FEBRUARY 15, 1961
NEW YORK—First, I would like to say a word about Abraham Lincoln, for this is the month when we celebrate the birthdays of two of our greatest Presidents—Lincoln and George Washington.
To think of Lincoln's life and work just at this time is perhaps more important for us in the United States than it has ever been before. What he stood for in his belief in the dignity of all human beings and all human personality is what we are striving to make a reality here in our country. Our success may well mean the difference between a communistic or a democratic world.
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Political bosses are not the monopoly of any one big city. They are frequent occurrences in large and small cities all over our nation, and under different names, I suppose, they can be found in cities all over the world. Today I am concerned with one—Carmine G. De Sapio—who lives here in New York City, where I spend a considerable amount of time.
My home and place where I vote is Hyde Park, N.Y., but much of my work is in the city and it is a second home. And, because I think every citizen should be interested in good government everywhere, I take an interest in what happens in New York City.
So, I listened for one hour last Sunday afternoon to an extremely nervous Mr. De Sapio attempt to justify the unjustifiable. In the second half of the program a newspaper reporter asked him this pointed question: When had he last called an Executive Committee meeting (of the New York Democratic County Committee) and when did he intend to call the next and when had there been one before the last?
He squirmed and said he thought the last one was held before the holidays. No one was told which holidays. As a matter of fact, I was told by one of the committee members that the last meeting was held four months ago.
But, Mr. De Sapio continued, he himself was available seven days a week. This seemed not too good an excuse, and the thought popped into my mind that Mr. Khrushchev also is available. Dictators usually are, since they are the fountainheads of decisions. He tried to justify the Democratic state convention at Buffalo in 1958, and of course nothing whatever was said about graft and dishonesty anywhere in the city government.
I felt rather sad at the end of the program. It seemed to me a weak performance from which we could hope for little of value in the way of change. Such changes as Mr. De Sapio mentioned have really been forced upon him. He did not show any grasp or any drive or even vital interest in the general well-being of the city and its people.
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The death of Patrice Lumumba and his aides in Katanga was a great shock to many people and, of course, it makes extremely difficult any measures to quiet the Congo situation and bring about more orderly government.
It is reported that the Congo chiefs oppose disarmament because they feel it would put them in a position of trusteeship just when they have gained their independence.
Actually, of course, the aim of disarmament would be to prevent violence and aid in giving the new countries a breathing space in which to set up an orderly government so that they can have full freedom and not be controlled by any one outside nation.
The Soviets would be glad to take them over if they so desired, but if the new African nations really want the freedom they have fought for, it lies in cooperation with the United Nations.
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We salute an organization called Variety Clubs International, which is currently celebrating its anniversary (Feb. 12-18). Variety maintains establishments in 46 key cities throughout the world and over the past years has raised more than $80,000,000 for the support "of children's hospitals, clinics, convalescent homes, orphanages, clinics of treatment and research for as yet unconquered diseases, rehabilitation centers for the blind, and centers for multiple-handicapped youngsters of five nations."
One 14-year-old boy expressed the idea behind this work in the following words: "Variety teaches us that the hardest job is not to attain our physical best, but to learn the gracious way to bear the handicap. To accept imperfection with poise and dignity and yet to continue to strive for perfection. To admire and respect abilities of others without feeling sorry for oneself, and to meet the world with something to offer rather than to ask for concessions."
To have given not only one boy that philosophy but many, many others the same spirit is an achievement of which to be proud.