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

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NEW YORK, Tuesday—It is, of course, perfectly obvious that all the people of the country cannot lay down the rules for the manner in which their objectives in domestic and foreign policy shall be achieved. We have a State Department and various other departments in the government to plan the ways and means of achieving these results.

We have a Congress to keep the people in touch with the way their business is being conducted, and it is through the election of these legislative representatives that the people show their approval or disapproval of current events. The President is the elected executive representative of the people. His appointees assume the jobs which he gives them and, in their administrative capacity, they are responsible to him and to Congress.

The people's control is through the election of their President and their Congress, and it is the general policy, both domestic and foreign, which the people pass on. When the people say, "What is our foreign policy?", then these representatives should begin to be concerned, for obviously a part of their obligation is not being carried out.

We sometimes find that not only our foreign policy but our domestic policy is so little understood by the majority of the people that it might truthfully be said that indifference to these vital questions was what gave their leaders the opportunity to function. In other words, in return for not being well-informed, the people shove all their responsibility onto a few government officials. When things go badly, they blame their representatives, but if they go well, the people are complacent and think they have made a positive contribution, whereas for the most part their contribution is a very negative thing!

* * *

Progress is rarely achieved by indifference but, as a people, we are not really indifferent to the basic questions affecting our foreign policy and we can easily understand it if we will.

Let us begin with our nearest neighbors, the countries to the north and south of us. Something we call a Good Neighbor Policy has been inaugurated between us. With Canada, it is well established. Our mutual interests are understood and we can almost take each other's good intentions for granted!

To carry out the Good Neighbor Policy in Central and South America, in Mexico and the Caribbean, we must have constant intercourse and continual understanding on the cultural and social level. This we have been achieving increasingly through the exchange of students, workers, professors, books and samples of our arts.

Our business relations are most important. If they are reciprocal and benefit both sides, they increase our good feeling. If, however, our business men engage in sharp practices and try to exploit our neighbors, then our relations are endangered.

Personally, I think we made a mistake when we offered to equip and coordinate the military services of various countries in this hemisphere, because we seemed to be creating a military group. And this will inevitably make other countries feel that we are trying to control the nations of this hemisphere, and that our purposes are not exclusively defensive but might become aggressive.

I can well understand why our War and Navy Departments might think this plan a good idea. But I should think our people would feel that it might menace our peaceful relationship with these countries, and that it might create uncertainty in other nations farther away with whom we are trying to build up a relationship based on confidence in our peaceful intentions.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Americans
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  • Armed Forces
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  • Arts
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  • Federal government
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  • Leadership--responsibilities of
  • Peace
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  • Roosevelt, Eleanor--on international relations
  • Social responsibility of business
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  • United States--International relations

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 14, 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

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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  • Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
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  • Black, Allida M. (Editor)
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  • Binker, Mary Jo (Associate Editor)
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  • Alhambra, Christopher C. (Electronic Text Editor)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.