My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Thursday—Increasingly people are talking to me about the new H-bomb and its dangers. Even on "Meet the Press" I was asked if the knowledge that one could carry a devastating bomb in a suitcase didn't frighten me, and so I have decided to tell you what I feel about this whole situation.

It seems to me that the discovery of this latest bomb has actually outlawed the use of atomic bombs. The power of destruction is so great that unless we face the fact that no one in the world can possibly use it and therefore it must be outlawed as a weapon, we risk putting an end to all civilization. However, this realization makes it necessary to think of other things much more critically.

The day that we agree the world over that no one can use an atom bomb, we must either agree immediately on total disarmament, except for a united force in the United Nations, or we must make sure that we have better weapons than anyone else. We must have the best of the less destructive weapons, such as tanks, guns, etc. We are not equal as to population with the communist world.

Therefore, the free world must stand together to defend itself. It will not do to rely on a weapon that we cannot use for protection. It is entirely obvious that were we, because we had no other strength, to use the H-bomb, let us say against an enemy that seemed to threaten us or that seemed to threaten the security of an area of the world that we felt should not fall to Soviet domination, instead of having the sympathy of the world we would, by that one action, have created fear and hatred of us.

No one can use this new destructive weapon without destroying innumerable innocent people. It would not be only our enemies that would condemn us, it would be our own conscience.

The conscience of America is a very real thing and if, because of any temptation whatsoever, we use this terrific weapon first, there are few of us in this country who could live with our own consciences.

Before we drift into war in one way or another, I feel that every possible agency, primarily the U.N. and its negotiation machinery, should be called into play. Sometimes I think we rely too much on negotiation only among the great powers. True, there is no force set up in the U.N. and you cannot rely on the enforcement of peace through an already set–up compulsory force provided by every member nation in the U.N .

Just because of this, however, the mobilization of world opinion and methods of negotiation should be developed and used by every nation in order to strengthen the U.N . Then if we are forced into war, it will be because there has been no way to prevent it through negotiation and the mobilization of world opinion. In which case we should have the voluntary support of many nations, which is far better than the decision of one nation alone, or even of a few nations.

I dislike fear and I confess to being on the whole rather free from it. But not to look at the dangers of the present and make up our minds that we do not want to drift, but that we want to use all the machinery there is to prevent war, seems to me foolhardy.

I think the women of this country, if they face the fact of the present situation, will agree with me that this is a time for action—not for war, but for mobilization of every bit of peace machinery. It is also a time for facing the fact that you cannot use a weapon, even though it is the weapon that gives you greater strength than other nations, if it is so destructive that it practically wipes out large areas of land and great numbers of innocent people.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 16, 1954

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.