National Affairs: President Admits Mistake

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At the start of the New Deal, President Roosevelt announced that he would admit his own mistakes and correct them. Last week, just eight years, two inaugurals and two months later (a total of 2,986 days) he announced for the first time that he had found one.

Correspondents were startled. Midway in his press conference, with no change of voice or expression, the President picked up a memorandum and said there was one thing more. The reporters, expecting an announcement of the occupation of Martinique, or the declaration of a national emergency, sucked in their breath. They let it out again when they heard the President say that in 1942 Thanksgiving would be changed back to the traditional date, the last Thursday in November.

Nobody rushed for the telephone. But seasoned old Pundit Mark Sullivan grasped the full historic significance of the change: though some New Deal experiments had been killed by Congress, and a few had been invalidated by the courts, this was the first one to be formally renounced. The President made it clear that he had not been responsible for the mistake in the first place. Retail merchants had wanted the date of Thanksgiving set a week ahead to lengthen the shopping season before Christmas; the expected boon to trade had not materialized; the changed date had been an experiment and the experiment had not worked. But at this point, said Mr. Sullivan, "there was encountered an often-ignored condition, the tendency of mistakes to take root and become permanent. Manufacturers of calendars print their wares a year ahead. Such of them as are not obstinately hostile to innovation had printed Mr. Roosevelt's date for Thanksgiving in their calendars for 1941."