DECEMBER 20, 1961
NEW YORK —What can one woman do to prevent war? This is the question that comes my way in any number of letters these days.
In times past, the question usually asked by women was, "How can we best help to defend our nation?" I cannot remember a time when the question on so many people's lips was, "How can we prevent war?"
There is a widespread understanding among the people of this nation, and probably among the people of the world, that there is no safety except through the prevention of war. For many years war has been looked upon as almost inevitable in the solution of any question that has arisen between nations, and the nation that was strong enough to do so went about building up its defenses and its power to attack. It felt that it could count on these two things for safety.
There was a point then in increasing a nation's birth rate: Providing more soldiers. There was a point in creating new weapons: At their worst, they could not destroy the world as a whole.
Now, all a citizen can do is watch his government use its scientists to invent more powerful ways of achieving world destruction more and more quickly.
As I travel around this country I cannot help thinking what a pity it would be to destroy so much beauty, and I am sure this thought crosses the mind of many a Russian traveling through his country—in fact, the mind of anyone traveling anywhere in the world. Peoples of the world who have not yet achieved a place in the sun must feel this even more deeply than those of us who have had years of development and acquired resultant comforts and pleasures.
A consciousness of the fact that war means practically total destruction is the reason, I think, for the rising tide to prevent what seems such a senseless procedure.
I understand that it is perhaps difficult for some people, whose lives have been lived with a sense of the need for military development, to envisage the possibility of being no longer needed. But the average citizen is beginning to think more and more of the need to develop machinery to settle difficulties in the world without destruction or the use of atomic bombs.
Of course, if any war is permitted to break out, it is self-evident that the losing side would use atomic bombs if they were available. So the only thing to do is to put this atomic power into the hands of the United Nations and have it used only for peaceful purposes.
Here is where the individual comes in. To the women and the men who are asking themselves, "What can I do as an individual?" my answer is this: Take a more active interest in your government, have a say in who is nominated for political office, work for these candidates and keep in close touch with them if they are elected.
If our objective is to do away with the causes of war, build up the United Nations and give the U.N. more control over the weapons of total destruction, we should urge that world law be developed so that people's grievances can be heard promptly and judiciously settled.
We should begin in our own environment and in our own community as far as possible to build a peace-loving attitude and learn to discipline ourselves to accept, in the small things of our lives, mediation and arbitration.
As individuals, there is little that any of us can do to prevent an accidental use of bombs in the hands of those who already have them. We can register, however, with our government a firm protest against granting the knowledge and the use of these weapons to those who do not now have them.
We may hope that in the years to come, when the proper machinery is set up, such lethal weapons can be destroyed wherever they are and the knowledge that developed them can be used for more constructive purposes.
In the meantime, no citizen of a democracy need feel completely helpless if he becomes an active factor in the citizenship of his community. For it is the willingness to abdicate responsibilities of citizenship which gives us our feeling of inadequacy and frustration.
As long as we are not actually destroyed, we can work to gain greater understanding of other peoples and to try to present to the peoples of the world the values of our own beliefs. We can do this by demonstrating our conviction that human life is worth preserving and that we are willing to help others to enjoy benefits of our civilization just as we have enjoyed it.
(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 20, 1961
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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