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

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NEW YORK—There is a very interesting civil case coming up soon in the New York State courts. It involves the question of the right to vote on the part of a Puerto Rican citizen who was educated in American history and government under the American flag in Puerto Rico, but in the Spanish language—not the English language. Here on the mainland he must take a literacy test in the English language before he would be granted the privilege to exercise his right to vote.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case, for it will affect a large number of people who came here as grownups and who are American citizens, trained under the American flag and having all the essentials required to pass a literacy test which includes a knowledge of our history—except that they speak only the Spanish language.

Somehow it seems to me this is an important test. I can only believe that when we have citizens whose native tongue may be anything but our accepted English and whose tradition should allow them all the rights of citizenship, including the use of their own language for qualification as voters, that they should be allowed to exercise that right.

It certainly looks as if there is going to be a clear-cut fight in New York City's primary elections next September between the bosses of the New York counties and Mayor Robert F. Wagner.

A defeat of the bosses may not mean that we would be rid of boss rule, but it would certainly be a setback to the machine. And I hope the combined efforts of the liberal party and the liberals of New York City will make a dent in this situation. The liberals should, however, have a talk with the Mayor and try to get a program that can be the basis for wide support for those who want to see reforms that are much needed in our city.

Tammany seems to want a fight on every nomination—the latest being that this group is going to fight Edward R. Dudley, whom Mayor Wagner will have on his ticket as the nominee for Manhattan Borough President and who presently holds the office. The forthcoming primary will certainly be a test of everyone's strength.

Tammany leaders Carmine De Sapio's candidate, Lloyd E. Dickens, is going to be challenged by Rep. Alfred E. Santangelo, a New York City Congressman, who charges that Mr. Dickens was designated "out of fear by the Tammany organization of a vote by a segment of leaders." He said he referred to the leaders of Harlem, since both Mr. Dickens and Mr. Dudley are Negroes.

I have stated before that I do not consider that people should be nominated for office simply because of their race or religion. Qualified people should occupy public posts either by appointment or by election on the basis of merit and fitness for the job they are about to undertake.

It is true that in the city, state and nation, where there are different religions and different racial groups, that some consideration must be given to representing all of these groups at different times in public office. But this does not mean that the overriding choice must be made because of race or religion. And the sooner we recognize this and look for qualified people first, the better our government will be.

I think one other thing we look for is the character of the men we put in office. We know that there are many temptations put their way. We know the special interests will always try to be influential. Therefore, we should look for people with sufficient character and backbone to stand up against all efforts made to influence them directly or indirectly.

We attended the opening concert of this season given at the East River Park Amphitheatre and sponsored by the Lower East Side Neighborhood Association and Local 802 of the American Federation of Labor. These events are growing in popularity and there was hardly a vacant seat at Tuesday night's performance. Commissioner of Parks Newbold Morris was on hand to welcome the guests and to thank those who make it possible to have these concerts each year.

E. R.

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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

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

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.