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

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NEW YORK—I have a wire asking me what I think of a letter written by C. Rajagopalachari of Madras, India, and which appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times last Sunday.

This gentleman's letter is a plea that we in the United States have the courage, as a people, to do away with the use of all atomic weapons. Because we used the bomb to end the war with Japan he feels that it would be a privilege for us to renounce the use of all such weapons now. He says that germ warfare has been practically ruled out because no nation feels that it could possibly use that kind of warfare—and yet the accusations were made in the Korean War that we had used germs. We insisted that we had not, but the accusations were nevertheless made.

Mr. Rajagopalachari insists that as long as we negotiate about how to control atomic weapons we will be on the verge of using them.

It is true that these negotiations keep us constantly wondering what may happen, but at the same time and on the same page of The New York Times there was an article by James Reston which reminded us all that in Washington (and I think in the whole United States) peace is everybody's most-important business.

I am wondering, however, if it is possible for a nation to give up a weapon which it has grown accustomed to thinking is not a weapon to use for killing, but a weapon which, unused, may be the one real assurance of peace on earth.

Unless a country has an idea in which it believes so fully that that belief is stronger than any weapon, it would be impossible to throw the weapon away.

In our early days when we were fighting against great odds, we believed strongly that the democratic idea, which we were establishing in this country, in itself was strong enough to sweep the world. We felt we had evolved a new way of life, a way of life in which people who had always known slavery suddenly were going to be made free.

Many of the men who held to this idea were aristocrats and yet they had a vision that not just they, themselves, but all men were going to be free. All men were going to have an opportunity to take part in their own governments, and they hoped for peace just as we do.

Now, I think if this idea were as strong with us today as it was in 1776, perhaps we could do as our Indian friend suggests. But unless we are convinced that this idea has such vitality that in itself it will win the world to its banners, I do not think there is any hope that doing away with the bomb will accomplish the ends desired.

The belief in the idea must come first, and then perhaps the other gestures will come as a matter of course.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 29, 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.