My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON —We had a most interesting luncheon Thursday at the Park Lane Hotel where Algernon Black explained to a small group of guests the development of plans which the Encampment for Citizenship has under consideration as a result of the report made by Columbia University last year on the encampment's work.

Before the encampment started last year, all those attending were interviewed as they arrived. They were interviewed again at the end of their six-weeks' stay and were followed back to their communities for a study on how these six weeks affected them in their own environment and occupations.

I don't know that I have ever told you in detail about this encampment, which I think is one of the very interesting experiments in citizen education.

It was started 10 years ago at the Fieldston School, which is situated on what might be called a rural campus even though it is on the outskirts of New York City, just across the bridge where Riverdale begins.

The buildings are not used in the summer and the New York Society for Ethical Culture has rented them to the encampment at a nominal price. Young men and women between the ages of 18 and 23, regardless of race or creed, are carefully chosen for their leadership potentialities and recruited from all over the country to attend the encampment. Last year 13 Indians from different tribes off our reservations attended.

The first few days' integration is slow, but after two or three weeks no one seems to realize that there is such a thing as racial or religious difference as a barrier between friends.

The young people run their own government, do their own work to a large extent. There are lectures, workshops and field trips.

The subjects covered are many, but the main idea is that young people should know their role in a democratic type of government and in a democratic way of life. These are some of the questions that are answered:

What is the meaning of democracy? How does our representative republic function? What is the meaning of freedom? How do you become personally and actively involved in the interests of your community—political, civic, cultural or philanthropic?

Dr. William Jansen, of the New York school system, who was with us Thursday, was troubled by the fact that the survey appeared to show that seven percent of the young people who attended the encampment found themselves alienated from their families on their return because of the viewpoints they had acquired.

In talking out the local problems with each youngster before he leaves, an effort is made to meet the realities of a changing civilization and of different generations in the mere process of going to school or college, and it is the technique of learning how to live with different thinking that is important. This, I think, is one of the things the encampment tries to teach.

I would like to see this experiment spread throughout the country, for it encourages responsibility for citizenship. The danger in a democracy is that we accept the privileges of it without, at the same time, accepting the responsibilities.


(Copyright, 1956, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 12, 1956

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.