My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON—I am very much confused by the fact that the President and most of the Republican speakers to whom I listen are not talking about the problem of H-bomb tests as I understand it to be proposed by Mr. Adlai Stevenson.

They tell us that the effort of the administration has been patient and persistent in striving to reach an agreement to do away eventually, through total disarmament, with all nuclear weapons but that this requires a system of inspection.

We know that they have been making this effort, but we also know that so far no step forward has actually been achieved in the disarmament program. On top of this we know that many countries in the world that cannot afford a war are gradually feeling, regardless of what we say, that the Soviets keep proposing a ban on nuclear weapons and that we keep refusing.

In spite of the fact that we have good reasons for doing so, these countries get the feeling that we are dragging our feet.

What Mr. Stevenson has suggested is that we make the proposal within the framework of disarmament to stop the tests of the H-bomb. Of all war weapons this is the most dangerous to the human race. Two hundred and seventy scientists have already said that they agree with Mr. Stevenson in his position because of this danger.

It is not ascertainable just how much "fall out" the human race can take without being destroyed, and I imagine we had better not try to reach the maximum. This does not mean we are not getting some dangerous material from other sources, but we know we do get it from the H-bomb explosions and more and more reports are coming in of what is being found in the atmosphere. The other day someone said that in one area milk was found to be contaminated.

This is the one bomb that so far has always been detected when exploded. The administration tells us the Soviets may find a place in Siberia where it could be exploded and not detected, and I don't question that the Soviet leaders are wondering if we will find such a place, too. I also think there is enough knowledge in the Soviet Union about the dangers so that they may be considering it wise to cease these tests in their own interest. The desire for self-preservation is a very strong one.

I feel that Governor Stevenson's suggestion has the merit of being one step forward in disarmament and of giving hope to many of our friends who want to trust us. It is at least one thing in the foreign field that we have found we could take a risk on.

The administration also says that if we stop tests our scientists would be at such a disadvantage—in the event the Soviets decide to make tests in spite of any agreement—that it would take us two years to catch up. I cannot believe that our scientists, being conscious of this danger, would not keep their research up to the very minute so that they would be ready for a test at any moment.

These tests, the administration claims, are necessary for the development of defense against the danger of the "fall out." However, we have been told very little up to now of any discoveries that have been made to prevent these bad effects, and it seems to me that the gains through Mr. Stevenson's proposal are greater than the possible risks.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 5, 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.