My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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CHICAGO , Monday—This is Armistice Day and we are on our way by train to Chicago. It is raining and the landscape is dreary and gloomy, as it may well be, for it matches the mood of most of us who remember what Armistice Day meant to us in the year 1918. Nature should weep with us, for the high hopes which humanity had of ending war on this earth lie in ruins all about us.

Again we gather in body or in spirit at unknown soldiers' tombs the world over, but the belief that their sacrifice would never have to be renewed is gone. In the years to come, in many countries in the world, people will again gather to mourn the death of young men, old people, women and children, killed in this period of war madness.

For years I prayed and worked and hoped that the desire could be removed from men's hearts. Now I have to change my prayer, for when some men use force they oblige the rest of the world to compete on their terms. There are people, of course, who believe that physical force can be conquered by spiritual, passive resistance. Those who hold to this belief may prove at some future date that they are right.

In the meantime, for most of us, it seems imperative that we meet physical force with physical force. But our prayers and our endeavor should be to use this physical force to achieve the results in which we believe, and which are not achieved by the aims and desires of those against whom we exert our influence.

Can we have physical force and not use it for oppression? The totalitarian countries would seem to prove that the answer is "no." All of their people obey the will of the man or the few men who form their government, and this will is exerted to bring about misery and terror for certain groups of people and subservience for all.

Our force, to justify itself, must be exerted to defend the weak, to insist that justice, so far as we know it, shall be meted out to all of our citizens and to those who come within our sphere of influence. If we can keep a guard upon ourselves which will prevent a lust for power, or a debauch of greed, then we will have done something even greater than what we envisioned on the Armistice Day of 1918.

May the prayer in the heart of each and every citizen of the United States today be that they acquire strength—physical, mental and moral—but only so that they may use it to build up a civilization from which war of all kinds may disappear. May God give each and every one of us the power to love, the grace to be humble and the understanding to be compassionate.

E.R.

(Copyright, 1940 UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE)


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 12, 1940

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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
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