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

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GENEVA, Monday—We had a closed working group session Thursday in the Human Rights Commission, so I can tell you little or nothing of what happened. But since it was our first opportunity to hear and see the top officials of the three specialized agencies with whom such nations as will ratify the Human Rights covenant will have to work closely, I think it might be interesting to give a little pen picture of them.

These agencies are the International Labor Organization, the Economic and Social Council, and the World Health Organization.

Of the three, the agency that has had the greatest experience is the International Labor Organization. This group began to function under the League of Nations and because of the devotion and great distinction of its directors (John Winant was one of them) it has kept functioning without interruption though it moved for a time away from Geneva to Canada.

The present ILO director general, David Morse, came to Geneva for the meeting but the brunt of the talking fell to Sir Guildhaume Myrrdin-Evans, as representative of government; Leon Jouhaux, as representative of labor; and Gullmar Bergenstrom as representative of employers. They formed the delegation chosen by the governing body of the ILO to represent it in giving advice and help to the Human Rights Commission.

Sir Guildhaume looks benign and a little worried but he states his position carefully and never goes too far. Mr. Jouhaux is forceful and constantly remembers that he must go far enough to make the workers who back him feel that he is fighting for them, as he undoubtedly is. Mr. Bergenstrom looks wise and serious and says rather little.

Jaime Torres-Bodet, director-general of UNESCO, always fights for his point of view. When I saw him he expressed again his passionate feeling about the lack of education for many people in the world. He feels that there can be no chance for democracy to flourish where people do not have at least a minimum of education. While on the whole he is more restrained in his utterances than are some members of the delegation, it is quite evident that he feels very deeply that this chance to learn—not only for children but for illiterate adults—is a very basic need that should be filled for every individual.

Both the delegation of the ILO and the delegation of UNESCO seem a little more colorful perhaps because the variety of languages gives their speech a more varied and emphatic expression than does the English language. So when one hears Dr. Brock Chisholm of the World Health Organization, who is a Canadian by birth, one feels he is very restrained. And though he spoke a few more words than the others they certainly did not take up very much of our time.

One of the delegates the other day quoted some figures on the volume of words spoken in United Nations meetings. Apparently the Soviet Union has the edge on all the rest of us and has used a good deal more paper and many more printed words than any other delegation.

I was interested in these statistics because I have always felt that it took the Russians longer to express their ideas and that there must be some reason. I have even asked them whether it is because of their language that it takes more words to explain their thoughts. They always object to any limitation on debate or to a reduction in the length of speeches, and I really think that it does take more words for them to cover an idea than it does for anyone who uses the English or French language.

Of course, they spend more time attacking other people, too, and assuring us that they themselves have only peaceful desires. But I don't think these attacks can be the only reason for the added use of words. Their training must be different from ours, too, because I was taught that it was harder to express your thoughts in fewer words but that it was far more desirable and showed better training. Certainly, none of the Soviet delegates are hampered by any such background in their education.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Bergenström, Gullmar, 1909-1999 [ index ]
         Swedish lawyer and international civil servant
         [ Wikidata ]
  • Chisholm, Brock, 1896-1971 [ index ]
         Canadian psychiatrist and international civil servant; first Director-General of the World Health Organization)
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | Other source ]
  • Jouhaux, Le?on, 1879-1954 [ index ]
         French trade union leader
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | Brittanica ]
  • Morse, David A. (David Abner), 1907-1990 [ index ]
         American lawyer, government official, and international civil servant; Director-General of ILO, 1948-1970
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | US Nat. Archives ]
  • Myrddin-Evans, Guildhaume, Sir, 1894-1964 [ index ]
         British civil servant
         [ LC | VIAF | Wikidata | ODNB ]
  • Torres Bodet, Jaime, 1902-1974 [ index ]
         Mexican politician and international civil servant
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST ]
  • Geneva (Switzerland) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 1, 1951

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)
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  • Black, Allida M. (Editor)
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  • Binker, Mary Jo (Associate Editor)
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  • 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.