AUGUST 1, 1955
NEW YORK—In the Atlantic for this month there is an article entitled "Roosevelt Through European Eyes," by Isaiah Berlin. It is most interesting to me that someone who never met or saw my husband, but only heard his voice over the radio, could write this article. He was writing, however, of how Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared to Europeans, and most of them could not see or meet him and probably did not often hear him on the radio.
Mr. Berlin says certain things that to me are very interesting as coming from an outsider, so to speak. He writes, for instance, "It is not too much to say that he altered the fundamental concept of government and its obligations to the governed. In this respect Lloyd George was no more than a forerunner. The welfare state, so much denounced, has obviously come to stay: the direct moral responsibility for minimum standards of living and social services which it took for granted, are today accepted almost without a murmur by the most conservative politicians in the Western democracies. . . But Mr. Roosevelt's greatest service to mankind (after ensuring victory against the enemies of freedom) consists in the fact that he showed that it is possible to be politically effective and yet benevolent and civilized: that the fierce left and right wing propaganda of the thirties, according to which the conquest and retention of political power is not compatible with human qualities, but necessarily demands from those who pursue it seriously the sacrifice of their lives upon the altar of some ruthless ideology, or the systematic practice of despotism—this propaganda, which filled the art and talk of the day, was simply untrue."
To have changed permanently a concept of government and made it more humanitarian, to have won a further victory over the enemies of freedom and to have proved that you may hold power and still be a really human being—that isn't a bad summing up as the results of an active political career. I am grateful to Mr. Berlin for his insight and understanding.
I have one of those amusing anonymous letters signed "a true American," from which I would like to give you a brief quotation. This particularly distressed person is troubled over the latest Supreme Court order and says, "I have no idea of mixing with the Japanese, Chinese, or Negro, nor with any other race I do not enjoy being with."
No one has been asked to mix socially with anyone he does not enjoy being with. But we all just have to be able to live in the same world, and it may be that we may soon learn how to enjoy those whom we have not had the opportunity of knowing before. The more I know new people the more I enjoy them; and I think if my correspondent will try to get to know really well some of the people he objects to, his point of view will change. He is also much disturbed at the lack of education for certain of our white people. I would urge him to work to see that this is improved. Certainly no white person in this country should lack for education.
(COPYRIGHT, 1955, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 1, 1955
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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