My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Tuesday—It is a curious thing—and I have often noticed it before—that the trip to Washington, D.C., by air can be as rough as any trip you can fly, and when Miss Thompson and I came down Sunday, it was rough. However, we arrived safely and on time.

My friend, Mrs. Stephen Ives, had come to meet me, as did Franklin Jr. and Sue and a friend of theirs. So we had a little chat with Mrs. Ives and then Franklin took me to Mrs. Miller's house where I am staying.

That night we dined with some old friends and I heard much gossip about the new Administration, the organization of the departments and the attitude of the Senate and the House on various subjects.

I find, in Washington, that you can get very conflicting opinions. I talked to two newspaperwomen, both of whom I trust as good reporters. One of them told me that the mood in Congress and in the Senate would endanger all appropriations for foreign aid and even be lukewarm on our obligations to the United Nations. The other one said she felt few changes would be made in this session but there would be some cutting down, although not a great deal, and added that very little major legislation to change anything would even be proposed in this session.

I read with interest an article in one of the New York Sunday magazine sections in which Eric Johnston, who has certainly had considerable experience as a businessman in government service, explained to some new businessmen appointees, some of the pitfalls in government service.

Much that he said was obviously true. When it comes to economizing by abolishing positions, or by curtailing activities, the people who are losing their jobs are going to run to the politicians who, perhaps, originally got them their jobs, and those politicians are going to complain. He can be for economy when it is at someone else's expense, but it is rare that a politician wants to economize on his own pet ideas or on his own pet people.

One of the very pertinent points which Mr. Johnston made is really the result in great part of the Civil Service System. You can dismiss no one without bringing charges, and charges are not easy to substantiate. You cannot jump people according to the efficiency they show; they must proceed in orderly fashion under the rules.

Civil Service was conceived to protect the great evil of using all government offices for building up a party machine, but sometimes it seems to me there should be a revision of the Civil Service system to allow for recognition of efficiency and devotion to duty. This system also makes it possible for power to be built up in a huge organization so it is almost impossible for a new head to make great changes. Every new Administration hopes to improve on the previous one, but frequently ends by accepting the fact that it is difficult to make changes in government.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Washington (D.C., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 28, 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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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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.