FEBRUARY 20, 1961
MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—My uncle, David Gray, whom I am visiting here, seems well and cheerful, and is as interested in Florida politics as many of the younger men he invited to lunch with me last Friday.
They elected one Democrat in this county—the sheriff. All other public posts went to the Republicans. On a statewide basis, I've discovered, you have to carry the North Florida vote in order to be elected, and this, as you listen to the politicians talk, seems to be a rather conservative part of the state. The rest of the nation may feel that times have changed somewhat and that we must change with them, but I gather that is not the point of view of the North Florida voter. Hence a statewide Florida candidate had better be a conservative along every line.
Down here, of course, you find a much more personal interest in the Cuban situation than up North. The announcement that the Soviets were dredging a canal in Cuba and establishing a naval base created considerable comment and excitement. One realizes that this coast feels itself very close to Cuba, and the menace of Soviet control is much more real than it is to us who live further away.
One of the men present, a retired newspaper reporter, had been assigned a number of years ago to make a survey of economic conditions in Cuba. He minced no words in saying that our present unhappy situation there is largely due to the fact that our industries had taken money out of Cuba and put nothing back. They had paid low wages to their agricultural workers, they had done nothing about better housing, schools or hospitals, and the unrest and dislike for Americans was then clearly evident. He therefore felt no great surprise at present developments in Cuba.
This journalist was a well-seasoned newspaper man at the time, and his observations cannot be looked upon as an emotional reaction such as we consider the pronouncements of young people who make a short trip and are shown the best things that are being done by the Castro government. As far as the standard of living of the people goes, it remains to be seen whether present efforts will result in real improvements or not. But the past American performance cannot be wiped out. We can profit from it, however, in any country where our businessmen go. After a period of five years, for example, there should be a visible improvement in the standard of living of such people as they employ.
Florida has its road-building scandals, just as there are scandals in other states in private or public activities, and I listened in on a long discussion of what was happening to our moral standards in this country. Does the change go back to the days of Prohibition? We tried to legislate morality then, and found that instead of reducing the consumption of alcohol we simply created a body of "respectable" law-breakers. After repeal, many of us said that we had to go back to education that would teach people to discipline themselves and to live up to a code of honorable behavior they themselves set up.
Perhaps we have succeeded to some extent along certain lines. Yet we must remember that the desire for money or power has from time immemorial corrupted men and women, and it should not be surprising if we do not seem to have made as much progress in elevating public or private morality as one might desire. Some people say this is because children in their homes see their parents flouting the law or ignoring the standards which they preach. Others say that it is because the school and church do not have the same influence they had in previous generations.
Still, I am not sure but that we must expect the young people to make their own choices and decisions. Certainly it will be helpful if the older people will address themselves to living up to the moral standards they preach, in which case the schools and churches will doubtless have more influence. But each generation is to a great extent responsible for its own development, and it may well be that the decisions made by this young generation will prove decisive for the future of our civilization. If we bring home to them their responsibilities and the alternatives they face in the world at present, I have an idea they may do better than we have done.