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

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HYDE PARK—Perhaps uppermost in our minds today is the great scientific feat of the Soviet Union. And the Soviets claim that its latest space flight now makes it possible to travel to the other planets.

The Russians are ahead of us in this experiment because we got such a late start. That does not mean that we will not catch up and be on a par with their knowledge in a very short time. This rivalry, however, between two great nations as to superiority seems very unfortunate.

Scientific knowledge such as this should be shared by all and, therefore, should increase our desire to see that the United Nations controls all that is done in space. In this way the knowledge of all nations could be pooled. This would mean that the best minds of the world would be working together, under U.N. auspices, for the benefit of the whole of mankind and its safety.

Military people, for instance, think primarily of these space flights as they affect the military situation—which is natural when two great nations might think of solving the world's problems by force. Our President made a speech declaring our policy on Berlin and our resolve to keep West Berlin free. Whereupon we get a speech from Premier Khrushchev accusing us of plotting war and saying that he will hit America and its allies with all the Soviet's atomic might if war comes.

But how is anyone to know when war will come? The only value of atomic weapons will be to hit first and create such destruction to the enemy's power to strike that you can save your own people from the inevitable retaliation that would otherwise come.

When people talk about a preventive war we must assume they mean a war without the use of nuclear weapons. But they know they are talking nonsense, for no country with nuclear knowledge, when it finds itself on the losing side, could refrain from using nuclear power or any other horrible power that is now available, including the many ways in which masses of people can be destroyed with germs and gases of different kinds.

Of course, telling the world that we are building up civilian defense and that we will be able to save millions of people in the face of nuclear war is one way of saying that in spite of all the destruction that can be inflicted we will have the strength to rise from the ashes more quickly than the enemy. Our enemies are planning to do the same thing. Will those who arise from the ashes have learned the lesson that we have not learned—how to work together for peace? Is there a possibility that we may still learn it and prevent this holocaust?

There is only one organization where the world meets and where the smaller powers may have some controlling voice over the great powers which today seem to be rushing faster and faster toward the inevitable destruction of each other. Will the United Nations be asked to act?

Wars have never settled problems. They have always created new problems. If we cannot sit down around a table in the U.N. and settle our problems on Berlin, on the Far East and on the Near East, and if we still insist that the only final settlement is the test of war, then we can prepare again for the loss of our civilization and the future is completely unpredictable as far as we are concerned.

The knowledge we have of nuclear power could make of our world a world of abundance, a world in which people could live happily, a world perhaps in which we could before long discover whether there are other people with whom we could make friends living on other planets. But if we cannot make friends with people of our own world, what is the use of our learning more about other planets and other people?

We need to set our own house in order. We need to have an example of peace and goodwill among men to share with any people we may find on other planets. Otherwise, we might much better stay at home and struggle to learn the difficult lesson of peaceful living.

I know full well that this peace must begin in the heart of every individual. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury or the stupidity of hating each other in small groups, whether of family or community, when we are trying to learn the greater lesson of living together in great national groups where different racial characteristics and barriers of language make it infinitely more difficult. But these are the challenges of this generation. If we cannot meet them and if we go on simply listening to our leaders make greater and greater threats against each other, I wonder whether unexpectedly we will find that our world is lost because we are not equal to the challenge of our day.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 9, 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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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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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.