OCTOBER 30, 1961
NEW YORK—Miss Estelle Linzer and I spent the last two days of U.N. Week in Florida. On Thursday evening a very successful meeting was held in a large Miami auditorium. The Birch Society has been fairly active in the whole of Florida and, as a result, it seems to have been a challenge to the people who believe in the United Nations to come out and be more active. At the meeting, awards were made to the Miami and Daytona Beach chapters for securing the most members of any U.N. group in the state during the recent membership competition.
By getting up at quarter to six on Friday morning we made an early plane to Sarasota, where at 8:30 my uncle, David Gray, was waiting for us at the airport. I found that one of the Nottingham scholars who has been traveling around the country just happened to arrive in Sarasota, Friday, and was spending a couple of nights with Mr. Gray. He seems to feel his trip to this country has been most rewarding. These scholarships, given by the city of Nottingham in memory of my husband every year since 1948, bring men and women who have begun their business careers on a trip throughout our country. They usually make contacts with business associates, but their primary object is to make friends in the United States.
Mr. Butt, the present scholar, has only flown twice in his travels; all the rest of the time he has traveled by bus in order to see the country better. I think he is still a little dizzy from the amount he has seen, but he has observed a great deal and apparently enjoyed it. The South is still difficult for him to understand. He says that twice, "innocently," he has found himself using what are supposed to be non-segregated facilities in interstate commerce. There are no longer any signs over the doors: black or white. But in each case he was firmly guided in the right direction and found himself, as he put it, "segregated" against his will. I explained to him that it was one thing for the law to be complied with formally, but quite another to break down the emotional reactions of people built over many long years.
In the afternoon we were driven to St. Petersburg, where my first activity was to visit the new factory established through Henry Viscardi's efforts and called, like the one on Long Island, Ability, Inc. After attending the dedication ceremonies, which took place on the lawn, I was shown the layout where handicapped people are already busily at work earning their living in new occupations which are needed in this neighborhood. Also in operation is the training school where people learn skills which various factories of the neighborhood need. A small gymnasium, a doctor's office, a small cafeteria and everything else is on one floor so that wheel chairs can move around with ease. In charge of one department is a young man who caught polio in the Pacific during World War II and was at Warm Springs. Another man who is head of a department lost an arm and leg and was a prisoner of war in Germany. I am sure this will develop, as Mr. Viscardi hopes it will, not only to benefit the people of St. Petersburg but to serve as an example which will be followed by other parts of the state.
Mr. Viscardi has just come back from a trip to Europe, where Abilities, Inc. has been established in a number of countries. Here is a man who has turned his own disability to the benefit of mankind and it is a heartening thing to see his work successful and recognized, bringing benefits to so many who like him have had to overcome physical handicaps.
I did a short radio interview while I was in the factory and then went to the home of our U.N. state president, Mrs. John Sutcliffe, where I met the press and had an early dinner. Later we went to the outdoor meeting for the U.N.'s 16th birthday. Again I felt that people had come out because they were really interested in the United Nations and wanted to do what they could to help meet the problems facing the U.N. and the United States today.
As usual, I was asked if I would contemplate retiring to beautiful Florida. I am afraid I always disappoint my questioners because I prefer the changing scene in New York to the much milder changes that come about in the state of Florida. Actually the month of October seems to have been a beautiful one both in Florida and in New York, so at the present moment I don't think there is the temptation there might be when the first snowstorms overtake us.