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


NEW YORK, Sunday—The American people today are not really afraid of any other nation. We are sure that we will never use our power aggressively. We know that we want peace.

We therefore cannot understand why everyone does not believe that we hold the secret of the atomic bomb simply because we do not want anyone to have the power to use it again. We are shocked and surprised when we find that other people doubt our intentions, forgetting entirely that their background is not like ours. Few of us have any conception of what the other nations have been through whose lands have been devastated and whose homes have been destroyed. We forget, too, that our use of the atom bomb in Japan killed many innocent civilians and shocked the traditional feeling which had grown up through previous wars, when a line could be drawn between fighting men and civilians. In all probability, our government was right in believing that use of the bomb would end the war more quickly and thereby save millions of lives. But in any case, in the modern atomic world, no future war can ever draw that line of distinction again, and it is just as well that we should understand this once and for all.

With our rather naive assumption that everyone can understand our background and our good intentions, we are surprised to find a lack of confidence in what we say and in our actions when we withhold from an ally the knowledge we possess of a destructive weapon. Isn't it just possible that they may wonder why we do not understand their background, why we do not trust them if we expect them to trust us?

Take Russia, for instance. How many of us realize that an area which in our country would cover roughly the region from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi was devastated in Russia during the war? The Russians in this area lost their homes, their crops and their lives, and the survivors have starved for years.

Russia has enormous potential natural resources, many of them as yet undeveloped. She managed to move a large part of her industries back from the danger zone during the war. What she imports today is not consumer goods, which must doubtless be in great demand by her people. Her government needs goods which will serve to put her industries into production, and it exacts material sacrifices from the people to attain these ends. Soviet Russia's standard of living, in 25 years, has not been able to approximate what we have achieved in 150 years. Yet she has taken a great number of people who were illiterate peasants and given them hope and a basic literacy, with greater opportunity for education than ever before.

She is a dictatorship, but we must not forget that it is a dictatorship not of one individual alone. Her government has succeeded in keeping the support of the people not only through the terrific hardships of invasion, but also in a postwar period where hardships are far greater than those we know in our own difficult postwar period in the United States.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 12, 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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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.