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

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NEW YORK—The Allied foreign ministers have been holding discussions in Washington amid forecasts that Russia's Foreign Minister Gromyko and our Secretary of State Rusk will meet during the first days of the U.N. General Assembly.

What the Washington discussions can possibly achieve at the present time seems to me rather negligible. Germany is the scene of the current difficulties, but until that country's elections are settled it is impossible to say what the Germans themselves would be willing to discuss. In the long run the Germans must agree to the policies of the West. But the West, holding to the belief that the people chiefly involved must have something to say, will certainly take into careful consideration the wishes expressed by the German people through their representatives. Clearly, very little can be done by the Allied ministers in Washington until these representatives are chosen.

Meanwhile the Allied ministers will be watched ceaselessly by the press. The press will try to manufacture news if none is given them. Out of this, the only person who will gain any advantage would seem to be the Russian representative. He, with secret instructions which nobody knows anything about, will meet our Secretary of State whose every move will have been watched and reported in the press for the advance benefit of the Soviets. One begins to ruminate about the advantages of secret diplomacy!

There is one point above all, it seems to me, that we must get across to Mr. Khrushchev quickly. He must be made to see that the daily exercises in terror which he has staged are not creating a favorable impression. I refer, for example, to the latest shooting of a Soviet rocket some 7,500 miles into the Pacific area, to Khrushchev's remark to the people of Europe that they are his "hostages" in the Berlin crisis, to his intimation that he might drop a bomb on the Parthenon. Such actions fill a great many people in civilized parts of the world with a realization that there is no real Soviet desire to save people, no appreciation or desire to preserve historic and beautiful objects, but only a desire to boast and frighten. This is not likely to raise the world's respect for the humanitarianism of the USSR or for the culture it is developing.

Khrushchev has also been engaged in privately telling representatives of different countries just how many missiles, of which he says he has a very adequate number, it would take to destroy each country—the intimation apparently being that when they are all destroyed there will be no reason for the U.S. to do anything but surrender. Just exactly what does he think the U.S. will be using its power for while he is launching all these neat little attacks of total destruction on the whole European scene?

For a gentleman who says that war is unthinkable and that he wants peace, these little remarks and comments by Mr. Khrushchev seem grotesquely out of place. The only thing one can do is to remind him that once action begins there is instantaneous retaliation. And since he seems to be planning to begin action, in spite of all his assurances to the contrary, he must expect preparation for retaliation to be as up to the minute as his own preparation for attack.

It is good to see that the House last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill to put the Peace Corps on a permanent basis. I am convinced the corps can do extensive good in the world, for there is more work to be done than there are hands and minds to do it.

In one respect, however, we must improve our techniques. I have been reliably told, for instance, that in Tanganyika translations of news releases on this subject have been so poor that instead of the Peace Corps the people think that an Army corps is coming, with work being imposed upon them in the same way colonial governments did in the past. Reports of press conferences held here on the subject have been garbled and twisted to fit the picture which a small opposition party in the country wishes to create. The project having been accepted by the government, the opposition thus makes adverse publicity for its own benefit.

This is a political tactic we should understand and meet. It requires not only careful translation, but more careful transmission of news originating here and more alert watchfulness on the part of our representatives in the different countries where Peace Corps projects are going to begin. We should not be surprised that people show hostility to our groups if our publicity is allowed to be handled so poorly.

E. R.

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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 18, 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.