JUNE 8, 1962
NEW YORK—On Monday last I spoke at the commencement exercises of Atlanta University. When I left New York I was aware of the great tragedy that had befallen the city of Atlanta through the loss of life of so many of its cultural leaders in the airplane accident in France, but the minute I was greeted at the airport I realized how much more poignantly this sorrow was felt by the Atlantans. Everyone to whom I spoke lost either a relative or a friend.
This was a group of citizens who had stood for the development of arts, letters and sciences in Atlanta. They did the work that brought concerts, opera and the theatre to Atlanta. They were working on their big objective: the proposed center for the performing arts.
Now, who would take their places? As one person said to me, "We all know that nobody is indispensable, but some of us feel that to find replacements is going to be a practical impossibility."
The city was in mourning, and the mayor had sped to Paris to help in the gruesome task of identification. At the home of the president of the university, Dr. Rufus Clement, we were greeted by the mayor emeritus, but he soon left us to go to a meeting of the Arts Club to consider a suitable memorial to those who lost their lives in the accident.
While I was speaking at the main university, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller was speaking at the Negro women's college which is part of the university. This is called Spelman College in honor of the Spelman Foundation which has done so much for the school. The following morning we came back to New York on the same plane, and a fellow passenger was Gen. Mark Clark.
In spite of the anxiety to be on time, which I am sure all of us felt, we were nearly a half-hour late, and I tried to slip out behind the Governor's party and dash to the baggage claims quarter. One of the airline officials, however, stopped me and took my check to claim my baggage, for which I was grateful. Another one, in passing, with a twinkle in his eye said: "What do you mean, Mrs. Roosevelt, traveling with all these Republicans?" At least, in New York we could smile again.
I have just received a letter taking me to task for not having emphasized that our economy was facing a number of troubles and that the stock market perhaps was reflecting some of these troubles.
In my column I did not mean to imply that we had no economic problems, but I do not think that those we do have are the kind that would justify the pattern produced in the stock market.
Everyone must know that we have to face a changing economic situation. It has not as yet been carefully spelled out for us, and it may well be that the Administration will be none too anxious to do this, since it is never popular to be faced with disagreeable facts. Most of us know without being told that automation is thrusting us into the position where we must do more planning or we will have tremendous unemployment.
Most of us know that our economy has not grown at the rate achieved by some of the European countries. And this is going to require a changed philosophy and understanding on the part of our industrialists. Why should steel, for instance, only produce to 60 percent of capacity? I need a better answer to that question than I have seen given anywhere so far.
But the thing that makes it possible to reassure a country is the fact that our people are confident. We know we can do what must be done. We have been through no years of depression comparable to the `thirties'. We have had no breadlines, no men selling apples on the streets. We need to produce in greater quantities and employ more people and open up new markets.
This last point is tied to our foreign aid and requires careful study and understanding, for only as the developing nations produce the things we need and thereby earn the money to buy our finished products will we face the long-range problems. Labor's 35-hour week and other so-called remedies that look only to the immediate needs of the moment cannot fundamentally change these long-range problems. This is not to say that the time will not come when we will work only 35 hours a week. That rests with automation, perhaps, but just at present fundamental answers to the problem have not been offered by labor or industry, and I hope they will soon be put before us.