SEPTEMBER 13, 1956
HYDE PARK—It was certainly discouraging to read in the newspapers of the decision of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser which brought an end to the Cairo parleys on the Suez Canal.
An assurance by any one country that certain waterways will stay open to all countries under all circumstances is worth very little, I fear. History proves that this does not happen. And, at this very moment, would the Arab states permit unhampered passage through the canal of Israeli ships, for instance?
It is, therefore, understandable that both the French and British are skeptical about accepting President Nasser's plan. This seems to be another case where, had we long ago made a clear-cut statement about our policy, we might be better off today and the whole situation might not have reached this very serious point.
One bright spot in the day's newspapers was the story of what one American citizen did for his little village in Italy.
At about the age of 17, Anthony Cucolo came to this country, but he never forgot his native village of Summonte. After the war, he realized this village's needs and, out of his own pocket and with the help of friends in Rockland County, New York, he has helped them get food each winter, to obtain an adequate water supply and to build a small hospital.
A contractor, he devised a way to obtain the needed money by paring down other Marshall Plan estimates and using the savings to bring water into Summonte. It was accomplished and on the appointed day a very proud man watched a 30-foot-high jet of water shoot up in the main square of this mountain village.
Cucolo has done many things for his town here in the U.S. and has a great sense of obligation to the country which he feels gave him his great opportunity. But he also must take great joy in the gift he was able to make to his childhood home.
While at the conference of the World Federation of United Nations Associations in Geneva, I had an opportunity to talk with Madame A.M. Pankratova, delegate from Russia. She is a professor and member of the Academy of Sciences in the U.S.S.R. and chief editor of a review in Moscow called "Questions of History," as well as holding a high political position in the Presidium.
I told her that one of the difficulties in reaching mutual understandings was that when I talk of freedom and of the rights of human beings, I mean the freedom and rights of the individual and that in our country we might delegate those rights to governments but they still remain inherently the rights of the individual, not received from the government.
With this concept, I told her, we talk to each other from different points of view, since by freedom and human rights she means those granted by the government to the individual.
Madame Pankratova's answer was that without the help of a teacher she never would have had the opportunity for higher education. She had this opportunity through the gift of her government, the gift of the state. How could she then separate her individual rights from those given her by the government?
One can easily see how difficult it is for us, with such different concepts, to come to mutual understandings.
Just as I suspected I would, I spent all Sunday at my desk, but by Monday things were cleared up. Monday was a busy day for me, but I took time off at noon to lunch with my son, John, between an appointment with the dentist and doing a few errands.
In the afternoon, I attended a board meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I understand that certain people are accusing this association of not being law-abiding. I can assure them that I heard no one at this meeting who was not concerned with trying to live up to the law in every possible way.