My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—One of the shortcomings about being on a lecture tour is that occasionally you miss reading the newspapers or fail to find complete coverage of a really important story.

I missed reading Senator Mike Mansfield's speech on Berlin unification, which seems to have created considerable excitement even in the Midwest where perhaps attention to speeches on international affairs is not as great as in other parts of the country. On Sunday, however, I found in a St. Louis paper an editorial ridiculing the Senator's ideas on the solution he offered to the Berlin situation. And it was most tantalizing, for I feel quite sure that what was quoted was not all that the Senator said, and I am most anxious to read the whole speech.

I am glad, too, that someone is suggesting some fresh solutions. As I understand the situation, before Secretary of State John Foster Dulles went to the hospital he announced we could make no changes in our attitude and our allies were in agreement with us that we could make no changes.

The thing that troubles me is that we are in this position because at present we are under fire from the Soviet Union and we cannot look as though we would yield to force in any way. Yet, it has been evident for sometime that the reasons which seemed to make it necessary to rearm West Germany and to include her in the NATO defense pact are really no longer valid.

There was a time when the real problem facing Europe was the fear that the Soviets' vast armies would suddenly be used to roll across Europe and conquer the whole continent. This would be preliminary to other conquests, it was felt, and so it was sensible to consider the military defense of the European countries. And since the Germans are good soldiers we thought of West Germany re-armed as being the first line of defense for us all.

But since that thinking was valid, conditions in the world have changed. Premier Nikita Khrushchev will now need no armies to roll across Europe. If he attacks, it will be an all-out attack with atomic bombs which will spread destruction rapidly. But he cannot attack on a broad enough scale to wipe out all retaliation, and he is conscious of this fact and knows that he will suffer as much as the rest of us.

I doubt, therefore, that a solution which really means all-out war is going to be anymore attractive to him than it is to us. He will play for the greatest advantages that he can get out of the solution and we will play for the same.

Our allies are probably as conscious of this as we are and they may feel that the time has come for us to make some new suggestions of what the solution to the whole East and West German situation should be.

I am quite sure that one of the things Senator Mansfield said was to suggest that we submit the whole question to the United Nations. Perhaps if we did it would get calmer and more judicial treatment before it reaches the boiling point and an immediate military situation threatens.


(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 19, 1959

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.