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


NEW YORK, Tuesday—In Washington tomorrow, May 22nd, there will be held a memorial service for Harry Hopkins. Those of his friends who are able to attend will be grateful for an opportunity to think of him and to talk about him to others who still keenly feel his death.

In the last years of my husband's life, Harry Hopkins was probably his closest and most trusted co-worker. He went on missions that required tact and courage, and he met the great men of the world face to face. I cannot remember the time when he looked really strong and, as the years went by, he became more and more delicate. Yet he seemed to be able to rise above his bodily weakness and meet every great emergency. Perhaps it was this quality of indomitable spirit which first drew my husband and Harry Hopkins together.

They met and worked together in New York State while my husband was Governor and Mr. Hopkins had charge of the State unemployment relief program. They got on well then, and when Mr. Hopkins came to Washington to take over the much larger and more serious relief job that faced the nation, my husband felt he was dealing with someone he already knew and on whom he could count. It was not, however, until domestic issues began to be secondary and the war seemed to be growing daily closer to us, that the two men really began to work on the whole world picture together.

My husband recognized the weaknesses as well as the strength of the people with whom he worked, and I often heard him take Harry Hopkins to task because, in spite of repeated warnings, he would do the things which he enjoyed doing and then his health would suffer. However, my husband understood the impatience with bodily handicaps which made Mr. Hopkins such a poor patient.

* * *

To a man who was handicapped physically in the way my husband was, it was almost essential that he have a few people whom he could trust absolutely and whom he could use as messengers. He had to have the knowledge that his messages would be delivered accurately and that his ideas would be conveyed in the way he wished them conveyed. True, he expected everyone who worked for him to use their own initiative and their own judgment whenever the need arose, but when they were carrying a message, or getting a plan across, any initiative must bear on the ultimate accomplishment, and the personality of the individual must not in any way obscure the job that had to be done.

Harry Hopkins was in himself a very big person. I think it was because of this that he was willing to subordinate himself and to accept the fact that the objects for which he and my husband worked together were more important than any kudos which he might acquire for himself.

In some ways, the comforts and luxuries of this world were matters of complete insignificance to Mr. Hopkins, and yet there was another side to his character. There were times when he felt he wanted to enjoy them all. But always his tongue was in his cheek, and you felt that a little imp sat on his shoulder and said: "Go ahead and have a good time, but you know it has no real value."

His was a life spent too fast, and yet it was well spent. Few people have left a greater record of accomplishment to spur their children and future generations of mankind to achievement.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 22, 1946

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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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.