My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. —I have just received a clipping in the mail which repeats something I have been told a number of times and which I would like to refute. It quotes me as having said as regards Senator John F. Kennedy "that he may write about courage but he has little of it himself." And it goes on to say that I have said if the Presidential race were between Nixon and Kennedy I would not vote at all.

Both of these quotations are entirely incorrect.

I never said either.

I am not coming out for any candidate until the national convention. This is the stand I have taken from the very beginning and it would take some very compelling reasons to make me change this. And if I did so I would certainly explain my reason for the change clearly.

I consider it the duty of everyone to vote in the primaries and in the general election, but of course if there is no interest in a particular area there is no point in voting in the primaries. But wherever there is a contest one should vote.

It is quite true that there are times when one may not like the candidates presented by either party, but one has an obligation to choose and to vote on the record of the party, for democracy does not function when the people do not take responsibility.

There was a disturbing headline in one of our New York newspapers Monday morning regarding discrimination against dark-skinned delegates to the United Nations. But it was not surprising, since as long as there is any kind of segregation in public places we run the risk of segregating not only our own colored people but those who come to us from other areas of the world.

Whenever an incident of this kind occurs it hurts our leadership in the world, for these people from new countries are jealous of their dignity and, having won their liberty, feel they have a right to equality with any other nation.

For restaurants on either the East Side or West Side of New York City to snub anyone of color is something New Yorkers should be deeply ashamed of. To give poor service may seem to restaurant keepers a subtle way of getting rid of guests they do not want. But it is not at all subtle, since those who have been discriminated against have known every trick of this kind for many years. And in any restaurant they are not going to accept this kind of treatment whether at home or abroad.

More and more free nations are coming to the U.N. from Africa and Asia and many of them are dark-skinned people, some of them lighter than others. Some of them have Negroid characteristics, some of them have not, and the only way we can be sure not to insult anyone of diplomatic status is not to insult our own citizens, either.

I cannot help feeling a little worried about the President's forthcoming trip, particularly to Japan. The wisdom of going into areas where we know there is considerable objection to some of our foreign policy—and giving any group that is in opposition to us an opportunity to demonstrate—seems to me to put a very great responsibility on any nation about to receive such an important guest as the President.

No nation can be sure that it can prevent a group of its citizens from showing its feelings, and to subject our President to a possible demonstration of this kind seems to me unwise.

Of course, he may be able to do something to change the general atmosphere, but should he be asked to do this? Could not it be done by someone else? Or do we really need to pay visits? Might it not be better to try to work out new policies that would be more acceptable in these areas of the world?


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Pittsfield (Mass., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 8, 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.