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

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NEW YORK, Friday—Before the war, a great deal was said about the friction between the United States and Great Britain. After the last war, there was an endless discussion as to whether it had been won by the British or by us. They and the French had borne the hard fighting for nearly four years, but our fresh troops coming in at the end, with our additional naval help, were of great value at a crucial time. Did we actually turn the tide and bring victory? Who will ever know?

Nevertheless, you heard young American soldiers say: "We always have to go over and clean up European messes."

And you heard young Britishers say: "You don't come until you finally discover that you have an interest in winning, and then you reap the benefit of the hard work and the losses which we have sustained."

Both points of view are perfectly understandable. And both express a certain amount of truth. But these attitudes have never made for a really sympathetic understanding between us.

* * *

Our history books stress the Revolution and the War of 1812. And most of our children grow to maturity without ever realizing that our relationship with Great Britain is a little like a family relationship where the younger generation breaks completely away from the older generation with the result that relations for a time are very strained.

In most families, however, when either the younger or the older generation is threatened by real disaster, they come together and present a solid front. That doesn't mean that they will see things in the same light in the future, and it does not necessarily mean approval on either side of the actions of the other—nor even that they might not quarrel again. But it makes future quarreling less probable. It is a kind of "blood is thicker than water" attitude which makes them stand together when a crisis occurs and, year by year, brings better mutual understanding.

* * *

The great barrier of different languages which separates so many people is only partly present where Great Britain and the United States are concerned. True, the same words don't always mean the same thing to an Englishman and an American. As one of our soldiers said to me in London in 1942: "One of them (the British) was talking to me about a flat. I thought it was a tire, but I found he meant the place he lived in." But at least we both know the same words. And we find out their different meanings more easily than we could learn an entirely strange language, which bars understanding between peoples for a much longer time.

The British character is very different from ours. Their habit of understatement is quite the opposite of our habit of a light exaggeration. They're more stolid and tenacious. We are more dashing, and perhaps more volatile. We disapprove of many things the British stand for, but somehow we have a growing belief that we and they will find a way to live and work together.

That is the attitude that fundamentally, I think, the people of this country want to establish in our relations with all the countries of the world, and in simple terms it spells our basic foreign policy.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 17, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.