SEPTEMBER 25, 1959
NEW YORK—For the first time, during the Iowa leg of his visit, Premier Nikita Khrushchev got an opportunity to ride in an open car and in this way sense some feeling of the American people. And a photograph of a sign carried by a church group revealed, I think, a very truthful but wise greeting. It read: "We do not always agree with you, but we welcome you." That really is the best attitude for the people of the United States and of Russia to take.
It seems to me that there has been a tendency in many of the speeches and talks that have taken place among our people and the Soviet Premier that reflects the real issue between the U.S. and Russia as being purely and simply one of economics.
We make the broad statement that we are a capitalist country. Obviously, the Soviet Union has a socialist economy. But capitalism varies, and our capitalism has changed considerably over the years and would hardly be recognized under the name of capitalism in some European countries. And I have heard uninformed people in rather high places here say that Great Britain is not a democracy, because she has socialized some of her industries and her professions.
So I think we need to do a little clearer thinking on the difference between economic and political systems. Economic differences we can discuss without heat. They are adjustable; we can live in a world with different economic systems and they can adjust to one another.
Our real difficulty is the difference between the concept of freedom and the importance of the human being as an individual. Under our system we think governments exist for the benefit of the individual human being. Under the Communist system the individual is of no importance; only the state really matters.
Under our system, while freedom is never absolute and is always conditioned by the freedom of others, we do believe that every human being should have the greatest measure of freedom possible. And in thinking about people we in the democracies remember the four freedoms enunciated in World War II by Winston Churchill and my husband as the hope for the peoples of the world. We have not yet succeeded in our democracy in giving everyone of our citizens equal freedom and equal opportunity, and that is our unfinished business.
The aspiration for freedom is the main difference that divides the Soviet system of communism and our own democratic system, and it is the reason why Mr. Khrushchev is so touchy whenever we speak for freedom. This is a difficult point for him to discuss because it affects the satellite countries.
We were willing to let the Philippines go; we would acquiesce in any decision of self-government made by the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, but that is not the attitude of the Soviet Union—and that is basically the difference in the concept of individual freedom.
The reason it troubles Mr. Khrushchev is that once this is understood throughout the world, there is no question the vast majority of the world population would prefer our system over that of the Communists, even though we acknowledge that we have not as yet achieved the fullness of our aspirations.
(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 25, 1959
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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