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

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NEW YORK—The significant news these days is the fact that Great Britain and the United States have called on Soviet Premier Khrushchev to agree at once on banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Japan is already troubled by the increase in fall-out and the fact that Khrushchev, through Italy, made the suggestion that there should at once be resumed talks between the great powers made it logical for the U. S. and Britain in Geneva to urge a nuclear test ban by next Saturday.

There is no doubt that the reaction of the neutral countries to Khrushchev's action to resume testing must have had some influence on him. But to a man who feels that he has the power and who is probably being pushed by his colleagues in the Kremlin and in Red China, the consideration of world opinion perhaps will seem less important until it actually begins to be expressed and shows results.

We in the U.S. have never really stressed either short-term or long-term planning. In our domestic affairs we have done very well meeting situations as they arose and the idea of any group in our government thinking years ahead never seemed very necessary.

We must realize that to the Soviet Union planning from the first days of the Revolution has been a necessity. The Russians had to meet first things first, and at the same time they had to show their people that the Revolution brought them some advantages that they had never had before. This led to the original five-year plans in economics, in military build-ups, and in the amount of satisfaction they felt they could give their people in their natural desires for improvement in daily living. All along they have aimed at an increase in power, taking as their adversary the nation that was strongest in the way in which they wished to be strong, namely the United States.

They gauged their future objectives often by U.S. achievements and set their goals to match these achievements and possibly overtake them.

All the while we went on in our haphazard, happy-go-lucky way. Out of our plenty we helped some nations—nations that were our allies—to get back on their feet so that they might be better markets and better able to bear their burden in the divided Communist and non-Communist world. We aided others because we felt it was in our interest that they should become more economically strong. We helped still others out of pure goodwill where we found great need.

Whereupon we were rather surprised—because we are a rather naive people—when we found that we were suspected of doing these good deeds only because of a desire to control.

The Soviets gave only such aid as they thought would be beneficial, to them, and they did not care whether the people whom they aided liked them particularly or not. They did all in their power to show that under their Communist government they achieved results that would benefit other nations in the same way if they followed the Soviet example.

As the years have gone by we have been through a number of crises, which for the Soviets were considered just tests of power. The Russians talk of coexistence, they talk of peace; but peace is only of value as it serves their ends. Coexistence has really very little meaning, as they envisage it, for the rest of us.

And so we are gradually driven to the recognition that this game for power is one that we must play. It is a many-sided game and it requires astuteness and understanding by the leaders and the people in democratic countries. Above all, the people must show a willingness to sacrifice much that they have considered the advantages of their lives.

To me, for instance, civil defense and building shelters seemed foolish for a time, but now that I look at it in the light of the struggle for power I realize that if we do not take every precaution to save any part of our population that may be saved we are giving Khrushchev and his colleagues in the Kremlin an advantage because they are forcing their people to take all the precautions of massive civil defense.

Before long we will probably hear that certain types of industrial work are being carried on in a variety of areas in the USSR and that vast amounts of the population are being scattered throughout the country. So, we may have to look upon the present time as a time of national emergency in our country, during which we may have to accept things we dislike and if necessary give up certain luxuries and even change some of our economic standards and systems of the past.

There never was a game played with higher stakes than those that are now being used. And the American people, as they watch each move, had better accept the fact that their government has to show greater preparation, has to lead in demonstrating the strength of the people in their willingness to sacrifice for self-preservation.

This, and this alone, perhaps will be the deciding factor in the safety of the world.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 6, 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.