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

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NEW YORK, Friday—Since I made my rather flippant answer to a question by a newspaper correspondent about my son, Franklin, Jr. going into public life, I find that there is considerable misunderstanding of my attitude.

In the first place, no one seems to know that what the newspaper correspondent asked me was: "How do you feel about your son running for the Senate?" I knew he was wrong and so I answered flippantly: "I am appalled," meaning, of course, that the idea of a youngster running for the United States Senate before he had any other kind of public service did seem a little appalling.

I afterwards said what I feel very, very deeply—that it seems to me remarkable that anyone should want to enter public service. That is simply because I know so well what anyone pays for taking part in public life in this country.

On the other hand, I think it is not only the duty but the obligation of every good citizen to perform meticulously the everyday duties of a citizen—voting, finding out about candidates, being as well informed as one possibly can be on all issues and the public questions before the country.

I also think it desirable and highly commendable for young people who have already established themselves in some kind of work to which they feel they can return—so that they are not bound willy-nilly to stay in public service—to go into public life with the intention of being of real service to their country and the people of their nation.

To do this, however, I think not only the individual concerned, but his family as well, should realize that they must render themselves more or less impervious to attacks of all kinds. Legitimate criticism can hurt, but if it is honest it should never leave one bitter. But in public life one must prepare also for unforgivable and slanderous attacks for purely political or personal reasons.

It takes long education and a real determination to be useful in public service to face these almost inevitable results of being in public office.

In addition, in politics your time is no longer your own. If you are in Congress you serve your constituents, and their interests must be paramount. You have a responsibility to keep them informed as to the issues and the real situations as they come up. All of this is going to give you an interesting life but less personal life than you might otherwise have. The public servant's family must be willing to sacrifice personal interests and take an interest also in public questions.

When all this is said, however, the fact remains that, to some men, public life, the services they can render and the feeling that they are helping to shape the history of their day, mean so much that other things are swallowed up in this main stream of interest.

That seems to be the case with two of my sons at the moment—both James and Franklin, Jr., seem to want to be in public life. I think they will bring to it a sense of responsibility both as the sons of their father and as men who, having fought in a war for their country, now feel they must do something to help preserve it in peacetime.

Naturally, as a mother, I would want my sons to win in whatever they undertake, but I also would be anxious to see that they give to their tasks the best that is in them.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 30, 1949

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 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.