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


NEW YORK, Tuesday—I have just finished reading and looking at "Suffer Little Children" by Marion Palfi and published by the Oceana Publications of New York City. The photographs in the book tell the story of children.

This is a book that nearly all of us in the United States should look at with great care. There is some text in it, but the pictures are what will really remain with you. They are completely unforgettable. The reason none of us can fail to look at this book with care lies in the fact that these children are our future citizens, and we must know how they are growing up and what are their opportunities.

In the past 20 years we have enlarged greatly the group of people in our country to grow up in healthy surroundings. This may have meant also a shrinkage in the number of people who could not live decently.

There is, nevertheless, still room for more to be done if all our children are to have real opportunity to start life with a chance of growing into good citizens. That being the case, we must know what are the things that hinder our efforts most in making further progress. One of these things is segregation, and this book will show you in pictures some of the results of an evil that is preventing equal opportunity for good conditions of life for all our citizens.

Not long ago I received a clipping of a column in which the gentleman said: "But democracy struggles up but never trickles down. Lady Eleanor hasn't the remotest notion of democracy in that sense. She has never been on the bottom. She knows the bottom by imagination and slumming tours. How could she know democracy—real democracy?

"You see, democracy is the self-rule of the many. It isn't necessarily wise rule or good rule or effective rule. But it is the coming together for the common purpose for action, whether the action be sensible or foolish, good or evil."

Let us examine this statement.

Does one have to have been at the bottom to understand democracy? I think not.

There are many definitions of democracy, but I think it is usually thought that democracy functions when the will of the majority is expressed and when all abide by it until that will changes. It is true that the will of the majority is not always wise, but if you believe in democracy you believe that basically there is good in the vast majority of people and, given time, education, and good leadership where people are able to express themselves freely, they will eventually arrive at wiser decisions than can be assured by the rule of a few supposedly wise individuals.

In those governments that actually depend on the will of the few, you see the few as often wrong as the many are wrong. And those of us who believe in democracy and are against any type of fascism or communism or any type of totalitarianism, are those who believe that on the whole greater wisdom lies in trusting to the will of the majority.

The gentleman whose column I quoted sounds curiously like some of my Communist adversaries, or even some of our old Fascist opponents.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 10, 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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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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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.