My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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LAKESIDE, Ohio, Wednesday—Yesterday morning we drove back to Hyde Park from New York City. A group of some thirty ladies came to tea with me at 4:00 o'clock to discuss the possibilities of a documentary film to show the progress made by women in the last hundred years. In a film of this kind, there are great possibilities to show what problems the women of the past had to meet and to point to the development of this country. Women do so much to create the spirit of a nation that it will be particularly interesting to see the contribution made by our various racial strains to the formation of the idea on which America is built.

After dinner, we motored back to New York City to take the night train for Ohio, and here I am in Lakeside, preparing to give a lecture tonight.

I was very much interested in the "Declaration Against Conscription" issued by a group of 240 educators in yesterday's papers. It seems to me that these learned people who are excited about conscription and tie it up with military training alone, miss the point of the situation we face today. The American Youth Congress and these educators seem to me to be discussing the world of a year ago, not the world as it is today.

A year ago there was plenty of time to talk over indefinitely whether it was necessary for people to serve their country by developing themselves physically, by acquiring certain mechanical skills, and even by learning how to be soldiers if necessary. Above all, there was plenty of time to discuss what democracy meant to us and what we were willing to give in the way of service. Today that time is lacking. The quicker we learn to discipline ourselves, to acquire mechanical skills, to organize ourselves for real use in our communities, the better for us.

Above all, we should accept the fact that democracy requires service from each and every one of us, not just from those who happen to want to volunteer. People say this can be done voluntarily and all they oppose is compulsory service. Here again, I would say, let us be realistic. We know human nature well enough to know that even the best of us, unless we have to do a thing, will try to get out of it now and then, if it is not quite convenient.

We think the other fellow needs to give service—and we will, too, some other time, but we need not do it now, for we are always prepared to serve if the need arises in the future. Educators know human nature and they realize that real democracy is only achieved when everyone has to do something.

Surely the value of our suffrage in a democracy is well proved, yet look at how many people find it inconvenient to vote. The test of democracy is before us today. Can we face the situation realistically, and voluntarily vote for ourselves the disciplines which are needed to make us able to meet the force of totalitarian governments?