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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Sunday—At yesterday's meeting of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chang, the Chinese representative, spoke with deep insight about the problems we must consider in writing the preamble to the proposed Bill of Human Rights.

Dr. Chang, speaking without notes in the general debate, stressed the need for bringing an historical background to bear upon the subject. He pointed out that in the eighteenth century human rights had come to the fore in contrast to the doctrine of the divine right of kings. In the nineteenth century, however, world thinking and European thinking had slipped back, and it was not until the twentieth century that our views were again placed on a broad plane.

Since the divine right of kings became a thing of the past, continued Dr. Chang, much emphasis has been laid on man the animal. Only a small layer separates the animal from thinking man, and perhaps the difference may simply be that man can think of someone else as well as of himself—the "two-thinking man," as Dr. Chang put it. It is that little difference which means progress for the human race.

Dr. Chang also called attention to the fact that China had long stood in the forefront of philosophic thought. In the eighteenth century its philosophic writings were known to all thinkers in Europe, but in the following century the European outlook again became provincial. Only now are we thinking again on a world scale.

As Dr. Chang talked, I looked across the table where sat the interpreters and other representatives to the seats beyond filled with visitors, many of them high school students. I felt what a great opportunity it was for these young people to listen to the reflections of so mature a mind. I do not know what went on in the minds of those youngsters; but my own desire is to know so much more than I do, and I wish I could be young again with years ahead of me to acquire knowledge!

In the latter part of the afternoon, the Yugoslavian representative touched on a point which may prove one of the difficult trends of thought to reconcile with the conception held by many of the members of the Human Rights Commission. As I understood him, he felt that in many of the bills of human rights which had been presented for study the emphasis was wrong because it was based on the rights of individuals, whereas the new trends in the world made it impossible to consider individuals except collectively.

General discussion of these matters will continue today, and I will refer to them again, since I believe it is of great importance to the people of the world.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Chang, Peng Chun, 1892-1957 [ index ]
         Chinese academic, diplomat, and human rights activist
         [ LC | VIAF | Wikidata ]
  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 3, 1947

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

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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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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.