Dinner at the White House/Secret Session Speeches
SIMON AND SCHUSTER
WHEN’ Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt read Louis Adamic’s Two-Way Passage. she was so impressed by it that she invited Mr. and Mrs. Adamic to dine at the White House with the President and Winston Churchill. There he would have the opportunity to propound to the two statesmen his thesis that when Hitler had been beaten, the United States ought, to send to the liberated countries American citizens whose forebears had come from those countries. They would assist the people to overcome their difficulties, and keep “undesirable” groups from taking over.
Dinner at the White House tells what happened around the dinner table. It is the book of a generous, intelligent, warm-hearted man, and it is filled with tidbits of detail concerning the great. Yet it is in dubious taste, often unreasonably bitter, and frequently naïve. Mr. Churchill did not think well of the author’s thesis, Mr. Roosevelt, according to Adamic, was seduced by Churchill into a reactionary foreign policy by the latter’s harping on the dangers of Soviet Russia to the democratic world — one more demonstration that the United States is the farmer’s innocent daughter and Britain the traveling salesman.
The latter half of the book is a series of bitter reflections — Afterthoughts 1942-1945 — upon our foreign policy. But since few of us ever dine at the White House, most readers perhaps will be interested largely in Mr. Adamic s excellent account of what went on around the table as: “ Fala had come from somewhere. I thought: Now the picture is complete. The scottie sniffed at my shoes . . .
then sat back on his haunches. ‘ You pass,’ F.D.R. said to me, laughing. ‘Have you a dog?’ ‘Two,’ I said. ‘What kind?' Just mutts. But we think they’re rather wonderful.’ ‘Oh, I’m sure they are,’ the President said.”
Secret Session Speeches contains five speeches made by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons during the war. (Two have been published here by Life.) They were compiled by Charles Eade, editor of the London Sunday Dispatch and a friend of Mr. Churchill.
There is no full record of the speech that Churchill made to the House in June, 1940, but his notes are set forth in this volume and they illuminate the extraordinary character of Britain’s great war leader: “Learn to get used to it. (Enemy bombings.) Eels get used to skinning. Surprise if mercy shown by Germany. Leap at his (the enemy’s) throat and keep the grip until the life is out of him. It may well be our fine Armies have not said goodbye to the Continent of Europe. Attitude of United States. Nothing will stir them like fighting in England. ... I cannot doubt the whole English-speaking world will be in line together.”
Never sparing the “ugly realities” of England’s plight during her darkest days, these are the speeches of a man with an extraordinary capacity for marshaling facts, a wide knowledge of warfare and history, a superb command of the language of which he has made himself a master, the toughness of a Tory, old style, and that eloquence which moves men to rise superior to themselves. A valuable contribution to history, the speeches make exciting reading — even for a people like ourselves who do not want to hear about the war any more.
DAVID L. COHN