The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

My Day

LOS ANGELES. -- I listened on Tuesday for a considerable time to the convention debate on the platform.1 But the most exciting incident of the afternoon was Adlai Stevenson's arrival in the hall. He was practically pushed in, surrounded by guards and police, with the Illinois delegation banners going ahead of him.

The excitement and the greeting from the floor as well as from the galleries was perfectly tremendous, and he finally was obliged to go up to the rostrum and say a few words to the delegates and the visitors, simply to quiet the hall sufficiently so the business of the convention could proceed.

After Gov. LeRoy Collins' excellent address, which I am quite sure was heard much more satisfactorily by people watching their television sets around the country than by any delegate at the convention, the effort was made to start the presentation of the platform by Rep. Chester Bowles.

Anyone who had not been at a national convention before and, coming in at that moment and being told that the platform of the party was going to be presented, would, I am sure, think he was being deceived. Crowds of people walked around, talked, laughed, and the general noise of hundreds of people paying absolutely no attention to the speakers made the scene indescribably confusing.

The poor chairman banged his gavel but you could not even hear it. He tried to be heard over the confusion and his voice was drowned completely.

The manners of our convention delegates and the people on the floor are worse, if anything, than those of the people in the galleries. There, they talk and move around, too, adding to the general noise. But as they have come to listen only, I think more people in the galleries try to hear what is being said from the rostrum.

A gentleman who had asked me to see some women delegates at the convention came to my seat to ask me to talk to the ladies, and for the moment I had forgotten that I had promised to do so. My first inclination was to shake my head and say that I wanted to hear what was being said. Then, of course, I remembered and got up and went to the top of the stairs and tried not to create any greater disturbance than was necessary.

When I came into the Sports Arena for the first time, a few people caught sight of me in my seat. Governor Collins was already speaking, but this did not perturb them since their backs were to the speakers' stand so they started a round of applause. As I was unable to hear, because of the general noise, that Governor Collins was even speaking, I did not realize what a tremendous interruption this applause for me had created until I received a telegram later in the evening reproving me for my bad manners.

I entirely agree that it is bad manners to interrupt a very good speaker. Anyone, however, who has been at a national convention will, I think, understand that the speakers are fortunate that most of their audience is at home watching and listening on television or radio. If they counted on being heard by the delegates and the galleries at the convention, their audience would be small indeed.

The platform was presented in a very novel manner. A screen was above the rostrum from which Representative Bowles spoke. As he spoke, a movie tried to make you see the things about which the plank in the platform was written. During the presentation of the plank on foreign affairs, pictures of different areas of the world and their people passed on the screen.

The civil rights plank, of course, brought forth a minority report representing 10 states,2 and I listened to the speeches with interest. A motion to strike out the civil rights portion of the platform was rejected by a voice vote. As usual, the Southern people threatened that the Democratic party would lose their states in the November election. One wonders where these states will go if they leave the Democratic party.

I question whether the Republican plank on civil rights3 will be any more acceptable than the Democratic plank. The Southern Democrats tried running a ticket of their own once and the Democratic party still won the election,4 and any threat by these dissenters to leave the party would not terrify any one of the candidates, especially this year.

The speeches presenting the Southern minority point of view saddened me very much, however, for they showed a total lack of understanding of the world situation and the real danger of Communist control of the noncommitted areas of the world.5 This minority still persists in thinking that this question is a domestic question, when it is a question that actually affects our world leadership in our struggle against communism.


