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

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NEW YORK—Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs at the present time in our international political situation is the fact that apparently there is developing again a close British-United States relationship.

The British are older and more experienced than we are in dealing with the far corners of the world. Their empire, which has now turned into the Commonwealth, has taught their people as a whole to think in terms of the whole world. This is something that is only growing with us. We had to put so much of ourselves into developing our country that, while our ships might trade with the far corners of the earth, our people as a whole were oriented to thinking of home development rather than of overseas ties.

It is a good combination to have close association and constant communication between the British government and our own. Real unity and understanding between our two governments will have an effect upon the Soviet attitude. If in his visit to Paris, President Kennedy can also bring about closer cooperation with France, we will again have the strength that won World War II but which has deteriorated so badly during the past few years.

France's attitude at present is seriously hampering the strength of the United Nations. President de Gaulle apparently has never felt the need for upholding this international organization, and yet the U.N., in the end, will be as important to him as it is to all the other countries of the world.

One of the things I was very glad to read about this past week was that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is urging steps to prevent a "false alarm" war. Well-informed people for a long time have been anxious about the possibility of the wrong interpretation of something seen on the radar screen that would bring about quick action and perhaps a major war.

Mr. McNamara's emphasis also on the need for strengthening our knowledge and the use of conventional arms rather than being forced to use nuclear arms—because we could not have a balance in our preparedness—is encouraging, too. To those of us who have felt that to be forced to use nuclear arms in a limited conflict would indeed be a sign of weakness and lack of preparation to meet the type of challenge that the Soviets are most apt to stir up wherever they find it possible, this change is welcome.

Earlier this week I went to see the Broadway play, "Mary, Mary," which is a comedy that hurts no one, is charmingly written and delightfully acted and in every way, I think, provides a relaxing and amusing evening. It was a well-chosen play for the activity that profited from the performance I attended, the Encampment for Citizenship.

The Encampment for Citizenship, which now has summer camps every year in New York, California and Puerto Rico, does do something of importance for the national and international scene. The young people who live together and learn about citizenship are important in the world. Citizenship training is perhaps the best way of learning a sense of responsibility for one's own country and for the world.

One of the wisest of advisers at the New York camp is 90-year-old Mrs. Alice K. Politzer. She says, "Politics isn't for politicians only. There is more to voting than pulling down a lever. If you pull it without knowing the candidate, the issues and problems of your community and country—of the world, for that matter—you are giving your franchise away. That's not government by representation; it is government by default."

The educational director at this same camp, Dr. Algernon Black, says: "We don't teach young people who or what to vote for. We do not indoctrinate, but we try to open their minds and give them a fresh insight into the democratic process, to teach them not only that democracy works but how it works."

The reason I think these encampments are so important is that they are attended by citizens of different races and different groups. They prepare people for thinking in terms of all people and not in terms of a selected few here or there. Not only we in the U.S. but people all over the world need young people trained to be good citizens with an ability to think with an open mind.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 7, 1961

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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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.