MARCH 5, 1958
NEW YORK—I want to mention today two quite different subjects.
First, I want to tell you about a courageous woman who came to see me the other day about a project in faraway Beirut, Lebanon.
The woman was Mrs. Sarah Shahla, who has come to this country as chairman of a fund-raising committee to build a rest home for aged and needy nurses in the Middle East. The project was initiated by the graduate nurses of the University of Beirut, which is well known in the whole Near East and whose influence has been felt by many Arab leaders.
The drive got its start at the golden jubilee celebration of the founding of the university's School of Nursing, the first school of its kind in the Middle East.
In the Arab countries and from graduates, enough money has been raised to buy a large and well-situated plot of land. On this will be built the rest home, which also will provide guest-house facilities for working graduate nurses so that they can stay there when attending conferences or on vacation.
A wing for convalescents would provide some steady income for upkeep of the home and give the resident nurses some light occupation.
This project, Mrs. Shahla told me, would give to nurses of the Middle East a feeling of great security, knowing as they would that there was a home to which they could retire. Nurses in that area are not well paid and most of the countries in which they serve have no provisions for old-age pensions or security services of any kind.
The project has the approval of groups and individuals interested in the Near East, and anyone who has been in that area will sense the importance of this need.
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Now to an entirely different subject.
There are many of us in the United States who like hand-woven materials. Sometimes we know where they come from and sometimes we don't, but some of the best come from the old Donegal weavers in Ireland.
The fate of these weavers is tied up with something we have just done to protect our woolen-cloth industry.
Tariffs are queer things. It is hard, when passing legislation, to think in human terms and bother about individuals. So when we increased the tariff from 25 percent to 45 percent after we had imported 14,000,000 pounds of woolen material from all countries in the world, I don't think our lawmakers gave much thought to what would happen to the weavers of Donegal.
By July 24 the quota was filled, but the people of Donegal, who weave by hand, couldn't step up their pace and get more goods in before that date. So they were left with the prospect of having to add the extra duty to the already high price of hand-woven material, making it too expensive even for Americans to buy.
It is a very little thing, and I suppose our lawmakers will think it foolish even to bring it up. But we bought from Ireland last year $8.8 million in goods, including rope, tweed, and whisky, And they, with a population of less than 3,000,000, bought $38,154,000 worth of goods from us.
Killing the hand-woven tweed business is going to mean that the Donegal weavers will have no work. Women and children will be hungry and another injustice will have been done through our strange web of tariff laws. Why couldn't we exempt hand-made material?