     1. The Democrats drafted their 1960 platform in the early days of the convention, held in Los Angeles's Coliseum during the week of July 11th. Paying homage to Tom Paine, the platform committee entitled its recommendation "The Rights of Man" and presented planks calling for reorganization and modernization of the armed services, opposition to Eisenhower's deflationary monetary policy, containing communism through NATO and the Truman Doctrine, increasing world trade, expanding Social Security to include medical care for the aged, support for collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage to $1.25, parity for farm goods, increased housing construction and funds for low income public housing, "generous" federal support for education, support for the arts, and the civil rights plank described in note 2. [David Bruce Johnson, ed., National Party Platforms vol. 2, 1960-1978 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), pp. 574-600.]
     2. The 1960 Democratic platform plank on civil rights called for an end to discrimination in voting, education, lunch counters, employment, and housing. It promised to use the "full powers" granted by the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 "to secure the right to vote;" "to take whatever action is necessary to eliminate literacy tests and . . . the poll taxes as requirements for voting;" supported "peaceful demonstrations for first-class citizenship;" and called for every school affected by the Brown decision "to submit a plan providing for at least first step compliance by 1963." Such strong language aroused resistance among southern Democrats committed to states' rights and racial segregation. Ten southern state delegations (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) rejected the plank and issued a minority report arguing that while Democratic nominees had received substantial support from the southern states in previous elections, these same states were being asked by the party platform to refute their traditional (segregationist) way of life; their report urged the delegates to reject the plank. [Johnson, National Party Platforms, pp. 574-600; Paul Tillett, ed., Inside Politics: The National Conventions, 1960 (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1962), pp. 84-96, 93-96.]
     3. The 1960 Republican party platform, after intense internal debate, included a civil rights plank that was largely influenced by New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and accepted by Vice President Nixon. The plank, which closely matched that of the Democrats, pledged support for school desegregation and voting rights. The platform pledged "vigorous support" for enforcement of voting rights and court-ordered school desegregation; promised "action" to ban segregation in federally financed housing or community facilities; urged the creation of a Commission on Equal Job Opportunity; and declared civil rights "a national problem and a national responsibility." [Johnson, National Party Platforms, pp. 618-620; Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1988), pp.191-205.]
     4. At the Democratic National Convention in 1948, Minneapolis mayor Hubert H. Humphrey introduced the civil rights plank calling for the rights of "full and equal political participation; equal opportunity of employment; security of person; and equal treatment in the service and defense of our nation." He then delivered an impassioned speech demanding that the Democrats recognize that "the time has come . . . to get out of the shadow of states' rights and forthrightly into the bright sunshine of civil rights." Thirty-five southern Democrats walked out of the convention, formed the States' Rights Party (Dixiecrats), held their own convention, and nominated Strom Thurmond their presidential candidate. [Johnson, National Party Platforms, p. 435; Carol Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984), pp. 11-18.]
     5. In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S. foreign policy of containment focused on preventing the expansion of Soviet Communism into developing, non-aligned nations (such as the Congo and Somalia), arguing that communist incursion into such nations presented not only a danger to the balance of power in the world, but threatened America's stature as world leader. [Eric Foner and John A. Garrraty, eds., A Reader's Companion to American History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991), pp. 194-195.]

Index to this Document: Bowles, Chester: presentation of Democratic Party platform, 1960 by; Collins, LeRoy: DNC 1960 address of; on ER; Congo: U.S. policy towards; Democratic National Convention, 1960 (DNC 1960): ER on; LeRoy Collins's address before; Stevenson supporters and; Democratic Party; Democratic Party platform, 1948: Dixiecrats and; Hubert H. Humphrey and; Democratic Party platform, 1960: Chester Bowles's presentation of; civil rights plank; compared to Republican platform; defined; ER's support for; southern opposition to; Stevenson on; Dixiecrats: defeat of; Democratic Party platform, 1948 and; Strom Thurmond as presidential candidate, 1948; Humphrey, Hubert H.: Democratic Party platform, 1948; My Day; Nixon, Richard: Republican Party platform, 1960 and; Republican Party platform, 1960: civil rights plank of; compared to Democratic platform; Nixon support of; Nelson Rockefeller and; Rockefeller, Nelson: Republican Party platform and; Roosevelt, Eleanor: DNC 1960, cheered by delegates of; on Democratic Party platform, 1960; on LeRoy Collins; Somalia: U.S. policy towards; Stevenson, Adlai E.: DNC 1960 and; New York supporters; Thurmond, Strom: as Dixiecrat candidate

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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