NOVEMBER 22, 1961
HYDE PARK—Everyone will join in sympathy for Gov. and Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller in their anxiety over their youngest son. By the time this column is published I hope the Governor's trip with his daughter will be rewarded by a reunion with his son. It is a most anxious trip and all one can do is pray that this young life with so much promise may be saved.
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I have a letter from an Englishwoman, whom I do not know, but I shall copy here a portion of it because her point of view is one shared by many Europeans and one to which we in this country should give some attention.
She starts by speaking of her relatives here, the beauty of our country, the people she has known and liked, and then she writes:
"But, oh, the dreadful publicity that your country gets abroad. The BBC interviews with the folk who are all in favor of war, the elaborate fallout shelters with guns to defend them against fellow Americans, the `survival' film company! All these we hear about and it really seems as though America is set on a war and that so long as she has enough shelters and can look after her own the rest of us can go hang.
"As our government has said, it would dislocate our economy too much to provide such shelters here, and so how can the governments of the poor, backward lands, who cannot even get enough to eat, hope to shelter their people from fallout?
"Believe me, Mrs. Roosevelt, that is how things look to other nations and that is why, horrified as we all are by Russian tests, we can nevertheless see something of their point of view. They have no shelters either, so can it be they who are seeking a war . . . .
"I do find a very large measure of criticism here and matters are not helped when the U.S. seems to precipitate incidents in Berlin by refusing to show passes."
One, of course, can answer everything she says, but I quote it because it is a good example of the kind of letters that are coming to me and others from Europe.
There is a feeling that we are so rich that we think we can provide ourselves with shelters even in a nuclear war. Of course, most of us know quite well that if a nuclear war comes shelters—even if our government works out a feasible program—would save comparatively few lives. And whether survivors would find the world still worth living in is a question none of us can answer.
We, unfortunately, have the responsibility of being the chief negotiators with Mr. Khrushchev. For some strange reason the world—not only of Europe but of Asia and Africa—seems to be less afraid of the Soviet threat in spite of all the evidence that the Russians actually prepare for war and threaten it more than we do. We only respond to their threats. On the other hand, however, because of our power in the past we do have installations all over the world which are designed to be purely defensive. But, when the rest of the world believes that the Soviet attitude is largely in response to our greater threat, then we have the problem of convincing them of the true picture.
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I have just received a telegram urging that we turn over to the United Nations the control of all atomic weapons and that we make a demonstration on our own Thanksgiving Day by fasting and prayer to show our earnest desire for a peaceful world. I know only too well how much thought has been given to this suggestion in the past and what careful negotiation it will require, so I have not responded favorably to any suggested action on the part of the public.
But, judging from the mail that is reaching me, there is a great desire on the part of the people to do something tangible for the cause of peace. What that can be, only our government can decide. However, I feel very sure that any suggestion made to the American people that would help to convince the world of our sincere desire for peace would meet with a warm response from the great majority in our nation.
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I had the pleasure of seeing the Philippine Dance Company perform the other night in its one-day stopover in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was a most colorful and charming entertainment. Called the Bayanihan, which is a Tagalog word that means "working together," the performance is not spectacular, but it is so gracious and breath-taking that I hope all who get the chance around the country will go to see it.