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

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NEW YORK, Thursday—It would seem that David E. Lilienthal, in speaking out his mind to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy in answer to Sen. Kenneth McKellar's charges against him, explained fairly well what a majority of the citizens of this country believe is the meaning of democracy. Sen. McKellar, opposing the confirmation of Mr. Lilienthal as chairman of the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, had accused him of Communistic sympathies. Yet here is what Mr. Lilienthal said in part:

"Traditionally, democracy has been an affirmative doctrine rather than merely a negative one. I believe .... the fundamental proposition of the integrity of the individual; and that all government and all private institutions must be designed to promote and protect and defend the integrity and the dignity of the individual; that that is the essential meaning of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is essentially the meaning of religion ....

"I deeply believe in the capacity of democracy to surmount any trials that may lie ahead, provided only we practice it in our daily lives."

This speech might have been made before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and I think it is one that young Americans all over this country should learn.

* * *

Yesterday in the Commission on Human Rights, we took up the question of implementation of international bill of rights. It seemed to be the consensus of opinion that we should discuss this difficult subject as a guide to the drafting committee, since the Economic and Social Council had requested that we make recommendations on various methods of implementing the bill. In fact, to write a bill without any suggestions as to how it is actually going to be observed seems a rather empty gesture.

However, some of the commission members felt that it was impossible to make any suggestions on implementation until the bill was before us. Since they had no instructions from their governments, they did not see how we could formulate anything until the bill of rights was formulated and under discussion.

The discussion became so heated that at one point I had before me a resolution and four amendments—which is a procedure designed to make a chairman perfectly happy! The decision as to which amendment is furthest away from the original motion, and even the effort to remember the wording of the original motion and of the amendments, create more or less confusion in the chairman's mind.

We resolved our difficulties, however, and finally decided that the drafting committee should explore and discuss methods of implementation, then present their findings to the next session of the commission—not as a formal part of the bill of rights, but merely as suggestions.

Two of my husband's cousins went out to Lake Success with me yesterday—Mrs. Frederic B. Adams, and Mrs. Cyril Martineau of London. As we went to lunch after the morning session, Mrs. Martineau remarked that, for the uninitiated, some of the speeches had seemed a trifle difficult to understand, but that she supposed we knew what we were talking about. I certainly hope we do!

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Adams, Ellen Walters Delano, 1884-1976 [ index ]
         American socialite; first cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981 [ index ]
         American lawyer and government official
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | US Nat. Archives | ANB ]
  • Martineau, Muriel Delano Robbins, 1883-1971 [ index ]
         ER's cousin
  • McKellar, Kenneth Douglas, 1869-1957 [ index ]
         American politician; U.S. Representative (TN) from 1911-1917; U.S. Senator from 1917-1953 (President Pro Tempore '49-'53)
         [ LC | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC ]
  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 7, 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

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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  • Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
    [ ISNI ]
  • Black, Allida M. (Editor)
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  • Binker, Mary Jo (Associate Editor)
    [ VIAF | ORCID ]
  • 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.