DECEMBER 12, 1959
NEW YORK—What an extraordinary visit those two hours in Afghanistan must have been for President Eisenhower the other day!
The President of the most modern country in the world conferred with the king and his nephew of a country which, in many ways, is probably as lacking in modern ideas and modern techniques as any country in the world.
I have been in a border country—Samarkand—but that at least had already experienced some Russian influence and is, in some ways, fairly modern. But the tribesmen who were brought in to throw confetti at our President were probably living just as their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years past. They must have looked on the first automobile and first airplane that they had ever seen with complete bewilderment.
Flying into India from Afghanistan must have seemed a bit shocking to the President, for by comparison New Delhi is very modern. The airplane can take one in a few hours from scenes tied to the past into scenes of today, just as it can change one's time table and expose one to different climates in a very short period of time.
If the President is able to get about India he will see strange sights there and he will come back home with an understanding of poverty and disease which, perhaps, no one can imagine until he actually visits some of these areas of the world.
As I wrote the other day, I was in Baltimore for a regional meeting of the American Association for the United Nations, and I always find Baltimore a very charming city. It has kept the flavor and dignity of an old Southern city.
The influence of Europe is quite prevalent there, I think, and I was amused to find that the very remarkable collection of modern French art given to the museum was made by two old Baltimore spinsters who lived to be over 70. One of these women was a doctor and, I gather, she was somewhat of a character who dominated her sister until she died. Then the sister came into her own and completed the art collection, and also was considered quite a character in certain circles.
Baltimore is a place where one can be an individual and live an individual's life, and I always find it a charming place to visit.
On Wednesday evening I addressed a meeting of some 1,200 people who were gathered in one of the big high school auditoriums. Human rights was my subject, since Human Rights Day was so close at hand. But since we had been gathered for a membership meeting for the Maryland Association, Mr. Bob Walsh made an appeal for members that was one of the best presentations I have ever heard.
Maryland has done very good work among its young people, both of high school age and college age, and there were quite a number of young people in attendance. The Catonsville High School band played a number of selections.
On Thursday morning I drove over to Washington, from where I was taking a plane to St. Louis at one o'clock. The rest of the staff, with Mr. Clark Eichelberger, attended the Thursday morning meetings and a luncheon, after which the meeting formally ended.
Getting to Washington a little early I was able to call on my new granddaughter, Laura Delano Roosevelt. Of course, she will not remember this initial visit, but even though this is my 20th grandchild I find it very exciting to greet a new member of the family. Little Laura will be younger than some of my great-grandchildren, which I'm sure will call for a great deal of explanation someday, for children always want to know the exact relationship of everyone around them.
The meeting in St. Louis was a celebration for Human Rights Day, but I managed to catch an 11:30 p.m. plane back to New York. After a very early morning arrival and a few hours' sleep, I sat down to my desk with its usual accumulation of mail. Even to be gone for two days means quite an overwhelming prospect on one's return.