FEBRUARY 14, 1946
LONDON—From my own personal standpoint—and I'm sure every delegate to the UNO conference must feel the same way—the experience of watching this organization begin its work has been exceptionally interesting. Merely listening to so many points of view is not only good discipline but opens up vast fields of knowledge which most of us need to explore if we are going to meet the needs of the next few years intelligently.
While it is reported that there is not actual starvation throughout Europe, there is hunger practically everywhere. That means people with less energy for work and less resistance to disease. However, the physical factor is not the only thing, nor perhaps the most serious thing, that worries the keenest observers.
We must remember that a good part of Europe was swept by invading armies not only once, but twice. First, the Nazis came and, in every village, town and city that they occupied, they removed leaders they suspected of being unfriendly to them, putting in others. Then, the Allies came along and got rid of those whom they could not trust.
We know, from all we have heard, how difficult it has been to find people to organize and carry on civil government as well as initiate and guide reconstruction. Armies of occupation cannot take the place of a country's own civilian leaders. However, throughout Europe, many of the former leaders, both men and women, are now gone. That is why I think it will take some time before we see a real tackling of reconstruction problems by peoples who look out on ruined fields and crumbling towns.
In addition, there is a floating population without roofs over their heads, with scant food and clothing, and with no real purpose in life. Is it any wonder that they frequently are driven to desperation? Out of people who fought in resistance movements and for whom the greatest virtue was to lie, cheat, kill and destroy, it is difficult to build a law-abiding community where the old standards of right and wrong, of public and private morality, must exist again.
Someone asked me the other day how it was going to be possible to make the people of North and South America understand the situation in Europe today. For us in the United States, the only real hope of understanding is to think of our own postwar problems magnified far beyond anything we ever imagined. We must try to think what it would mean if our big cities lay in ruins, if our railroads had to be completely rebuilt, if our people had to return to pioneer conditions.
Somehow, we must stretch our imagination. Being a part of this first UNO Assembly has, I think, helped me as an individual to stretch my own imagination.
* * *
I'm frank to say it is always a surprise to me to find how passionately men can feel about rules of procedure. Toward the end of our work in the Assembly committee on which I served, we spent three hours one afternoon arguing about rules. I found it hard to grow excited about them when I was unable to see that they affected the substance of our future actions one way or another.
I know that, in parliamentary gatherings, rules of procedure are very important, but I wonder if this has not been built up to unnecessary proportions in our work here because so many of the delegates are lawyers—and legal minds love abstractions. I'm hoping we will always have balance in this organization, including people of various occupations. While legal advice and procedure are essential, it must be kept within reasonable bounds, since it's human needs that must be paramount.
* * *
I liked very much the chairman of our committee, Prime Minister Peter Fraser of New Zealand. He is such a fine person, and one cannot help having real affection for him. There were times, though, when I thought his Scotch convictions (he's a native of Scotland) found expression, even though he tried to be an impartial chairman!
I also want to mention Miss Frieda Dalen of Norway, rapporteur for our committee. This is an important position because, in the way you write a committee's report, you can do what we in America call "slanting the news." Just a little change in emphasis may give a false impression of the way the committee really felt. Considering the heated arguments that went on in our committee and the insistence on diverse formulas and words to express exact meanings, I thought Miss Dalen did a wonderful piece of work.
Among the other women I've met here, one of the most interesting to me is Madame Evdokia Uralova, delegate from White Russia. I have a real feeling of friendliness as a result of our few opportunities to talk together. She and Miss Vishinsky, daughter of Andrei Vishinsky, came to tea with me the other afternoon. Miss Vishinsky is pretty and very able, but I was surprised when she announced that she was teaching criminal law in a high school. I discovered that what she meant was a college, which in Russia is known as a "superior school."
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)
Names Mentioned or Referenced
- Dalen, Frieda, 1895-1995
- Fraser, Peter, 1884-1950
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- Uralova, Evdokia
- Vyshinskaya, Zinaida Andreyevna, 1909-
- Vyshinsky, Andrey Yanuaryevich, 1883-1954
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- [ index ] London (England, United Kingdom)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 14, 1946
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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