MAY 19, 1961
NEW YORK —An interesting woman, Mme. Senjinc, who is a guest of the State Department in the cultural exchange program, was a visitor of mine this week. She is a minister in the Yugoslavian government in charge of town and city planning, housing for the aged, and, under a new law, the education of retarded children.
Mme. Senjinc is making a study of this country's care and education of retarded children. She told me that, coming as she does from a country where a law is passed and then officials set to work to implement it, she was puzzled to find so much done voluntarily by private individuals and organizations.
I have often thought that our system of getting things done by a combination of both private and public organization at all levels must be confusing to people who come here from Communist countries.
We have public education supported by national, state and city funds. We have institutions of all kinds operated by state governments, and side by side we have private institutions of every kind. Sometimes, too, the private institutions are better than the public ones.
The advantages of this system are not readily recognized by visitors from abroad. But most of us believe that our private institutions are freer to do research and experimentation and are, as a rule, a good source upon which public institutions can draw without opening themselves to the criticism that experimentation would entail.
I hope these visits and exchanges of people between countries of the East and the West have proved of real value, but I think those who accompany visitors to the United States should tell them honestly that in certain areas there is more interesting work going on in other countries than there is here.
For instance, Mme. Senjinc told me of visiting a community in Arizona where no one under 50 years old is permitted to live. From my point of view, this is real segregation and a very questionable plan.
The Swedes, I think, have a much better system. They build housing for their old people. This new housing, which I saw while I was in Sweden, is on one side of a public square. On the other two sides are apartment houses for young married couples with children. The rents in the buildings for the old people are geared to their pensions, and the rents in the other two buildings are in line with incomes of the younger couples.
On another side of the square is a shopping area, and the elderly people could be seen sitting on benches watching the children play in the sandboxes or sleep in their carriages while the mothers did their housework or shopping.
This system is better for both young and old, but we have been slow in following the lead of some European countries in things like this. In this country, we have much to show our visitors, and there are always individuals who can help visitors in search of new ideas, but I am not sure we always get the really well informed persons together with the visitors.
The President's visit to Canada seems to have been a great success, as we all hoped it would be. Though conflicting interests occasionally create strained situations between Canada and ourselves, I think a basic feeling of unity between the two of us exists.
I liked the way the President, in his speech before the Canadian Parliament, put the idea of unity: "Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature has so joined let no man put asunder."
This, I believe, puts upon all of us an obligation to think about our ties with Canada and to improve them at every opportunity.
(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 19, 1961
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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