My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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LONDON—In looking at the many Assembly delegates who have been in public life in their countries, often in the diplomatic service, I cannot help feeling that one of the most difficult things to achieve here is going to be frank statements of what any individual really thinks and feels.

However, unless we are going back to the old idea of a balance of power—of one group lined up against another—it seems to me that everyone in open conference must speak his mind and say things so clearly and explicitly that no country has to wonder afterwards just exactly what was meant.

It has not been the habit of nations to deal with each other on the basis of complete frankness. And yet I have a conviction that, only if we come to understand the fears of other people which lead them to make certain demands, and their desire for economic or political power which necessitates certain other demands, will we be able to make each nation face its own situation in relation to similar situations in other nations.

A forum is provided here, but whether men long accustomed to leave much unsaid can now realize that the success of this undertaking depends on complete understanding and frankness, is something that remains to be seen.

* * *

The other evening, I stopped in for a few minutes at the English-Speaking Union, where some of the boys and girls who went to homes in America during the war were holding a dance. That they want to keep up and develop their relationship because of the time they spent in the United States is a good omen, I think, for future understanding between our two nations.

Since I have been getting such an enormous quantity of letters, I think you may be interested to know the type of things that people over here write to me about. There are many who ask about the rules and regulations for obtaining visas, how they can get to the United States or Canada, what kind of work they can find there—and some of them, I think, expect me to find work for them!

Then there are many letters from our service men's British wives who are waiting anxiously to join their husbands in the United States. Some of them have heard nothing from their husbands and are even more anxious. Also, there are letters of welcome and letters of appreciation for what my husband did for the people of the world.

* * *

Occasionally, there is a letter such as the one I have before me now, which is somewhat caustic in tone. The writer notes that Secretary Byrnes pledged that the United States would fulfill her obligations to the world, then asks me how that is to be done when "great numbers of United States service men appear to be simply intent on getting back home."

The gentleman, of course, does not realize that our men are always more than willing to do a job when they know that it is important and that they are the ones who have to see it through. All that our service men are asking today is to know clearly what their obligations are and what real work there is for them to do over here. These men are young, and they feel that life for them at home is waiting to begin. They do not like to be idle—and some of them have been none too busy. By that I do not mean that they have not had work to do, but it has not been the kind of work that they felt was essential.

Young people know very quickly whether work is real or "made." I remember once when I was trying to teach my own youngsters that they must do something because I thought it was good for them. They looked at me somewhat blandly and said: "Why must we, when there is someone else who could do it for us?"

Our men overseas are not shirking their job—they just don't quite understand what their job is. It is hard to remember that, as an individual in a foreign country, you are always your own country's ambassador—making a friend for your country or making an enemy.

In addition, I'm not sure how many of these young men realize that they not only represent the United States, but also the greatest democracy in the world—that they should understand how that democracy functions, what it has achieved, what it can achieve in the future, and how they can use their citizenship to help in that achievement. If they realized all this, they could do a very good job of spreading democracy wherever they are, particularly in Germany.

But I doubt very much whether this is clear enough to them. So often in the United States we take so much for granted that we find it hard to explain to anyone else what we consider our rights, privileges and, above all, our duties.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • London (England, United Kingdom) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Armed Forces
         [ LC ]
  • Children
         [ LC | Wikidata | FAST ]
  • Citizenship--Responsibilities of
  • Democracy
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  • Diplomacy
         [ LC | Wikidata | FAST ]
  • Employees
         [ LC ]
  • Leadership--responsibilities of
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor--on international relations
  • World War (1939-1945)
         [ LC | FAST ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 24, 1946

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | LC | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | Wikidata | SNAC ]

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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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

TEI-P5 edition published on 2017-04-28

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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.