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

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NEW YORK—I agree wholeheartedly with the statement made the other day by Anthony Nutting of Great Britain in which he said we need to fight for our system rather than just negatively to oppose communism. It is not enough just to say that we do not like the Communist idea. We will have to prove that our own idea is better and can accomplish more.

We should not be frightened by scientific achievements easily explained by the fact that the Soviet government has given money and men for these new developments. We have been complacent, have shown little interest and given as little money and as few men as possible to the work which we knew should go on. We were more interested in our comforts, in letting large companies make great profits, in having all the luxuries possible in this comfortable world of ours.

What we need is not fear but greater confidence and a real dedication to our beliefs. In the United States we are the showcase for the possibilities inherent in a free world. If the lives of people here are not better than the lives of people anywhere else in the world, then the uncommitted people who are looking for leadership naturally will turn to those who are dedicated and working for something even more than they are working against something.

We have taken no trouble to invite delegations from other parts of the world to look at our system, to see what we are doing under government auspices. If others were interested, they could come, but we didn't care much whether they came or not.

This is not the attitude of the government of the Soviet Union. And we must remember that in Asia and Africa and even in parts of South America there are people today who are closer to the conditions that existed 40 years ago in the Soviet Union than they are to the conditions that have existed in the U.S. for many years past.

The Soviets can say to them: "We know your conditions. Our people were hungry, too, not only for food but for health and education, for knowledge and the possibilities lying before us in order to have hope in the future. Look at what we have done in 40 years. Take heart. We can help you."

This is a real challenge which requires understanding on our part, dedication to our ideals and a willingness to have all our people recognize this challenge so that they will stop thinking that it can be met by bombs alone and understand that it must be met by our daily way of life, by our respect of all human beings, regardless of race or creed or color. Two thirds of the world's peoples are colored and they have cultures and aspirations just as do the whites.

If we are to lead the free world, we must become a mature people. Otherwise we may well wake up to find that fear and laziness have reduced us from a strong and vital country, capable of attracting a following, to a people lacking in leadership and unwilling to fight in the only way which can be effective in this struggle—the way of the mind and heart.

We must respect everything new and be willing to examine it. We must love humanity and be willing to sacrifice to prevent the growth of terrorism in seeking the goal of hope and security in the basic decencies of life for all men everywhere.

I have come back from the Soviet Union frightened, not by the achievements of the leaders and the people of that country but fearful of our own apathy and complacency.

I can well understand why the Soviet people accept the good that has come to them. I cannot understand or believe, however, that anything which has to be preserved by fear will permanently stand against something which offers love and trust among the people themselves and their leaders—something that asks for the understanding and the cooperation of the people and that permits personal initiative and removes fear from free thought and the expression of ideas.

MAY we have courage to face ourselves, to regain a vision of ourselves in the leadership of the world. Then we will not have to fear the advance of science anywhere. We can join in the effort to use all knowledge for the eventual good of all human beings.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 19, 1957

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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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.