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

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NEW YORK—It seems to me that Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin's letter to the President was an interference in our political campaign because of the way it was worded, but I hope that in spite of that our Government will give as objective a consideration as possible to the issue of the H-bomb explosions.

This is an issue that affects the entire human race, and even though we resent any outside interference in our political campaign, we must still try to treat such a vital issue on its merits.

I feel very strongly that the women of this country, who are fundamentally the conservers of human life, will want to think seriously about the risks involved. Whatever one does involves some risk and I prefer to take what seems to me the smaller risk of not creating an explosion rather than the one of continuing to do something which might, at a given point we cannot yet ascertain, destroy the human race without a war.

As I told you, I spoke the other day at Barnard College's political assembly. Attorney General Jacob K. Javits had to go to a meeting in Rome, N.Y., and he asked to speak first, with questions immediately following his talk.

I was very grateful to him for this, for I think it is a great advantage to follow your opponent, particularly when he has no opportunity for rebuttal. I was surprised, however, to find that he, like some of the other Administration speakers, still refers to Adlai Stevenson's proposal on the H-bomb as though there had never been any explanatory speeches after the first one in which he called upon this country to take the lead in doing away with H-bomb tests.

That speech might have left the impression that Stevenson was suggesting that we do this alone. As a matter of fact, however, in all his subsequent speeches it has become very clear he was proposing this in the framework of the disarmament conference and hoped at least for agreement with the Soviet Union.

In the detailed answer which the President's aides wrote for him, there is one paragraph that states, "Thus do we develop weapons, not to wage war, but to prevent war."

That is a fine statement, but unfortunately it is beside the point, since it is the question which is touched on in point four of the statement which is at issue. Here is what point four said:

“The continuance of the present rate of H-bomb testing, by the most sober and responsible scientific judgment, does not imperil the health of humanity.”

Then the question seems to be: Which of the opinions of scientists you are going to respect? Some agree with this statement and others disagree.

Two hundred–odd scientists, I understand, are backing Stevenson's point of view, and it seems to me that two points are missed. One of these is that even if some risk is involved, Stevenson's proposal is the one gesture we can make with the least risk.

Secondly, it will bring other nations who do not want war to feel that we are making a genuine effort to move forward.

It will take a long time before we have a thoroughly trustworthy inspection system. And even with inspection there is some danger we will not always detect H-bomb tests everywhere in the world.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 27, 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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.