Jan. 17, 1957, was blustery in the old auditorium, radiators banging. On stage was perhaps the most famous woman in America, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
For her speech (“Is America Facing World Leadership?”) she lectured on economic
aid, the United Nations, and peace.
As chair of the Public Programs Series, Professor Paul W. Keller ’35 negotiated the
visit, paying a $1,000 fee to The Leigh Bureau of Lectures and Entertainments.
Roosevelt told the capacity audience she was unimpressed with the “Eisenhower
Doctrine” for the Middle East, calling it an extension of the “Truman Doctrine” to
meet Middle East armed aggression with force. She said that while channeling
economic aid through the United Nations might bolster confidence in the
recipient countries, Congress would not accept such an indirect route for
American taxpayer money.
“The United States has supported the United Nations very well, but of course it’s
practical to use our own diplomatic machinery when possible,” said Mrs.
Roosevelt, who was a delegate to the U.N. General Assembly from 1945 to 1952.
Of course, she talked of peace at the home of the nation’s oldest peace studies
program: “Our chances for peace are fairly good, if we use the United Nations
and if the leadership in the U.N. is wise. Nobody wants war and when nobody
wants war, it is a good thing.”
Shoulder-to-shoulder with northeast Indiana media was Mary Bitting ’59x
Castle, reporter for The Oak Leaves.
While initially to stay in a new hotel in town, construction was delayed and Mrs.
Roosevelt became the first “notable guest” at the home of new President A.
Blair Helman and MC First Lady Pat Helman. (Tall Oaks did not open until 1970.)
“She arrived in a bedraggled state, sporting knee socks and tennis shoes …,”
recalled Mrs. Helman. “I showed her to the guest bedroom up the long flight of
stairs, and apologized because she would be sharing the bathroom with our
Alas, Mrs. Helman had forgotten to warn Mrs. Roosevelt that the bathroom
door was persnickety. “Pretty soon, I heard a frantic, high voice saying over and
over, “Help me, somebody please help me!”
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