JUNE 23, 1961
ThursdayNEW YORK—By the time this column is published I imagine our Committee on Tractors for Freedom will have had a definite answer from Premier Castro. Since he made his first speech to the Cuban farmers he has attempted to change his original offer in a number of different ways. He must know quite well that the points he has brought up can only be discussed by governments.
The history of the committee is very simple. In order to take up Castro's offer of an exchange of 1,214 prisoners for 500 agricultural tractors the committee had to have the approval of the State Department and the President. Beyond that initial approval nothing more in the way of power was granted to the committee.
So, all it could consider was the type of agricultural tractors that could be furnished to achieve the ends stated in Premier Castro's first speech to Cuban farmers, namely to increase the food supply of the Cuban people and raise their standard of living.
To do this, four experts were sent to Cuba after being carefully instructed that this was the only matter they could discuss. They returned and reported to the committee, and the committee has reaffirmed the original offer in the hope that Castro will stand by his own words and free the prisoners for the tractors—the exchange of prisoners to be handled by the International Red Cross and the identity of each man to be assured by them.
Premier Castro now states that some of the men he had originally offered for exchange have died and the number now is only 1,167. But the important thing will be for the International Red Cross to verify the identity of the prisoners.
I have a great many telegrams from the wives, mothers and children of these prisoners, begging the committee not to desert the prisoners and offering to help in any way possible to raise any sum of money demanded by Castro. These appeals are sad, but this would be a question for government and beyond the committee's mandate.
I want particularly to mention here the generosity of citizens in South American countries—workers in factories, men and women in all walks of life—joining together to send large checks. I hope greatly that Premier Castro will be consistent enough to carry through on the original offer.
My gratitude also goes out to all the Americans who have wanted to help and who have sent in checks, large and small, some to me but in greater numbers directly to Tractors for Freedom, Freedom Box, Detroit, Michigan. The committee's treasurer, Mr. Joseph M. Dodge, is holding all these in trust until Castro's final word comes through, as we hope, on Friday.
If the response should be as we hope, then we shall make every possible appeal to every individual in the country to help us raise the full sum of money needed to send as quickly as possible all the 500 agricultural tractors. For the first shipment we are assured of underwriting already. If the response should be negative, we will be obliged to return the money to all those who have contributed. We certainly hope this will not be necessary.
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It is good to read that President Kennedy and Premier Hayato Ikeda of Japan agreed to the formation of a U.S.-Japan economic committee. The economic questions between us are very complicated, but we should be able to reach agreements because such high officials as are being named on this committee have the ability to command cooperation from the highest groups in labor and industry. If we can bring them together so that they understand each other's difficulties something can undoubtedly be worked out.
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The school situation in New York City seems to be a question of incompetence and dishonesty. New schools are needed and better teachers are needed, but basically the trouble is that plain honesty has fallen rather low where government business is concerned.
We can probably blame this partly on the system of boss government in our city, which has encouraged political dishonesty. But there is also dishonesty in business.
We should look at the whole situation with a sense of shame and resolve that we must do all we can to see that public officials and business people who deal with the government are made to conduct their affairs always honestly and aboveboard.