NOVEMBER 17, 1961
NEW YORK—In a day or two the United Nations will hold ceremonies to dedicate a new library to the memory of the late Secretary–General Dag Hammarskjold. There undoubtedly will be many books written about this very remarkable man. I was talking to one of his aides the other night who said the wonderful thing about Dr. Hammarskjold was that he always felt confident he could do things no matter how difficult the situation might be. He always felt he knew the answers, and he would set to work to try to bring them about.
The first authentic biography to be written is called "Dag Hammarskjold, Custodian of the Brush-Fire Peace" by Joseph P. Lash. It went on sale November 16 in the bookstores, and it is a distinguished piece of writing.
Mr. Lash had the cooperation and acquiescence of the Secretary–General and he went to Sweden to meet the Secretary General's friends and relatives. He saw the places where he had grown up, visited the spots where he loved to relax and enjoy the beauty of his native country.
Like many great people, Dr. Hammarskjold was extremely versatile, and it was characteristic that he carried with him on his last journey only a life of Christ written by a Frenchman in French, and this book was found at the site of the wrecked plane and inside it was folded his oath of office. The biography by Mr. Lash makes one feel that the Secretary–General carried with him the things he felt most deeply about, and that he died with them in mind.
This is a fitting book, I think, to be the first one available to people because it gives a very sympathetic and interesting, as well as easily readable, account of this man and his work. Others will bring out in the future different phases which particularly impressed other writers and observers, but this will remain the best and most readable overall account, explaining a complicated personality to the people of the world.
As I am on the subject of books today, I would like to mention a perfectly delightful children's book, with charming illustrations, called "James and the Giant Peach," sent to me by the author, Mr. Roald Dahl, an Englishman. While the fantasy of the story will appeal to any child, I think this English writer gives us in America a little gentle prodding for what he considers our overpreparation for the dangers of war.
This leads me to a serious subject, indicated to me in many letters, namely, "Why don't we do something on a broad front which will be an effort to prevent war, rather than talk about shelters; seemingly abandoning the thought that we may be able to build a peaceful world?"
I think people who say this are not giving careful attention to different programs that President Kennedy is announcing. For instance, meeting one's problems at home is one of the important answers to Mr. Khrushchev's drive, which is based on the fact that he considers the Communists are going to take over the world.
Our President has just set up a panel of 23 members to study the question of finding jobs for a million young people in the 16-to-21 bracket. These are mainly young people who have not gone to college and have not prepared themselves in any particular skill. They must be given an opportunity to learn skills or given unskilled jobs.
This is one of the first approaches to the unemployment problem. Though it does not yet tackle the fundamental problem of automation and its full implications, as well as the full use of our capacity for full production which is really the only way to meet the basic unemployment problem, still it will face up to the problem of our most sensitive group. This group, of course, is the young people who will deteriorate faster than any other group if solutions cannot be found for their future activities.
Shortly there will be an announcement in another field which affects the whole world. I feel sure that before long we are going to begin to get the reaction to the work initiated through the Peace Corps. If I am not mistaken, this work is going to be of value to us in understanding world problems. I think it will also convince many people in other areas of the world of the real goodwill of the Americans and of our complete lack of desire for control in the affairs of other nations.
Here, then, are important moves which the President has initiated to serve the cause of peace in the world. He has an obligation to prepare for any eventuality, and we have an obligation to meet the challenge which he may put to us in any field. But I think if people will watch the President's decisions they will begin to feel that he is moving not on any military front alone but on the fronts which look toward building a peaceful world.