My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SARASOTA, Fla.—As a result of my talk in Cambridge, Mass., the other day, I have received an extremely interesting letter which I want to share with my readers. It follows:

"After hearing your address to the youth of Cambridge, I feel that you can answer or at least lead me closer to the resolution of several questions which are extremely important to me.

"Briefly I will tell you about myself. I am a 16-year-old senior at (blank) high school. I am studying Russian history. I spent last summer in Europe as an exchange student. I'm a finalist in the (blank) scholarship competition and will attend (blank) college next fall. I represented my school at the annual Massachusetts Student Government Day, and, most important of all, I am a Negro.

"Perhaps you remember my asking you what American youth can do to meet the Soviet Union's challenge of peaceful coexistence. Obviously, in terms of natural resources and manpower the Soviet Union will eventually surpass us materially. Perhaps she, in turn, will be surpassed by Red China, but the point in question is: Can a democracy function fast enough and efficiently enough to resist defeat by a society in which the communistic end justifies the autocratic means? From my brief experience at (blank) and the present situation in the Senate, I seriously question the capabilities of a democracy.

"The Soviet Union's sputnik shifted the United States from complacency to lack of self-confidence. Can this shift be used to our advantage? Can the American youth be indoctrinated with democracy after this blow? The increasing emphasis on science is good, but science only teaches men how to live with their environment; the humanities teach men to live with themselves. How can, as you put it, American youth be made to live democracy, to think positively, and to realize that Utopia is yet to be gained? Although the United States is supposed to be freedom's haven, I found myself freer in Europe.

"I fear for democracy. Being an idealist, I am positive `Time is on our side,' but, realistically, if the United States continues her complacency, the Soviet Union will win in her peaceful coexistence battle of ideologies.

"Your talk gave me hope for a solution to my problems. Thank you very much for your wonderful definition of democracy; may it be attained. Again I ask you: What can American youth do to meet the Soviet Union's challenge (being aware that the U.S.S.R. feels that `time is on her side')?"

My answer is that the people of the United States must wake up and understand the world in which they live. Older people must help younger people, but younger people must know that they have to carry on the crusade for democracy.

They have to see that their own country is a real democracy and sets example for the world to follow in human relations. They have to recognize the good that exists in communism and the fact that many things will change everywhere.

If they can preserve their idealism and give themselves whole-heartedly to working together with the youth of other nations to make the world a better place to live in, then they will meet the Soviet challenge.


(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Sarasota (Fla., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 15, 1960

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.