OCTOBER 27, 1961
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—It seems to me that an ex-President is able to find very little to criticize concerning his successor in office (even though the successor happens to be of a different political party) when he picks out for criticism the mistake of a young woman in the Peace Corps and then makes fun of the corps itself.
Somehow this did not seem to be quite worthy of the picture that the nation has formed of ex-President Eisenhower.
I seem to remember that at one time Mr. Eisenhower approved of Civilian Conservation Corps camps. Perhaps he is willing to allow our youth to work in their own country but is afraid to have them extend the hand of friendship where it is needed in other countries. Yet the Peace Corps is the first plan in the recent past that has fired the imagination of the country's young people.
Perhaps this one youngster to whom the ex-President referred in his remark should have been reminded that if you are going to tell the truth about a foreign land, it is better to do it by letter than by postcard. And perhaps we should tell our young people that when they find undersirable conditions in any part of the world, they may be sure that the native population is sensitive to these conditions and aware that they should be changed.
We must try to remember, too, there are things in our own country that need to be changed, and we probably will encourage others in their struggles against poor conditions by telling them of our own struggles.
Most of the people of the world think we in the United States have comparatively no poverty, no hunger, no disease. Conditions here are supposedly perfect. So these other people, seeking to change their own imperfect conditions, are immediately put on the defensive when they talk to us. But if we can convince them that our conditions are less than perfect, they would be ready to accept our help far more quickly.
The Peace Corps appeals to the best in our young people—the desire for service in the world—and it is time we forget about one young woman's mistake and get to work in support of all of the young people who are devoting their time and energy to this humanitarian effort.
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The National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission are both urging the President to prohibit discrimination in federally-operated housing. Racial discrimination is not only a danger to our democracy at home but it gives democracy a black eye in other parts of the world.
Residential segregation inevitably results in segregation in schools, hospitals and other places. It creates an unhealthy division among our people and is a daily denial of our belief in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
When Asian and African diplomatic missions face racial barriers in their search for suitable living quarters in Washington and New York, news of it affects the feelings of people all around the world. They realize they would not have so many difficulties if U.S. citizens were not being discriminated against.
It is important, therefore, that the federal government should wipe out all discrimination in federally-aided housing. And I am glad the President recognized this before he came to office and is just as conscious now of the seriousness of the problem.
Our government, through the operations of federal housing agencies and federally-supervised mortgage brokers, is still deeply involved in discrimination in the nation's housing market, and Negroes and other ethnic minorities are still the victims of this practice.
The National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, composed of 33 major religious and civil rights groups, has now submitted a proposed executive order and supporting documents to President Kennedy, and it is hoped he will take action as soon as he feels he has the support of the public.
The committee is, therefore, trying to mobilize this support. In this direction, I hope citizens in all parts of the country will write to President Kennedy urging him to issue a broad order and set up the machinery to enforce it.