The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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Mr. Witter Bynner sent me an interesting poem of his the other day entitled: "A Justice Remembers Lincoln." The opinion of the Justice as here expressed was held by many contemporaries of Lincoln's day. Many jokes were made about Lincoln's uncouth appearance and the stories he told, but all of these had a purpose and his uncouth appearance mattered very little because it housed a great personality.

I was particularly interested in the assumption that a gentleman may only exist by virtue of birth and education and in surroundings of material well-being.

It is pleasant of course, and very easy to be gentlemanly if you have ancestors, education and sufficient of this world's goods to live an easy and pleasant existence, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with being a gentleman. I have met many men and women who spent their lives in the most exclusive of "Society" circles who were neither gentlemen nor ladies. And, I have met gentlemen and ladies who were wandering lawyers like Lincoln, or day laborers or farmers' wives or factory girls. And often I think we forget to distinguish between the inherent qualities of a gentleman or lady and the surroundings in which they may or may not live.

It seems to me however, that Lincoln was not the only one of our Presidents who suffered from the scorn of some of his contemporaries. Washington, Jefferson and Jackson whose names still mean much to us seem to have had a goodly number of detractors and the language of that day is if anything, stronger and more picturesque than any we can find at present. We may be losing something in force, or do the laws restrain us today from being quite as virulent?

The weather is glorious here and I feel great sympathy for our Vice-Consul in Rio who addressed the State Department in rhyme in a final effort to get home after seven years in foreign parts.

I particularly enjoyed the return rhyme by a clerk in the State Department. Somehow or other I had not given credit to any one in the State Department for so much versatility and humor. It is nice to feel that in what of necessity must be such a solemn branch of the government may occassionally deal lightly with a situation and I hope that weather such as this will greet our returning Vice Consul:

MAY he see these wide open spaces
And never notice the Kansas drought!


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 10, 1936

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a draft version of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. My Day column draft dated September 9, 1936, FDR Library, Hyde Park, NY
TMsd, 9 September 1936, AERP, FDRL