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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


HYDE PARK, Tuesday—There was a sub-headline in one of the papers the other day which interested me very much. Above a story about Egypt, it stated: "Dictator Hopes United States Will Furnish Arms, Help Wipe Out Poverty."

Helping to wipe out poverty is perhaps almost more important than furnishing arms in many countries such as Egypt, but I wonder whether there is such a thing as just giving aid and having it succeed. A great deal more has to be done within the country itself than can be done by any outside country.

This is something not only we have to face, but all nations that are today finding their people stirring against conditions under which they have lived during the past few years, must come to realize that this is an internal problem. One cannot successfully use aid accorded from outside unless one is actually making a tremendous effort to change age-old internal attitudes and conditions.

Much of the difficulty in some of these nations arises from old concepts that have to be changed fundamentally before the people will have a chance to profit by any help that comes from outside. It is true that agriculture must be improved and industry must be financed and technical assistance is necessary to teach people how to run the industries. But, at the same time, unless a total change comes about in the way you treat the human beings who work on the land and who work in the industries, nothing very successful will have been achieved in actually bettering the lives of the masses.

To bring about this needed improvement would mean a fundamental change in the thinking of groups at the top in many countries where a few have been privileged and the masses have been impoverished. How this change would take place nobody yet knows, because in most places where it has come about it has taken generations. The people themselves have often been the ones who fought for the change.

There is not time for this gradual evolution today, nor for the gradual education of people at the top. The need is so pressing that people must learn quickly.

We in this country sometimes find that we have not learned our lesson any too well when we read that certain things occur in our own bailiwick, but we know we are on the way and are seeing constant improvement.

As we listen to the speeches in our Presidential campaign some of us will be wondering which candidate will be able not only to get across the practical things that need to be done among the nations of the world, but also who can instill some of the ideals without which these reforms will never be put over.

There is a crisis in the world today and it is not just a material crisis, though it may well seem to be. It is a crisis that deals with the spirit and the heart and the mind of man, and spiritual leadership is as important as a good, hard-headed practical guidance. The combination is hard to find, but we shall need it badly over the next few years.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 13, 1952

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.