MAY 5, 1959
FLINT, Mich.—It seems to me that we have been left in ignorance of the situation in Haiti which, because of our past history of concern about that land, should be of concern to everyone of us.
In the Congressional Record there is a speech by Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota in which he brings out the fact that because of a long drought there has been famine in Haiti which affects 45,000 men, women and children. This condition has existed for over a year and even if the rains were to come now the people would have no seed left with which to plant crops, and no animals left to sell in order to get money to buy seeds. Both a French priest and a Baptist minister report starvation conditions among the people and pitiable conditions among the children.
In his speech Senator Humphrey pointed out the curious fact that we, who are so near to Haiti, not only are slow to act when we hear of such a situation in which our surplus food could be used, but there is no machinery set up by which we can do this. At the same time he points to the fact that in the District of Columbia there are 7,000 children in the grade schools who have an inadequate diet and there is no school lunch program.
The President was upheld the other day by the Senate in his veto of a rural electrification bill and he repeatedly upholds his Secretary of Agriculture, who has allowed a condition to arise where we have no plan either for helping hungry children at home or for helping people who have starved for over a year in a neighboring island. All of this when we ourselves have more food unused than we know what to do with. This looks as though Democrats as well as Republicans must accept responsibility for this deplorable situation.
There was a time when our citizens believed that a good harvest was the gift of God. We needed it and we were thankful for it. Otherwise, we would have no Thanksgiving Day. I think with a little serious planning we could help people all around the world to improve their own food supplies and to profit by our ability to grow food and our luck in having good harvests.
Then we could really thank God again for His rain and His sunshine. We could really be confident again of the value of our land and we would have earned the gratitude of the people in Haiti.
True, we probably recognize in Washington that the government of Haiti under a past President, Col. Paul E. Magloire, got itself into a very bad economic situation by the now-familiar method of having a dictator who exploited the people and made a fortune for himself and ruined the economy of his country. But the people who starve have no realization that this is probably one of the reasons why their government today is unable to help them. They are conscious of only one thing—that they need food and it isn't there.
We could make food part of a loan to help the present government to rehabilitate its economic situation, but I think we have a right to ask for some type of supervision of the economic use of whatever loan we make.
The pattern of dictatorship repeats itself too often and even if they now have a government that has every intention of helping the people and honestly administering the government departments, still they may need some expert financial advice. This could be given on a technical-assistance basis through the United Nations if not through us, but we must not let people so near to us continue to starve.