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

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NEW YORK, Wednesday—Yesterday was really a "three-ring circus" kind of day out at the United Nations for me.

Committee Three was still discussing Freedom of Information, but whenever I saw one of the people serving on our delegation, he would ask me to "keep us in touch with where you are, we may get to items for which you are responsible any minute."

All morning I sat in on a subcommittee meeting of the Human Rights Commission, where we discussed our recommendations for the terms of reference for the subcommittee on minorities and discrimination and our recommendations for the manner in which members should be chosen for that subcommittee. The work progressed rather slowly, and at one o'clock it was evident that we should have an afternoon meeting and two meetings the following day, since the subcommission must report on Thursday morning to a full meeting of the Human Rights Commission.

Just before one o'clock I was advised that the item on the study of the aboriginal Indians in our continent, brought up by Bolivia, would come up at the afternoon session in the ad hoc Political Committee, and I was responsible for it. So I took my guests for luncheon in the delegates' dining room. Then I attended a press conference on the draft of the Covenant on Human Rights from 2:30 to 3 p.m. and at 3:15 I was in my seat at the Political Committee meeting

Speeches continued all through the afternoon. The Bolivian, the Uruguayan and the Haitian delegates all made very moving speeches, recognizing the fact that there had been Indian civilizations in South America and in North America, which with the influx of conqueror from Europe had been cut off in their development. They spoke of their responsibilities to these people and were anxious to initiate some action that would be helpful. The Haitian delegate wanted included in the resolution any other groups in our communities that suffered under disabilities of a social or economic nature.

As usual, the Polish delegate and the delegate from the Soviet Union took this occasion to say as many disagreeable things as they could, primarily about the United States, though they did include some South American countries as well. The delegate from Russia spoke for a long time in the usual manner, praising everything in the Soviet Union and quoting at length from American reports and books criticizing the things in the United States.

Many of our own citizens recognize wrongs done to our Indian population and to our Negro citizens and we are free to speak as we feel. It saddens me to see so much time wasted by the Russians and their group of countries, repeating what has been said so often before, purely as a matter of ill will, for there is nothing to be gained by it.

The one thing uppermost in my mind was that the Soviet delegate seemed to have no realization of the fact that the great hope of reform always lies in the freedom that men of conscience have within a nation to work and to speak for that reform. What I would fear if I were a leader in the Soviet Union is the fact that all their representatives always speak of the perfections of their system.

Since nothing human is perfect, one is led to the conclusion that criticism might not be welcome and that, therefore, Soviet citizens are perhaps not so free in voicing the fundamental criticisms. They may be critical of superficial things, but they never really touch the fundamental reasons underlying any of their difficulties, and which never imply criticisms of the regime itself or of their high officials.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 12, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.