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

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CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, New Brunswick , Thursday—A correspondent who had just come over from Europe asked me recently why there are no groups working for the understanding of democracy as diligently as the groups working in the interests of communism.

It is, of course, entirely legitimate for people anywhere in the world to try to inform others about their political and economic doctrines and to argue the advantages of their particular brand of politics or economic theory. Why is it that those of us who believe in democracy do not crusade for our beliefs in the same way that communist groups do? Perhaps it is because communism dawned on a people who had suffered very greatly and, hence, amelioration in their daily lives seemed a miracle.

Democracy has existed in this country for over 150 years and, as we look back, we see the progress that has been made. Nevertheless, we realize that, in both the economic and political theories which we have followed, we have made mistakes and we gradually have been obliged to change some things. Sometimes the changes have come about through peaceful methods and sometimes they have been accompanied by bloodshed.

There is no reason to believe that the point has been reached where democracy is stagnant. It is still young—not complete as a political or economic way of life—but we take our democratic rights and our theories so much for granted that we have few crusaders among us!

* * *

The most perplexing question to many of us today is whether, in a world which has grown so small through rapid communication and transportation, two theories such as communism and democracy can each be used to improve the lot of mankind without a complete rejection of the opposing theory. The future peace of the world, I think, depends on our being able to argue out our respective political, economic and religious differences without resorting to force.

I hope we will not build up spheres of influence and blocs which are aimed at opposing each other. We should try to learn about each other's beliefs, and about the way in which the experiments tried under both our theories succeed or fail.

For instance, today the Russians and communists throughout the world feel that they have succeeded in creating an acceptance of the value of human beings, regardless of racial background, to a greater extent than we have. And they point to the racial discrimination which flourishes in this country. They feel that their attitude increases the chance of peace in the world, because they can truly say that men of all races will be heard as equals among them.

We, on the other hand, point to our greater religious tolerance and to the fact that, under our government, we have made it possible for people of opposing ideas to live without fear. We feel that a system which defends the right of the individual to speak his mind, even against his own government if necessary, is a safeguard to all freedom. This seems to be of less importance to the communists, whose doctrine is that the state is always of greater value than the individual.

Time will answer so many of these questions. Peace and continuing education and understanding would seem to be a vital need in the next few years.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 2, 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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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.