The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > Audio Materials
Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches
Speech from Indianapolis
August 20, 1937
Speech from Indianapolis, Indiana, James Roosevelt introduces ER, ER's remarks are on the role of women and youth in politics, and political education
The National Broadcasting Company presents a program from Cadle Tabernacle Indianapolis, Indiana in connection with the National Convention of the Young Democratic Clubs of America which is now in progress. The temporary chairman of the convention is Mr. James Roosevelt, who will introduce, for the broadcast portion of the convention, his mother, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the First Lady of the land. We take you now to the speaker's platform.
Ladies and gentlemen and young democrats, I have now the privilege of doing something that I have never been allowed to do before in the whole of my life. I have the privilege of introducing to you a lady who I can truthfully say knows all about young democrats because she has had five of them herself. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my mother, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Members of the Young Democratic Clubs, ladies and gentlemen I am so glad to know that I have five young democrats because they argue so often over the policies of the Democratic Party that I am glad to have them firmly labeled by one of them. You know I think that is one of the valuable things that a family can do, that habit of talking about public affairs together. You need never be dull in the family circle if you really make it a practice to discuss the things that are happening in the world. It makes for quite violent arguments at times but it is good for young and old. Now as I am talking to young democrats, before I really begin, though I know that my husband has sent a letter to you, I think he would like me to bring you his greeting because he is very much interested, as I am, in young democrats. We know that the future is in their hands. Recently I was told of a man who came to this country from the other side of the water to find out what methods we use in interesting young people in our political parties. He came to study what we did in this country in the various parties and I was told that he decided that we did very little. I felt a little disturbed but I feel a lot better after seeing this convention. However, he was asked what was done which he considered most affective to interest young people in questions of government in his country and his answer was that he found an educational program which really allowed young people to study the policies of the party to which they belonged to take an active part in following out the development of those policies was the most effective way, in his opinion, to keep their interest. Now as many of you know when the women came in as an active part of our political life many of them were very timid. They felt that they knew very little about politics and so in the democratic and the Republican Party women's divisions were set up. And I know little about what happens in other parties but in my own I follow with a great deal of interest what the democratic women have done, nationally and in the states very often, in developing an educational program. They have given the women that necessary confidence in themselves which they naturally lacked because they were new. But at the same time they have concentrated on really having the women understand what it was that their party stood for what it was that their party was fighting for. And the digest which is now having a campaign which is published by the women's division has I think become one of the really valuable educational means by which the women have made themselves felt nationally and in the states. Now my hope is that young democrats are going to function together just as they function here. That in the future there will be no division between men and women in our political parties but that we will function as people, as members of a party. But I hope that we will continue an educational program in all of our clubs because I think it very necessary that we should really know what it is that we believe in, what the objectives are that we are striving for. Now I think that we will want to know what are the ways in which we can really function as good citizens. Many of you who are here today are interested enough to take an active part in your clubs. Many of you are not going to be able to become candidates for office, holders of office, but you are going to be able in your communities to form public opinion and it is public opinion in a democracy which counts. Therefore, you ought to know how to get knowledge, how to get at the truth. The first thing of course is to learn to read the papers. Now I said papers, not a paper. That is where many of us makes a mistake because we find it very comfortable to read something which agrees with us we are very apt to read only that and yet if we want to attain our objectives we must know what the opposition thinks. Because that will help us to clarify our own beliefs it will help us to know the arguments that we must meet because quite naturally, everybody doesn't think alike, quite naturally people get wrong impressions and if you believe in something you must know the arguments against as well as the arguments for it. That is the way in which you will be useful in helping to form public opinion and then find, if possible, places that you can go for information which is unbiased information. Now I have found that the league of women voters furnishes very valuable unbiased information. But there are many other ways, listening to discussion, listening to speeches, speeches on both sides of the question. We must never be so intolerant that we can't listen to both sides because we have got to have our feet so firmly on the ground when we make up our minds that we want to do something that we can know what the other side thinks and meet their arguments. And then, I believe that every single person has an obligation to study his own community, to know the conditions in his own community. If he intends to be a good citizen, if he knows his own community well he can use that community to help him to interpret the problems of the state and of the nation. But he cannot hope to correct things that are wrong unless he really knows what the conditions are. You would not start out in your business to make any changes to try to improve anything without first making the study to know what you are really up against. Well now that is exactly what we should do as citizens. When our forefathers, not so many years ago, came to this part of the country and built log cabins and cleared the ground, they were protecting themselves against many dangers which have changed today. They were pioneering, but we have quite different dangers and we have to pioneer to meet these new dangers: don't have closed minds. Realize that great aggregations of new peoples in great cities have brought you new problems. Problems of housing, problems of finding a way by which the people of this nation as a whole can earn a living wage, can have a standard of living, which will make it possible for us to prosper as a nation. Now, those things are things that we can study in our own community, we can find out what makes for crime in our community, we can try to find the answer individually and use our knowledge to help in the nation as a whole. From that public opinion which will be strong enough to make us function as a true democracy. Whether you are office holders, whether you are simply doing your duty as a citizen, do it with all that you have in you. Give it your best. Never get discouraged because you do not attain your objectives immediately. Go step by step and remember that if you never lose sight of the ends that you wish to attain, no checks, by the way, will stop you. In the end, you will succeed, but you only deserve to succeed if you work at being a patriotic citizen every day in the year. Thank you.
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Roosevelt, James, 1907-1991
About this document
Speech from Indianapolis
August 20, 1937
- National Endowment for the Humanities
Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007
Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27
Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library