My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK , Wednesday—In a discussion yesterday evening, one thing was said which I hope will be repeated over and over again. A man remarked that in whatever was done for the future, we must realize that human nature was motivated largely by enlightened self-interest. Civilization progresses according to the amount of our enlightenment.

When people are purely selfish and act on immediate self-interest without the saving grace of enlightenment, they sometimes fail to attain their objectives. Enlightened self-interest, however, would lead us to see that what was good for the great majority of people would also be good for a minority group and for us as individuals. We are part of a world rapidly becoming more closely knit by transportation and communication. We feel changes that affect our neighbors more quickly than ever before.

A man named Gilbert Wilson writes me that he is an obscure artist but that he has created a stamp which he wants used to impress us with the need for being "United for Victory." The background is an American flag and two clasped hands are the symbols of unity. One hand is white and the other is black, but it might have been brown or yellow, or both hands might have been white, for underneath is written "Minorities are Vital to Victory ," and we have many white minority groups. If we could forget being minorities and just be people, we would help win a real world peace through enlightened self-interest.

Trying to obtain world peace is enlightened self-interest. Working for anything tied up with this effort, whether it is in economic situations or in health situations or in cultural efforts to draw people together, can be part of the work to establish world peace.

War leaves us, in the end, poorer, not because we have incurred a monetary obligation, but because we have destroyed masses of available materials and especially many young lives which would otherwise have contributed to the prosperity of our nation and of the world. If we find ways to prevent war, it will be because we are convinced that wars are detrimental to us and to our civilization. If we find ways to help other people to a higher standard of living, it will be because we are convinced that their higher standard of living will be beneficial to us and help us to preserve our own standard of living.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 16, 1943

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.