June 13, 1960
He was certainly not one of the active candidates1 who had been fighting for the nomination more or less strenuously, but he had never said he would not be a candidate. He had said that he would engage in no stop movement2 against any candidate for any particular reasons which had been advanced by various people.
Spontaneously, however, after the summit people seemed to crop up in groups all over the country forming small entities that wanted to work for him to be nominated at the convention. Here in New York we found people with petitions stopping people in the street.
I came out of my house one day to find two young men chatting with my driver. We were starting for Hyde Park, and I asked if someone was objecting to his being parked at that particular spot. One young man said, "Oh, no! I am just wanting him to sign for Governor Stevenson!" -- which my good Democratic committeeman3 in the town of Hyde Park was doing, to my complete surprise.
At that time I was not coming out for anyone until the convention, so I smiled and drove away. But since then more and more activity has been developing and I have been getting letters from all over the country. Since I have come out for Stevenson, people stop me on the street and tell me how happy they are.
So I felt we needed word from him as to how he really felt, and I released, as soon as I received it, his statement on the subject. Here is what he says about his position:
"I have, as you know, taken no part in Presidential politics for the past three years. And I do not now intend to try to influence the nomination in any way by 'endorsing' anyone, or trying to 'stop' anyone, or by seeking it myself.
"I have not made and will not make any 'deals' with anyone.
"I am not, as you recognize in your statement, a 'declared candidate.' This leaves only the question, again in your terms, of 'shirking public responsibility.'
"I have declined repeatedly to comment on questions about a 'draft.' I think I have made it clear in my public life, however, that I will serve my country and my party whenever called upon."
This is clear. If there is the call on the part of the party and the country, he will be a candidate.
Those of us who are old politicians know that in a convention it is rare for the delegates to be free to do as their conscience dictates, but I think this is a convention where the leaders should, as far as possible, say to the members of their delegations, "The world situation is too serious for us to take it upon ourselves to dictate to you how you should vote. Some of you have mandates from your constituents, but if you feel you are following the dictates of your conscience, we will not interfere with you."
I grant you it would be a strange thing to see a really free convention, and perhaps a great deal to ask of the delegates, who for the most part have expected to have "guidance," but in the world's history this is a crucial time -- and in a democracy there comes a time when every citizen has a responsibility to do what he believes is right for his country and for the world.
Index to this Document: Democratic National Convention, 1960 (DNC 1960): delegates, responsibilities of; Draft Stevenson movement; Humphrey, Hubert H.: Stevenson and; Johnson, Lyndon Baines: 1960 presidential campaign and; Kennedy, John F.; My Day; references to; Presidential primaries: nomination process; Roosevelt, Eleanor: DNC 1960, advice to delegates; Stevenson, ER's endorsement of; Stevenson, Adlai E.: Hubert H. Humphrey and; leadership of; popular support for; ER's campaigning for; ER's endorsement of; ER's opinion of; ER's outreach to; Symington, Stuart; United Features Syndicate; West Virginia primary, 1960
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. .
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at https://erpapers.columbian.gwu.edu/.
Copyright © 2006. The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. All rights reserved.