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

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PARIS, Thursday—The fact that President Truman thought of asking Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson to go and have a talk with Marshal Stalin and then decided not to send him seems to have excited our press and the press of other countries of the world just as much as it did the Soviet press.

The Soviet press has said that it was a sign of our confusion and utter lack of unity. Other European newspapers have said it was an indication of our forgetfulness of the United Nations and of our willingness to act by ourselves.

At the present moment our unity of action among ourselves and among the Western democracies is very important, and nothing that is not a firm and joint decision should get out to the world through the press or radio. I am still convinced that the President was only trying to make a friendly gesture. He is a friendly man who cannot help having the feeling that if his emissary went to see Stalin some way or other pleasanter feelings would be the outcome of the meeting. He no doubt is convinced that better understanding will bring about a better situation between sensible men.

One might wish that this simple logic were correct, but anyone who listens to the same accusations made over and over again in our committee by the Soviet representatives begins to wonder whether we are dealing with sensible men or whether most of them have become such automatons that they just repeat the lesson which has been handed to them by a group of policy makers.

* * *

Yesterday morning Committee Three actually passed Article One in very nearly the same wording as the draft declaration submitted by the Human Rights Commission.

We began on Article Two and at one point we listened to the Soviet representative tell us, as usual, how completely without discrimination the governments of the Soviet Union are and how their constitution insures them certain rights and how no one can be deprived of these rights because the state assures them by law. The long speech had very little to do with the article we were discussing but it afforded a Soviet delegate an opportunity for his usual attacks on the United States and her discrimination against the Negro and on the United Kingdom for her discrimination against the colonial peoples and on South Africa for her discriminations against the natives.

The excuse for all this, as given by the White Russian delegate, was that several days ago the delegate from the United Kingdom had made an attack on the Soviet government. He just didn't happen to mention, however, that the Briton's attack was made in answer to one made against Great Britain. Their memories never go that far back.

I suppose these delegates cannot be blamed for the things they say, because someone must be telling them to say them, and they either do not realize that the effect is not good or it makes no difference to them.

The delegate from South Africa protested that the words used by the Russian could not be considered parliamentary language, but he could not have listened to a great many of the speeches made by Soviet delegates in various United Nations bodies or such words would be familiar to him.

I only hope that, having got this timeworn speech off his chest, we are going to be spared a similar one for every article we must take up. It seems at least in Committee Three and in the discussion on the Bill of Human Rights we should remember the admonition of our Chinese colleague, who very early in the sessions reminded us that one of the most necessary things to remember in connection with human rights was the need for good manners.

At lunch yesterday with some of my Latin-American colleagues I learned something that I must not forget. I had made the suggestion that we might hasten our work by curtailing the number of speeches and found on the part of one of my colleagues a real objection to the idea that anyone should not be allowed to speak if he felt he had something better to contribute or something more to contribute than those who already had spoken.

I remembered that someone once told me there is nothing more indigestible than a speech which a man had on his mind and had been unable to make. I think that I will remember in the future that it would be better to appeal to one's colleagues to speak briefly but never to suggest that they give up their right to speak by any advance agreement.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 15, 1948

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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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.