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

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HYDE PARK—I seem forced to write these days again and again on the situation in South Africa. Alan Paton's article in the New York Time Magazine presented what seems to me to be a sad picture, and it appeared to ring a note of doom for those in the South African government for trying to suppress people on a basis of racial lines.

If the day comes when we divide all people on color lines, it will be a sad day for the human race.

From the news reports on the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd, I gather that David Pratt, the white South African farmer who wounded him, might have been motivated by impulse but that the impulse grew from a strong feeling of opposition to the policies of the government. Mr. Pratt is said to be a kind and generous man but to have psychological difficulties.

The more I hear of the methods used by the government to suppress the South African native population, the more I feel that the word "civilized" cannot be applied to such methods. If this is what civilization brings, then civilization is more cruel than barbarism.

One can only hope that the realization of world reaction will come before the South African government actually commits its white people to suicide.

As we watch this whole picture developing, we in the United States should be taught a lesson. One of the purposes of education should be to teach us to live together. We are a nation of many different peoples, and there is no reason why we should not be able to bridge the color gap and other racial differences until we are, at last, one people.

We have made great progress in this respect and we should be proud of it. We certainly should not be discouraged by the mere fact that we cannot at once find ways of complete agreement everywhere in our nation.

We must work gradually in achieving a better understanding and stop any continued slow approach that might eventually lead us into a situation similar to that of the South Africans. To see such a thing develop in this country would indeed be a tragedy of the first order.

In this country we are not in the same danger as the South Africans because we still are a nation with a majority of white people. But in our approach to the world situation, this is not enough to make us feel any happier about America's role. We ought to be moral leaders in the world today—leaders capable of high moral standards on questions vital to the world and not afraid to take such a position because of our own backward tendencies at home.

The great numbers of the elderly people in this country have been clearly shown by the ability to mobilize a demonstration in the hope of getting medical care for the aged.

No official action on such benefits has been scheduled, but there is no question that the elderly people have been feeling that this is one of the things absolutely essential for inclusion in Social Security benefits. They are making every effort to keep members of Congress conscious of their feeling.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 12, 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.