an article printed in the New York Times Magazine Section on Sunday, which was adapted from remarks made by Secretary of State Dean Acheson to a group of book and magazine publishers recently.
The contradictions, which his researchers found expressed by various serious writers, are what most of us find when we talk seriously with people about the three questions the Secretary was considering.
What is the present? When did it begin? When will it end?
Personally, I believe that the present always has its roots in the past, but how far back we must look to discover what brought about present-day situations is always one of the most difficult things to decide. It would be hardly fair to claim that the depression resulted directly from President Hoover's policies, for instance. But it is fair, I think, to say that the depression was rooted in some of the policies of the years preceding Mr. Hoover's Administration and came to a climax during his Administration.
It is not very difficult to see what actions in more recent years may have affected the present-day situation. If one follows those actions further and further back, however, one can find an increasing number of reasons deeper and deeper down which many historians will interpret in various ways.
We are living in serious times, says the Secretary of State, and that is the only really essential thing for us to accept. If we know the times are serious, then we will not hesitate to back up our leaders in whatever sacrifices they ask us to undertake.
There is one thing, however, that troubles me greatly. That is the cynicism that I find among a great many people about men or women in public office. They are ready to believe the worst about them. A good example of that is the way in which so many accepted the recent story that smeared former Mayor William O'Dwyer of New York. Then the story was promptly explained by the State Department to the satisfaction of the Senate crime commission.
A little while ago no one would have believed such a story, but today people seem to accept the worst until it is proved untrue. This, I think, is a mistake. For if you read back in our history you will find that there were always traitors and dishonest men—and more perhaps in the early days than there are today. Our standards have gone up, on the whole; more of our people are better educated and they choose better people for public office. I think part of our job should be to convince the cynics that the world today has a higher standard of integrity than it had 50 years ago.
After Secretary Acheson's research was done, he came to the conclusion that there was no way in which to meet the present satisfactorily. We must meet it with courage and calmness on every level and to those who tell us this is not possible we must respond that our ancestors worked greater miracles than those which are asked of us at present. We should not be discouraged but should keep on, knowing that, in the end, the good in human nature will overcome the evil.