JULY 2, 1954
NEW YORK, Thursday—As you may know, my trip to the Soviet Union has been cancelled at the last minute. Here is what happened.
When Look Magazine, which was sponsoring the trip, requested visas for me and my secretary, they also asked for one for William Attwood, who had gone around the world with Adlai Stevenson and who could take care of all travel arrangements, money, etc. It never occurred to any of us that there would be any difficulty about having one more person in my party. Six weeks later, the visas came through for me and my secretary, but Mr. Attwood's visa did not materialize.
We waited hopefully. Finally I wrote to the Russian Embassy explaining that I really needed Mr. Attwood's help. They were most polite but said they had not heard from Moscow. Of course, I know quite well that things move slowly in any government, but I could not believe that, if a real effort were made, one could not get an answer to a request of this nature in 24 hours.
However, time went on and on. Look even suggested that if, for some reason, Mr. Attwood's name was not acceptable to the Soviet Union, they were willing to send another gentleman, and they named one. Nothing happened about that, and I finally came to feel that perhaps I had better cancel my trip.
It is always hard for me to clear my time to get away and, if I did not go on July 1, I was afraid it would be a long time before I could again arrange to go. Also, there were many things I had hoped to see which would necessitate a certain amount of travel, and I was afraid that, if my departure was delayed, I would not have enough time to make the trip worthwhile, since I would have to be back here on August 2 because of commitments I cannot break. Hence, on June 30, when no visa for either man had come through, I decided not to go.
I can't say I am not disappointed. I think it would have been very interesting to see with my own eyes a new country, a very great country, which I have never seen before, and perhaps to get an understanding of certain things which seem to me difficult to understand.
I know enough history to know what life under the Czars meant to the Russian people and I imagine great changes have come about. The people were not free in the days of the Czars. They are certainly not free today, either, under Communist domination, but it would be interesting to see what has been done. The Russian delegates to the United Nations have often boasted of certain great achievements. Those achievements can hardly be evaluated unless you are able to see them.
It has always seemed to me that more interchange with the Soviet Union would be of advantage to the outside world, but the Soviet Union's Government seems to be afraid, so there is nothing we can do about it, I suppose.