AUGUST 4, 1956
HYDE PARK N.Y.—I was very much interested yesterday to receive a speech sent to me by one of our Democratic candidates for Congress in a New York district in which he came out boldly and said that we, as a people, must face the fact that Soviet education is almost a more important challenge to the United States than Russia's military and economic power.
The realization on the part of Soviet leaders of what they could do with educated young people, whom they would export to other nations, is in this man's opinion one of the great challenges that we in the United States must meet. The Soviets make it possible for any boy or girl of real ability, who is willing to work, to receive as much education as he or she can take.
Government authorities, of course, are stressing the education of engineers and scientists, and since they can order their young people to take certain studies and go to certain places, they will be able to export a goodly number of trained and educated young people to the areas where they feel it will help them most to gain the gratitude of the people.
Perhaps the Soviet leaders plan not only to provide with skills the countries where they send these young people, but it might well be that they plan on exporting their ideas on government and economics. I am told that they order these young people to learn the language of the country to which they are to be assigned, so that making friends will be easier and the imparting of ideas will be possible.
This is very clever, I think, and particularly difficult for us to meet since, while we are increasing the possibilities for our young people to receive higher education, it is by no means yet possible for all able young people to continue in the line of education that they wish.
Education of the parents as well as of the young people is needed in this country. Parents must be willing to have the young people go outside their own country. It also is especially hard to convince our citizens that if they are going to a foreign country, they should learn the language of that country and should be prepared as well to explain the advantages of our kind of government and our way of life.
I had a very interesting letter today from an old friend, a white Southerner. One paragraph of his letter pointed up for me the reason why at this time of high tension it would be morally wrong to comply with the Court order in Alabama and give the list of members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the state. Here is what he tells me:
"I just came back last night from Orangeburg, S.C., where the Negro State College students refused to attend classes until the Governor removed the troops—police—he had riding the campus, and he removed them. The student leader was fired, but he is not really hurt, and I have not talked with a finer spirit in many a year."
I suppose we would be told that the troops on the Negro campus were there for protection, but why would there be a need to protect a Negro State College in South Carolina unless tensions, and actions as a result of these tensions, are not very friendly.
This is a white man writing to me—not a Negro—and a little further on he says:
"It is really a wonderful thing to see, this coming alive of a whole race of people and fighting to gain their freedom."
What is more, of course, this fighting has been done in large part after the fashion of Gandhi and his passive resistance movement. Everywhere the word is going out: "No violence."
And in Alabama I am told that the Negro ministers repeat over and over again to their audiences: You must not hate; we have to fight, but you need not hate. This is an almost invincible attitude.
(Copyright, 1956, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 4, 1956
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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