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

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NEW YORK, Thursday—How very appropriate is the change made by President Truman from the model gun on his desk to the model plow! Many newspapers have commented editorially upon this change, pointing out that a plow may mean not just an agricultural implement for farm use, but also be the symbol of a new type of work undertaken which eventually should lead to a harvest.

Nowhere have I seen mentioned the fact that many years ago, at the time of the last war, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan beat some swords into plowshares, the symbolism receiving wide acclaim at the time. He was just as sincere in his love of peace as our President and his advisers are today—but symbols, sincerity and desire won't keep peace! We must actually do tangible things, not once or twice, but over and over again. Otherwise, we may wake up someday and find that a future President has a model gun again on his desk.

* * *

Sometimes I wish that we could translate some of the rules which govern friendly intercourse among individuals into the way things are done among nations. Diplomacy had its roots, I imagine, in something known as the art of diplomatic procedure—which very often meant, in centuries past, that while a courtier kissed his sovereign's hand he stealthily caused a knife to be run into his back. Such little tricks and habits went by the board many, many years ago, and now we put a very much higher premium on being honest and truthful with each other both as individuals and as diplomats.

There are always some people, however, who think that you cannot say an honest thing and make it sound agreeable. In other words, a disagreeable statement is usually more truthful than an agreeable one. If you must do something which everyone agrees has to be done, but have a choice between two ways, one of which is more considerate than the other, the chances are that we will do it the inconsiderate way.

* * *

Yet the art of diplomacy was meant to teach us to do what has to be done truthfully, in straightforward fashion, but with courtesy and consideration for those with whom we deal. This requires a certain amount of imagination and the ability to put oneself in the other fellow's place—something which of late we have not always found it easy to do.

Military victories are heady wine, but there was a saying once which an uncle of mine made famous. It went something like this: "Speak softly, but carry a big stick." We carry the big stick today and the whole world knows we carry it, but don't let's forget the other part of President Theodore Roosevelt's injunction: "Speak softly." Many people may be so grateful to us, if we remember this injunction, that some of the knottiest problems of peace may unravel themselves with greater ease.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 24, 1945

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
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.