SEPTEMBER 21, 1956
NEW YORK—At the request of the State Department, I saw two of its guests from Indonesia on Monday. They were newspaper editors brought here to study the U.S.
Their English was not too fluent but they were much interested in our two-party political system and in trying to understand the present election campaign. I fear, however, they left me with very little enlightenment, although I enjoyed having an opportunity to talk with them.
Early Tuesday morning I went with my maid to the naturalization office at 61st Street and Columbus Avenue.
It took me back to the time years ago when once a week I gave a certain number of hours at the Women's Trade Union League clubhouse helping new immigrants to this country get their first citizenship papers filled out and guiding them through the mysteries of downtown offices.
I still remember an old woman who seemed eager to get her citizenship papers as soon as possible. When I asked her why, she replied, "Oh, this country is so wonderful. I can buy my bread and take it home and no one tries to take it away from me. Where I came from, everyone was hungry and we were almost ashamed to have a loaf of bread."
Every now and then I think that it is well for us to remember that such conditions did exist, and still do, in many parts of the world. We must never forget them, because in our own country we are trying hard to reduce the areas where anyone really lacks a loaf of bread.
I read with great interest the reports of the sample polls taken by Lou Harris, who was accompanied in his opinion-sampling by the Alsop brothers, newspaper columnists.
Stewart Alsop, reporting on a trip to Harlem, said he was a little shocked by the conditions he found there. I couldn't help being amused that columnists, who know so much of the world as a whole, apparently know so little about some of the sore spots in their own country.
I wish they would take a look at some areas in Chicago, too. I think they would be surprised at some of the things they would find. And Detroit, Mich., might be an interesting city to visit.
For the moment, I am glad that our minds are turned to Harlem, for New York citizens, both in the state and the city, have a real concern to see that the character of Harlem changes.
That means that vast slum clearance projects must be carried out, but at the same time new housing must be built in border areas so that a slum project is not cleared and the same people put right back into it. Rather, we should have an integrated area so we can immediately offer homes to some of these people.
Then, in the new buildings that go up we must be sure that there are features that will attract white people. Otherwise we will continue to have segregated schools in Harlem, which are poorer than the unsegregated ones, and will continue to have other disadvantages which arise from bad housing and overcrowding, both of which can be blamed on segregation.