This is a very nice welcome-home party. I am certainly very glad to get back again.
As a matter of fact, as you know, I have only been here for about forty-eight hours since last fall, and in the meantime I made a good many voyages into a good many places. When I got back on Sunday, one of my neighbors gave me a very great shock. He came up, and shook hands, and looked at me and said, "My, how fleshy you have got." And then to cap the climax one of these people--special writers--I think they call them Columnists or something like that-- made the assertion, and of course anything that you see in the paper in categorical form must be true, that I put on twelve pounds. Well, I resent it. But of course you cannot quarrel with the press. You all know that. He just added a little figure one in front of the true gain. I did gain two pounds, and I came up here with the perfectly serious intention of taking off five. But there is a certain quality to Dutchess County milk and my mother's cooking, and the air that you breathe; I do not believe I am going to make good my objective.
I have had,
since Congress went home, an exceedingly interesting trip. I did the queer
and strange thing of going almost to the Equator in July. As a matter of
fact, just between ourselves, I went to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands,
Cartagena, and Colombia, and the Canal Zone and Cocos Island, which is only
a few degrees from the Equator, and Hawaii, and I never felt the heat until
I got back in Northern Montana, up next to the Canadian border. It was a
very wonderful trip. It took me to a lot of places I had not seen before.
It took me to a number of territories and dependencies of the United States
which I had wanted to see because of the fact that you and I as Americans
are responsible for them. The people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,
and the Canal Zone and Hawaii, no matter what their racial origin may have
been, are still our fellow citizens, and as such we have a very distinct
responsibility for them as long as the American flag floats over them. So I
wanted to see at first hand what some of their problems were; to see
whether this great Nation of ours was doing the right thing by these fellow
Americans of ours.
And then, on the way back, coming across the continent, I had the opportunity of seeing a number of very large public works which had been undertaken, partly to relieve the unemployment of the present time, but equally to develop great regions of our country in the future for the benefit of future Americans.
Of course you have heard me before--you have heard me very often--talk about things growing up like Topsy. Things have grown up like Topsy in a great many places in the country and we are paying the penalty today. The simplest illustration, quite aside from the problem of this year's drought, is the fact, as you and I know, that a great deal of land that ought never to have been cultivated was taken up by people from the East and from the Middle West and put into cultivation. And we are engaged as a Nation in undoing mistakes of the past, rectifying them so that in the future we shall not be paying so much of a penalty for those mistakes as we are paying today.
In crossing the continent I always think about the people who went there--went out West--and I often wonder whether we people back home realize our responsibility. I think it was Dr. Poucher here today who first dug out the facts--Dr. Poucher or Miss Helen Reynolds. When I was a small boy I used to go hunting up in the town of Clinton, which is not far from here as you know, and when I was a boy people used to talk about a certain section north of the town of Clinton around Brown's Pond they called "Kansas." Nobody ever knew why it was called Kansas, but it was called Kansas locally. We dug into the facts, tried to look up the origin of the name and finally the best solution of the problem seemed to be this: That somewhere around 1850, when the State of Kansas--I guess it was not even a State then, just a territory that had been opened for the white man--was being developed by railroads that were being pushed across the prairie, the railroads sent agents back here through the older, settled parts of the country to get people to go out there. I take it that right here in our county there are a good many acres of what we might call "marginal land" that were settled by the Dutch and English and Scotch and Irish that ought never to have been settled, and in those days there were not only marginal lands in the county but marginal families.
This agent went to Poughkeepsie--and it all came out in the papers in Poughkeepsie in the period--and with a horse and buggy he went out through the town and county. He got up into the town of Clinton. He had what you and I would call prospectuses today about this far land of Kansas, and he persuaded about six or eight families north of Brown's Pond to accept his offer, and to get on an emigrant train which was to leave a week later from Poughkeepsie. They only had a week to move but these neighbors of ours of nearly a hundred years ago just closed up house and closed up the barn and went. They were behind in their taxes, probably. They were poor. They did not see any future living up here in the town of Clinton, so they decided they would move out to the new prairie land. So they went down to Poughkeepsie and got on the emigrant train and disappeared out of our county. Possibly they have kin who still live here.
And it is an interesting fact that when I go through the United States, west of the Mississippi, there is hardly a State that I go into on any trip, that somebody does not come up to me and say, "Governor," or "Mr. President, do you know a family back in Dutchess County named so-and-so?" And I say, "Why, yes, I have heard the name." And then they say, "Why, she was my grandmother" or "He was my grandfather." And they ask, "Do you know what part of Dutchess County they lived in?" Of course I do not know where grandpa had lived in Dutchess County seventy-five years ago.
But there are people from this county all over the United States, especially out through the Middle West and Far West and they have a certain amount of pride of ancestry and they are asking today, trying to find out something about grandmother and grandfather and great-grandmother, wanting to know something about the place they came from.
I think I have spoken to you of this before, but it is always worth repeating-- the comparison that Lord Bryce, the historian who was Ambassador in Washington twenty or thirty years ago, used to make between the United States and Europe. He pointed out that we here have come from all kinds of stock, all kinds of Nations in Europe, that most of us here have half a dozen different racial strains in us-- and yet here we are, all Americans living in a land over three thousand miles one way and two thousand the other, talking the same language and thinking essentially along the same lines. It is a very thrilling thing.
Lord Bryce would express the thought: "You are singularly blessed in America, because when there are new things to be done you have--not a melting pot--but a trying-out system through the different States. You do not have to do new things all over the country at the same time except in crises and emergencies, and when you people have crises and emergencies you seem to get together and keep together very well until the crisis or emergency is past. You can try out experiments to solve some one economic problem or another, to see if they work, or compare them with other similar experiments in other parts of the same country and gradually work out the solution of problems that are cropping up every day."
And so while on the surface of things this country around here, Dutchess County, looks fine, looks the way we want it to look--no drought, pretty good crops--while on the surface things are in better shape than they have been in a good long time, I hope very much, and I know you will not mind my saying this, that the Home Club will have more and more meetings, and have people come to address those meetings who will tell the truth about conditions and about the methods that are being used to try to solve those conditions. The more we do that, the more we shall realize that if a farm family is on the verge of starvation in North Dakota, we people in the town of Hyde Park are helping to pay to keep that family from actual starvation; if we have made mistakes in the settling of the country in the past, we in the town of Hyde Park have to pay to correct those mistakes. In other words, we should realize that we have a definite stake in the whole country, not merely the spiritual side of it, or the social side of it, or the patriotic side, but the actual financial side of it. We people in the town of Hyde Park, no matter whether we like it or not, are paying, and will have to pay, for the correction of mistakes that were made in other parts of the country in the past, and will have to pay to get things better.
Most of us, the great majority, see the country as a whole, see that unless we help to raise other people up, they are going to drag us down.
Most of us are very willing to bear our share and to work for the attainment of the national objective.
By the way, I did not know I was going to make an address until Moses told me so about five minutes ago, but I have been going on delivering not an address but a sermon.
I do wish that everybody in this country had a chance to know every part of the country. I am very proud of the country and very proud of the way we are realizing our national responsibilities. I am very certain that the good people of our town will be willing to go along and cooperate in a big program that has nothing to do with party and nothing to do with section, which is merely trying to be square to all Republicans and Democrats and Socialists, and everybody else, no matter what they call themselves, no matter to which party or church they belong.
I am glad to
see you all, glad to be back, and sorry that Congress will probably be in
session again in the spring, but I do hope that I shall be able to stay
here for another month, and if possible, violate all precedents by taking
off a few pounds.