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


NEW YORK, Wednesday—How do we pay for peace? One of the first things to do is to overcome our own prejudices and intolerances. That is a high price, for these prejudices are among our pet indulgences! We are still thinking largely along the lines of isolationism and are shirking our responsibility as a leader nation.

A picture of the possible feeling in Congress on the refugee question was painted for me the other day by a responsible man.

He said: "You think we ought to welcome, within our present immigration quota system, the full numbers allowed over the year, not insisting that they should come month by month, according to the old regulation, but using up unused quotas at any time that people are available to come. I tell you that asking for such a change would only lead to the complete cutting-off of all immigration to this country.

“The labor groups, the veterans' groups, many of the agricultural groups, and the representatives of states in which there are only a few foreign-born, want no responsibility for displaced people and want no competition. They remember the depression, when jobs were scarce. They want no more people to make jobs any scarcer, and they will bring pressure on Congress to keep out all so-called displaced persons from Europe or any other part of the world.”

If we feel that way, the same fears must assail people in many other countries where displaced persons might find a chance to start life anew. Yet we are willing to pay the price to keep these refugees in camps in Europe where they have no future and are constantly deteriorating as human beings, creating a menace to the economy of the whole area in which they are. Their children are growing up in unhealthy surroundings. And the mere fact of their presence is creating a problem which may change the political situation of almost any country overnight.

* * *

If peace depends upon us—and many feel it must—then we will achieve it only by giving leadership. We will achieve it only by making sacrifices. We cannot tell other people what to do. We must show them by our example what we think is right, and that will lead them to recognize their own responsibilities.

Certainly the recent election showed that there is no sympathy in this country with the American Communists and that we wish democratic policies to govern our country. However, that does not absolve us from making every effort to find a way to get on with the Russian Communists. Under our very theory of democracy, we must grant them the right to make their own decisions and live their own lives.

In the final analysis, it is only by making our economic system work and making our form of government meet the needs of the people better than any other economic system or any other form of government, that we show its strength and desirability to other nations. You may say that the Russians will never know of our achievements, since their information services are all government-controlled, but sooner or later human beings communicate with each other. If we fail, the Russians will know it, and if we succeed, they will know it. By our very success, we will draw them toward better understanding of our objectives, and we will build one more bridge over which to march to the peace for which we strive.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 14, 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

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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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.