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

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NEW YORK—A letter from my son James, who is a Congressman from California, tells me that I was unfair in what I wrote last week concerning one of his fellow Representatives, John J. Rooney of Brooklyn, N.Y.

I had read a report of a group that had seen the President about the inability of our foreign service employes to speak the languages of the countries to which they are assigned. I gathered that the difficulty lay in insufficient appropriations and that Congressman Rooney, who is the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, had not been sympathetic to requests in this field.

I also had heard indirectly that Congressman Rooney was not very sympathetic to requests in the field of research of any kind, and I got the feeling that on the Democratic side he perhaps was a little like Representative John Taber on the Republican side.

I happen to know that we send no young men to our embassy in Russia who do not speak Russian, but I also know that political appointments mean that we often do not get top men in the diplomatic service who speak the language of the country to which they are assigned.

Officers in the regular foreign service, I think, should have the opportunity to learn the language of a foreign country when they are assigned to it, so that they arrive with at least some knowledge of the language and may continue their studies on the spot.

But apparently I was all wrong about Congressman Rooney. I am told he fights valiantly for full State Department appropriations and that he gives that department more than it asks for. The trouble is that the State Department does not ask enough, and Mr. Rooney cannot add to the requests, although he fights to appropriate all he can.

I am happy to apologize to Congressman Rooney for my error, and I hope that the State Department will take heart and ask for amounts adequate to cover this particular field, which is rather important in diplomacy.

It was disquieting to note reports of a real outbreak of hostilities, lasting more than an hour, between Israel and Syria. The boundary at that spot at Lake Hula is difficult to determine and reclamation work goes on there all the time. So it is, I suppose, a tempting spot for an outbreak of fighting.

The only encouraging thing about this report was that the two sides stopped at the order of the United Nations.

I went to see the English play by John Osborne, "The Entertainer," here in New York last week in which Sir Laurence Olivier and his British cast do a most remarkable piece of work.

The play gave me a feeling reminiscent of that in "Look Back in Anger." I cannot believe that the feelings depicted in both plays are widespread or real, and the grimness of both seems hard to bear.

But the younger generation seems to find this sort of thing more intelligible, so it may just be a case of different generations seeing things in different lights. In any case, I would not have missed the evening.


(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 2, 1958

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.