SEPTEMBER 7, 1956
GENEVA—The meeting of the World Federation of U.N. Associations opened formally with a speech by the president, Lady Pibul-Songgram of Thailand.
It is remarkable to me how well she speaks in English. Of course, she has to write out her speech, just as I had to write speeches in German, Italian or Spanish which I was asked to make when I was on the United Nations delegation.
Madame Pibul-Songgram, however, makes it sound quite easy and natural. I have a great admiration, too, for her poise and grace and for the help which her daughter gives by joining her at all sessions. I am sure that her daughter has helped very much in her talks with English-speaking people who naturally talk much faster than is easy for a foreigner to understand.
I called on Lady Pibul-Songgram just to pay my respects and I was so happy to see her again, for it seemed a long time since she had been our thoughtful and kind hostess in Bangkok.
So many people have mentioned to me here how remarkably well the meeting in Bangkok was organized and how wonderfully the government cooperated in furnishing cars for the delegation, particularly for those who were far away from the meeting place.
Every detail had been carefully thought out. Our papers were all filed away in the delegation cubbyholes as you went into the entrance hall and we were each presented with remembrances of Thailand, which I am sure everyone preserved as a reminder of an exceptionally pleasant visit.
Geneva is always pleasant, though on Sunday it was as rainy as it could be. We lunched with kind and hospitable Mr. and Mrs. Bodmer, whom I am always happy to see when I come to Geneva. I only hope they will soon come again to the U.S.
Their son, who was with them there the last time and who spent a year in Yale and then lived in New York, is now working in Paris, so he is having a varied experience. The Swiss Army requires three weeks of military service each year, so he is here for three weeks. On Sundays he is given liberty, so he came for us in the car and brought me back in time to attend the first session.
Of all the speeches made in commemoration of the anniversary of the founding of the Federation of U.N. Associations, the most interesting was given by the honorary president of the organization, Paul Boncour.
He recalled how a few men had conceived the idea of supporting the U.N. through an organization of the peoples in the countries—really informed people who would prod their governments into more work for the U.N. and remembering to use it so that it would grow stronger in its early years.
He mentioned the disappointments of the League of Nations days and how the League had failed because governments had not functioned properly within it and the people had not cared enough or understood the value of developing a world organization. He acknowledged that he felt there were weaknesses in the organization of the United Nations.
For instance, he grieved over the veto and felt that it should be done away with. But basically his thesis was that we, the people, could make our governments do what we wanted and that, therefore, we were responsible for the strength and the future usefulness of the U.N.
He emphasized what the World Federation could become in the next 10 years and left us all with the feeling that in our own associations we had a great deal to develop.