My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ST. LOUIS, Monday—In Richmond, Virginia, we met groups from colleges and universities and high schools, both students and professors. Mr. Eichelberger and I made very short statements about the American Association for the United Nations and then questions began. It is an interesting thing to find how eager young people are to know what they can do. It is quite apparent to me that it is important to develop programs for young people in which they actually do something which ties them up with the work of the United Nations, and the possibilities for doing this seem to me to be endless.

It is, of course, valuable to do as is done every year in New York City for United Nations Day by the chairman, Mr. John Golden, who presents prizes to high school students who will read material provided them on the United Nations, and then write an essay on what the United Nations means to them. This is a good way to start young people off and the American Association for the United Nations also holds an essay contest every year for high school students.

But I think perhaps we need to think of things that can be done every day in the year which will increase the understanding of the peoples of the world and make young people feel that they have a part in developing that understanding. We have here many students from foreign countries. Most of them are either college students or graduate students, but some cities have developed programs where they invite teen-agers to come over and live in carefully chosen families and attend high school in this country for a year.

We could do much more in the way of entertaining in our homes some of the students who are studying in universities and colleges. It might well be possible to bring home some students to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas. Whatever country they come from they could tell us what their festivals are and we could explain to them the meaning of the things that we do.

Thanksgiving, for instance, is a peculiarly American custom. It comes to us from the early Pilgrim Fathers who were grateful for the harvest which would keep them from starvation during the long winter months. They could not count on the arrival of ships at regular intervals bringing them supplies. The ships of those days were very small. It took a long time to cross the ocean. And they brought many new mouths to feed. A good harvest was something for which they were really grateful.

Being a religious people, they started the ceremony by a thanksgiving service in their churches. They attended that service with their rifles over their arms, first to defend themselves against any unfriendly Indians, and next to shoot any game that unwisely crossed their path. It was wild turkeys that came to their tables in those days, and though ours today are tame ones, nevertheless they can remind us of the real meaning of Thanksgiving when it began in this country.

It can spur us on, too, to remember to be thankful for the things that are ours today. Never was a country more obligated to be thankful than are we in the United States. And this is only one way in which young people can actually participate in work that benefits the United Nations. There are many more ways and I hope that they will be developed as a result of this trip on which Mr. Eichelberger and I are now embarked, and that we will find new activities blossoming in every area which we will visit.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Saint Louis (Mo., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 6, 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.