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

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NEW YORK—I am receiving a number of pamphlets and booklets which are not as virulent as those published and sent around in Al Smith's campaign but still in many cases they reveal the lack of understanding of a very fundamental fact.

That fact is that any American, regardless of religion, has a right to be elected to public office under our Constitution.

And when elected to public office the chances are that he will live up to his oath to guard the Constitution, so that the danger does not lie in his election to public office. It lies in allowing laws to be passed which permit an encroachment by church organizations on what are rightfully state interests.

To watch legislation requires a more alert citizenry. But we are fortunate that there are a number of organizations constantly watching for the introduction of bills which might affect our real separation of church and state or curtail the real freedom of religion in this country.

I think one thing we need to be reminded of is the fact that freedom of religion does not mean, in a country that is still predominantly Protestant, freedom only for Protestants. It means freedom for other religions, too, and this includes Catholics and Jews and even the right to have no religion.

I have fought against laws that would give power to church organizations and I would fight against them always if they gave too much power to either Catholic or Jewish, or Protestant church organizations. The freedom to belong to any church or to none is fundamental, however, to our rights as citizens, and it should not be used to prevent us from holding public office, which is also a fundamental right of every citizen.

I am also receiving some rather strange letters that take me to task for entertaining in my house the head of a great foreign power who happens to believe in a system called communism and to be advancing it rather successfully in the world. My correspondents use epithets regarding him which are more emotional than thoughtful.

I am told that he has insulted our President, and I question that because I do not think the President of the United States can be insulted. His office sets him above anything of that kind.

I would like to ask whether our people as a whole realize that, whether we like it or not, a whole area of the world is Communist and believes in it passionately. If we do not want an annihilated world, then we must learn to live together.

All of us at one time or another have the experience of discovering that though we may dislike the public acts and beliefs of a group or nation of people we can like the people as individuals in spite of these things. We can sometimes establish a way of living together and come to an understanding on our motives and beliefs in spite of clinging to our own points of view.

This is an essential, because we are engaged in a great struggle in which the Communist and the democratic way of life and beliefs are pitted against each other. We have to persuade the new nations of Asia and Africa that we have more to offer than all the material promises of the Communists. And we have to persuade many of the older nations in the world of our real goodwill and desire not to dominate but to help.

This is no easy matter, but each one of us can in a small way do our part by getting to know the people who oppose us by trying to get them to understand us, and to believe us. And, above all, we must cultivate in ourselves the kind of assurance about our own beliefs and our own strengths in what we offer will draw to us those from other lands who are not yet fully decided in their beliefs.

None of us wants to destroy our world, but our only assurance of preservation in the future is to begin on disarmament and to continue step by step until we have a disarmed world. This, however, means the settlement of many difficult situations around the world, and we are dealing with people who believe in their convictions just as firmly as we believe in ours. We have to give and take, we have to try and understand and talk with each other. That is the only way to gain in understanding and to gain in the kind of personal relationships which will bridge the many difficulties that are bound to arise before settlement of political situations are reached.

This is not appeasement. This is not weakness. But it will require of us a clarification of our own ideals, an assurance of what we believe and a reaffirmation that we are striving at home to put into action our beliefs so that we can point to the actual gains in human happiness which can be made under our own system.

The Communist Chinese are probably at the point where they are far more rigid than are the Russian Communists. Their leaders have already stated that they are the only nation that could really benefit by a nuclear war. They count human life of so little importance that they say even if they lose 300,000,000 people they could still dominate the world because they would have more people left than anyone else in the world.

The leaders of the Soviet Union are not making such statements. They have advanced beyond that.

We in the United States hold human life even more precious, and if we want to help humanity as a whole we had better make friends on a personal basis in spite of any ideological or economic differences.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 14, 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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.