DECEMBER 13, 1961
LOS ANGELES—Now that I am back on the West Coast, the John Birch Society is again brought to my attention.
In a university group Monday night, one gentleman asked me: "What is the matter with our people that they fall for such stupid propaganda?" The answer, I am afraid, lies in the fact that we like the excitement of following an "ism" for a short time. We do not take these movements seriously and always, in the end, straighten ourselves out about them.
On my way out here I read an article in the New York Times on how Pasadena, Calif., had rid itself of Birchites. It took only the courage of one newspaper and its editor, 85 years old, who had run the newspaper for 51 years.
The editor wrote a front-page editorial on what he thought of Robert Welch and the Birch Society, backing it up with a little plain information. His courage drew all the moderates and liberals to his side, and before anyone realized it, the Birch Society had lost its adherents there. So it can be done even on the West Coast.
This extreme-right hysteria has not yet touched San Jose Junior College, a school with 4,000 in the day session and 4,500 in night classes, where I spoke Monday night. And I think the students were shocked at the thought that they might be carried away and join the Junior Birchites group.
There are 100 foreign students in the college. While 60 to 70 percent of the student body transfers to a four-year college on finishing studies at San Jose, others are trained for such skills as nursing, hospital technicians and beauty parlor operators. But they do get some general education along the way, which seems to be a good idea particularly in these days when our workers are asking for more and more hours of leisure.
I notice the electrical workers in New York are asking for a 20-hour week. It is hard enough now to get any electrical work done, and I suppose this will make it even harder.
But what concerns me most is the way the free time will be spent. The President has warned that we are becoming a nation of spectators rather than partakers. If our added leisure means watching baseball and football on television, with no real occupation in which we put our own brains and energies to work, then I must join the President in his exhortation to begin to do things, not just watch things being done.
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Another interesting article in the Times was one written by Chester Bowles on our position in the world. He made a point that is valuable to remember, namely, that we should not always expect everyone to be grateful for what we do for them.
He reminded us that after we had won our freedom from Great Britain, it was her supremacy in Europe and the keeping of peace in the world by her fleet that made it possible for us to develop unmolested in the New World. Yet, politician after politician could not get elected without speaking strongly against Britain, the "tyrannical country" from which we had freed ourselves with such courage and valor.
So is it astonishing that today countries that have freed themselves from foreign rule should be most anxious not to fall under economic domination? While they need help from us, and perhaps from the Russians as well, we should not expect that their politicians will not warn them against us, for in the long run they may be no less afraid of us than of the Soviet Union.
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One thing we should do as a people is to learn about the other countries of the world and study the United Nations and its machinery. There is a book by Edna Epstein, wife of a Canadian member of the Secretariat, which she has just brought up to date and is called "The First Book of the United Nations." It is designed to meet the needs of beginners, whether adults or children, who want to know about the U.N.
I hope everyone will realize how important this organization is to us and will take the opportunity to learn all they can about the central agency and all of its specialized groups and other activities.