DECEMBER 2, 1943
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—We came down on the Congressional from New York City yesterday afternoon. I have a keen appreciation of comfortable trains and in this country we certainly do a remarkable job. I think, from a luxury standpoint, the public is inordinately spoiled. When you go on a long Western trip, you are, perhaps, a little more spoiled than in the East, so far as physical comfort goes.
Nevertheless, for certain occupations, I do not recommend our best and fastest trains. If you are trying to take shorthand dictation, you would prefer a slightly slower train. I watched Miss Thompson across the table yesterday as she tried to take the answers to several rather difficult letters, and finally I dictated an article. I cannot help wondering what will come out of the typewriter today. Unless she remembers word for word what I said, I am sure the little hooks and symbols will not resemble anything she has ever seen before.
This morning I showed my press conference the film of the Southwest Pacific trip and attended a lunch of the Federal Bar Association, where I spoke about the trip. I confess that talking to a large group of government lawyers, plus a number of judges, was rather terrifying, but they were more than kind. Many of them came up later to tell me that they have a special interest in that part of the world just now, and that I had given them a picture which made them feel they could write and say: "Now we know more about what you are doing and what your surroundings are like."
Last night I read "Assignment, U.S.A.," by Selden Menefee. To get an idea of the thinking going on in this nation, he travelled 15,000 miles and visited 41 states. I think it would be a help to every one of us to read his report. The bit on Washington, D.C., renewed the sense of discouragement which I often have about this District in which the national government has its home.
People cannot vote here because, originally, there was a fear that government employees might be controlled and in turn control the people of the country. Now they are but a drop in the bucket of voters and the fact that here is a big city in which people are disenfranchised, means that its government is not really responsive to the citizens. The Commissioners have limits set to their powers.
The District Appropriations Committee in the House, and the House and Senate District Committees have constituents in other parts of the country. They are very busy men and whatever happens it is so easy to shift responsibility from one person to another, or from one group to another, that many things are neglected or never taken up. The results can be found in reports such as the one in this book, and I commend it to the consideration of the people of the country.