The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

My Day

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The facts that I gave you yesterday about United States coal production did not cover the situation in such depressed areas as that of West Virginia.

We have had innumerable investigations of these depressed areas. The simple fact is that there probably should be a project to retrain miners no longer needed in the mines. This probably should be a government project and, if investigation proves that the real answer to better permanent conditions in these states lies in developing new industries, there are a number of new industries that could be developed in those areas.

The industries that exist, such as the glass industry, are not too prosperous and a real study needs to be made of the whole economic status in the depressed areas. This will probably not be done under the Republicans. They prefer to keep things as they are and to trust to the old ideas rather than trying anything new. But something new has to be tried if we are going to change conditions in areas of unemployment and serious economic dislocation.

* * * *

I have been getting a number of letters which point up some of the things that are troubling people in the present election, and I would like to take up and answer a few.

Here is a quote from one letter written by a man: "I am amazed that you are going to back the brash, mean and ferocious Kennedy and thereby bring the Vatican to the White House."1

I want to say that these words hardly describe the character of the Democratic candidate. He is not brash, he is not mean and he is certainly not ferocious!

Now, about the question of bringing the Vatican to the White House, the writer goes on to say: "Do you and the others stop to think what will be the consequences of a Catholic President for whose election no stone is being left unturned and no money spared by Catholics all over the world?"

All I can say is that my correspondent has forgotten that the only way that Catholics can have any real influence in this country, beyond that of being good and bad individuals, is if we allow them to be better citizens than those among us who are Protestants, Jews or Mohammedans. (Incidentally, I feel sure no foreign money is being used by the Democrats in this election!)

The Vatican has no way of doing anything in this country, except with people of its own faith, unless we permit American citizens of the Roman Catholic faith to pass laws which you think harmful to our freedom. Fundamentally, any citizen in a democracy, regardless of religion, according to our Constitution, should have the right to run for any public office and to be elected.

But if you disapprove of a law which is brought forward and think that it is going to give undue power to the Roman Catholics in this country and interfere with our freedoms, then it is up to you to organize those who disapprove and to prevent the law from being passed.

I have no patience with people who do not want to preserve our fundamental rights and freedoms and who will not live up to the Constitution. Every citizen has the right to belong to the religion of his choice without being questioned, but there is nothing which prevents us, if we think that religion is encroaching upon our freedoms, to fight such efforts. We do not have to become a Spain or a French Canada. Italy, where the Vatican is situated, manages to remain fairly free, and so does France. Be a good citizen and you need not be afraid.


     1. From 1945 until 1954, ER filed the material she used in writing "My Day" in separately labeled folders. She no longer followed that practice in 1960. ER probably returned the letter to her secretary Maureen Corr to be re-filed alphabetically under the author's name in the thousands of letters filed within the 1960 General Correspondence section of her papers. When editorial staff completes its examination of that collection, the relevant bibliographic information will be recorded in this note.

Index to this Document: Anti-Catholicism: My Day on; ER's criticism of; Campaign finance: Democrats and; Canada: French Canadians, religion and; Citizenship: My Day on; responsibilities of; rights of; Coal miners: ER's support from; Coal: U.S. production of; West Virginia mining and; Democrats: campaign finance and; Freedom of religion; My Day and; ER on; Italy; Jews: as citizens; Kennedy, John F.; Muslims: as citizens; My Day; on anti-Catholicism; on freedom of religion; on responsibilities of citizenship; Protestants: as citizens; Republican Party: economic policies of; Roosevelt, Eleanor: on anti-Catholicism; on coal miners; on freedom of religion; on Republican Party; on Vatican interference; on West Virginia economy; responds to critics; Spain: religion and; Vatican: fear of; ER on; West Virginia: coal mining and; depressed economy of, ER on

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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