My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Monday—At dinner the other evening I met Louis Fischer, whom I had not seen in a long time. There were a number of interesting people at this dinner, not the least being our host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Singh. They managed to draw out their interesting guests, getting them to express their inner thoughts.

Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Fischer in all of his thinking, he is certainly an interesting person to talk to. A recent article by him in one of our Sunday newspaper magazines on Gandhi is extremely interesting. I would like to requote here a part of his quotations. Gandhi said:

"I prophesy that if we disobey the law of the final supremacy of spirit over matter, of liberty and love over brute force, in a few years' time we shall have Bolshevism in this land which was once so holy."

Of course, Gandhi was speaking of India, but Mr. Fischer points out that he might have been talking of the United States or of any other free country.

What he said is something for every one of us to ponder. Most of us are constantly concerned about material things and yet the people whom we like best to have with us and who make the best impression on those with whom they come in contact are the people who rarely give much thought to material things. Their minds dwell on the deeper questions of life.

Mahatma Gandhi often urged that we "turn the searchlight inward." By this, of course, he meant that we must understand our own weaknesses, our own faults, before we could conquer them. All these teachings of Gandhi are applicable to our modern way of life just as they were in the kind of life he was urging on his people. His inspirational leadership finally won freedom for his people—and it was achieved without war.

I do not know that Gandhi's plans for living could be applied to modern life, but there is no doubt in my mind that the more we simplify our material needs the more we are free to think of other things. Perhaps what we all need to do is to sit down and think through how this could be accomplished without the loss of gracious living.

I used to think that, of necessity, comfort and beauty cost a great deal of money. I have learned that that is not true. But I still think we encumber our lives with too much, and that perhaps that is the part of Gandhi's teaching that should remain with us today.

No one who has been in India and seen some of the things that he established and felt the impact that his presence has left on material things—such as the feeling one gets when one enters the very simple room he occupied so frequently at the boys' school for Untouchables—can doubt the power of the spirit. Gandhi used to sell his autographs in order to keep this school going.

Some of the things the boys are trained to do, such as spinning and weaving, seemed to me less necessary now that India is free and they do not have to prove that they can live independently of any goods brought from outside. But the spirit is as valid as it ever was.

I think that here in our country it would be well for us to give more time to studying how we must preserve our freedoms and our liberties and, above all, how we must preserve our belief in one another.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 27, 1953

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.