OCTOBER 9, 1948
PARIS, Friday—Committee Three, on which I serve, has actually reached the point of discussing the first article of the Bill of Human Rights. Six amendments, I think, are already in, although not all of them have been presented as yet.
When I see how many are coming in for this initial statement, which was designed really to set the tone of the declaration and to emphasize the fact that there is a spiritual feeling back of it and which I thought, therefore, was not a very controversial article, I realize more and more that the original position which the United States took was wrong.
It seems to me it would be better to accept the declaration even though we might see flaws in it than to amend it too much, since amending it might do more harm than good. It is a little like the painter who, having finished a portrait, thinks that a few added touches will make it perfect, and instead of improving it he destroys the personality he had caught in the original painting even though there were some flaws.
One amendment, presented by the delegate for the Union of South Africa, created a great effect upon a number of the members of the committee. I immediately asked to speak, but now I think it was fortunate, since there are many other amendments yet to be presented, that the opportunity was not given to me yesterday. I now realize I would have spoken with too much emotion and perhaps not as objectively as the conditions called for.
As far as one can judge, the present government of the Union of South Africa must live under a cloud of fear. I realize I do not know the exact numbers of the white population, and perhaps if I did it might explain to me their basic philosophy as regards all peoples of color and even extends itself to the position of women.
The fundamental human rights and freedoms that the Union of South Africa is willing to accord all peoples do not include, I gather, any social rights and I doubt whether they include equal economic rights.
It was a strange speech, and when you looked around the table where 58 nations are represented you wondered how any nation could live in the world of today and hold such a philosophy.
It was rumored the other day that the Union of South Africa wishes to withdraw from the United Nations because of their difference in point of view. But I think if they make such a decision in the world of today, in which so much of their own population cannot even be drawn into the circle of social acquaintances, they will be standing still while the rest of the world moves forward in a spirit of fraternity and equality.
* * *
I lunched yesterday with some members of nongovernmental agencies who are attending these United Nations meetings as observers. A custom has been established whereby at least one member of the United States delegation is on hand at these get-togethers to answer questions that these observers may wish to present.
I was interested to learn that there are representatives here of men's as well as women's organizations, and some of them are in constant touch with branches of their organizations in other countries, which also have sent observers. For instance, it was a representative of the Lions Club, I think, who told me that four other delegates are accompanying him and that a number of South American countries also have sent observers to these sessions.
Among this group many of the men are arranging to make trips to other countries while they are over here to get firsthand information and to observe conditions which should be very valuable to their organizations when they return.
* * *
I am constantly amazed at the kindness and hospitality of the French people. Yesterday I was invited to spend next Sunday at a beautiful and historic house outside Paris, and another invitation urged me to go to another lovely house where a cultural center has been established in the memory of the son of the house who was lost in the war. At this latter place a group of young people from many countries gather to visit and to talk, and I am sure that in such historic and beautiful surroundings it must be a great experience for anyone who is able to go there.
Unfortunately, I could not accept either invitation, as I never am sure of being free until the last minute.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1948, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC. REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART PROHIBITED.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 9, 1948
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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