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

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NEW YORK—I wish that everyone who is genuinely interested in getting the maximum amount of good out of the money spent on foreign aid would take the trouble to wire his Congressmen and Senators urging that they listen to President Kennedy's appeal.

It has been amply proved that for foreign aid to be really effective it must be assured to the borrowing country over a long period of time. One-year loans allow for no proper planning. How can you begin a project if you are not sure you will be able to finish it? The only way other nations can be given assurance that their aid from us will be on a long-term basis is to grant the President the right to borrow from the Treasury to finance long-term loans.

President Kennedy has urged the House of Representatives to reverse the action taken last Thursday denying him the authority to borrow from the Treasury. He lost by only 12 votes, and it is a sad irony that had the Democrats of the South upheld him he would have won. A compromise had been suggested that instead of five years, three years be the time approved. Five years seems to me the minimum which can make long-term projects really feasible and give some assurance to the aided country that the United States understands their problems and will guarantee that they can carry new projects out to the end.

Every woman in this country who has a child in school must be interested in this foreign-aid bill, for it is basic to our hope for future peace in the world. Though the projects to be carried through under it will be many and varied, all of them will be of vital importance to the people in the various countries of the world where they are struggling to establish freedom and some kind of democratic government. No such government will be an exact counterpart of ours, but it will be one in which the people take part and begin to learn the values of democracy. We must not forget how long a time we have been learning how to function in a democratic way, nor that we had from many countries an inheritance of experience and understanding of the principles of participation in government.

I long ago decided that the first human right for which people fight is the right to eat. And sometimes the Soviets demonstrate to struggling people that their type of economy will accomplish this right for them more quickly than can the ways of democracy. But very soon people learn that bread alone is not enough for a really good life. They may have gained freedom, but in some ways they are still enslaved if they are not allowed to work out other problems in their own way. Here democracy has the advantage, for democracy believes in the rights of people to develop according to their own desires. This is not the philosophy of Communism as developed in the Soviet Union or in China. The value of the human being, except as he serves the state, is of very minor importance in the Communist philosophy. We have to show our concern for the whole of the human race, men and women and children. And our foreign aid plan will help to do this if it is properly understood, properly administered, and if the President is given the right to follow through on long-term projects.

This does not mean that the money will be used just to build dams or to irrigate land, important as that is. It means, also, that a country wishing to build a comprehensive educational system will know where the money is coming from to erect new schools, to start a university, to educate teachers and to pay them proper salaries. I saw India's struggle when she started, with much more comprehension of her problems than many of the underdeveloped countries can possibly have but with no assurance of continuing financial support except what her own government could give her. She began with an effort to give all of her children an elementary education, and more money went into education from the budget of India than was spent on defense or on any other activity. Great Britain had left India some universities, but these had to be adapted to modern needs. This was a tremendous drain on her treasury, as it will be on the treasury of any developing nation that tries to establish a comprehensive educational system. Many nations have to have help to start new industries and this, too, is a great waste unless done on a long-term basis.

I would like to beg all the women of this country to think seriously about the President's plea for the right to borrow from the Treasury to implement long-term loans of various kinds to under-developed nations. In the long run we will benefit more by this kind of well thought-out progress than we will by loaning sums on the basis of one year only, loans which have to be reviewed by Congress every year and which no government can count on until Congress has voted again on them.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 21, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.