JANUARY 26, 1962
NEW YORK—Among the many people who send me plans for possible better understanding with Russia and avoidance of a nuclear war is a gentleman named Mr. Stephen D. James. He can be reached through P.O. Box 2737, Grand Central Station, and he invites anyone who has an idea as to how to preserve the peace of the world to send it to him.
He has a plan of his own, which I think is rather impractical but, nevertheless, I am passing it along because it shows how very anxious certain people are to preserve the peace in our country. Here is a somewhat cut-down version of it:
"In 1946 Albert Einstein stated, 'There is no foreseeable defense against atomic bombs. Scientists don't even know of any field which promises any hope of adequate defense.' The wisdom of this statement seems even more valid today.
"It is clear that a solution must be sought outside science. There is little time for speculation. Any answer with even the remotest possibility of halting this seemingly irreversible movement toward nuclear disaster must be tried. It is an effort that is the least we should demand....we who insist upon an absolute right to one basic freedom that must now take precedence over all the others—the freedom to live!
"I propose, as one major step toward peace on the human level, an exchange of Peace Hostages with Russia and other nuclear and potential nuclear powers.
"The Peace Hostage exchange should be on a massive basis—not mere token trades as in the case of cultural organizations. Exchanges should be made at all levels of society for periods ranging from six months to two years or more. The first should be made at the very top.
"Let President Kennedy seek a volunteer from among his brothers and sisters. Let one of them take his or her family to Russia in exchange for the family of one of Khrushchev's children. Let our Secretary of State, other Cabinet members, Congressmen, governors, mayors and civil servants do the same. Likewise, let our industrialists, businessmen, scientists, teachers, clerical and factory workers make similar exchanges. In short, let us put thousands from each American state and stratum of society in the society and provinces of other nuclear and potential nuclear powers.
"During every war we hear it wishfully said: 'Let our leaders meet in battle in the place of our people. They'll soon put an end to war!' The Peace Hostage Program is a practical translation of that naive, but hopeful, dream of directly involving our leaders in actions that grow out of their decisions....
"The side benefits of a Peace Hostage Program will be a broader than mere deterrent influence. Correspondence between those at home and abroad and regular press coverage of Peace Hostage activities will further extend understanding. Each side is likely to act far more wisely in its political decisions, once informed of the realities of the other side. This would be especially true of our releasable government officials.
"The most important effect of the Peace Hostage Program, which would ultimately involve millions of people, is the meaning it will give to coexistence. The differences in our societies may well be resolved on a gradual basis. For, it is clear that during the past few decades we have tended more in the direction of socialism, while the Communist nations have moved somewhat more toward our position.
"Perhaps a genuine compromise society could evolve out of a continuous interchange of peace-seeking people. Differences, in short, which without communication cannot be resolved except by insane nuclear destruction, might be settled by time and reason."
I am not suggesting seriously that anyone volunteer for these exchanges to live in the Soviet Union for six months or more, because I would not be willing to do this myself. But Mr. James is urging that anyone send in ideas that can promote peace in the world no matter how ridiculous they may seem, and this is not such a bad idea.
I feel that getting to know each other as individuals is one of the really valuable ways to promote peace. I think, for instance, that it was both courteous and wise for President and Mrs. Kennedy to have invited Mr. Khrushchev's daughter and son-in-law to lunch with them. The Presidential interview with Mr. Khrushchev's son-in-law was the first one printed as it was given, and the personal contact of the two men may have increasing value in reducing tensions which seem in any case to be waning a little at the present time.