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

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MIAMI —Many people who are deeply interested in the United Nations and its future work must have been relieved that Ambassador Adlai Stevenson decided against running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Of course, he will remain instead in his position as head of the U.S. delegation to the U.N.

Pearl Harbor Day has come and gone. It no longer fills us with the sense of outrage we felt on that fateful day in 1941, but I hope it will always stay in our mind. For that was a complete surprise attack, as sudden as one that might come today with the opening of a nuclear war, and the havoc created was greater because of our natural surprise and incredulity.

What happened at Pearl Harbor 20 years ago points up the fact that we should always be alert for the worst, even though the worst seems highly improbable. To be prepared for the worst and still keep calm and not neglect the ordinary tasks of life is one of the real tests of the strength of character of men and women today.

To do everything that you must do to prevent the worst possible disaster, hoping all the time that no disaster will occur, and to go on as though you were completely confident of the future is a very difficult thing to ask of human beings.

We are naturally buoyant and optimistic as a people, and it is very difficult for us to believe that something fatal is going to happen to us. But the times seem to call for this kind of staunchness of spirit, and young and old must try to develop it.

The lesson of Pearl Harbor must stay with us all. Those on the island were as little prepared as we were on the mainland for this sudden attack, so we must learn to prepare in spirit and in fact for the things which seem impossible and still keep a calm and normal approach to everyday life.

I was visited the other day by a representative of the Volunteers for International Development, an organization that works under the auspices of Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. Since 1958 the VID has made investigations and studies and has sent volunteers abroad as a first step in a program designed to supplement the technical assistance work of the U.N. and its specialized agencies. The organization is placing, at moderate pay, technically trained people and recently retired experts in U.N.-related projects and within development programs of governments and U.N. agencies.

I am constantly being asked how individuals can aid the U.N. and be useful to their country. Some of them are not eligible for the Peace Corps. Many of them do not need to make money but must have enough to live on. The one thing that animates them all is a desire to feel that they are useful—young and old alike. Here seems to be a program that can use some of these people.

From June, 1959, to May, 1961, the VID received requests for 53 volunteers from seven U.N. institutes and governments. It presently has some 300 volunteers' names on file; it raises its own funds and acknowledges the gift of free office space; and all of its volunteers are willing to work for low salaries. For a group that has been at work for such a short time it has gained a great deal of favorable recognition.

For instance, Dr. Max Millikan, Director of the Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says of the organization: "The greatest need of the developing countries is for help from trained and dedicated persons committed to the host country's self-help objectives. VID offers an opportunity to match the spirit of service with this need."

There seems to be a rather broad feeling of amusement, as well as a form of disgust, at the recent speech by an Arab delegate in the U.N. which indicted so many individuals and countries that it apparently had the exactly opposite effect from that which the speaker intended.

The extravagant accusations brought about amusement instead of the indignation which he apparently hoped to inspire. In one place he announced that Zionism was worse than Hitlerism, and this caused amusement both on the floor and in the galleries.

I hope our delegates are able to turn such absurdities to good advantage, for intemperance such as this is its own worst enemy. The best way to handle it is to bring out the untruths of the statements made, but always with a tone of ridicule.


(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, December 8, 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.