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

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NORTON, Mass. —I have just received a communication from a Mr. Matt Shermer of New York City, who says the only way to stop the renewal of atomic tests in the atmosphere is to give the people of the world an opportunity to vote on the question: "Do you favor cessation of all nuclear weapons, with inspection and control by the United Nations?"

The vote, it is suggested, should be taken by the U.N. or UNESCO or even by a private voluntary organization.

I question very much whether a private organization could take such a vote and I would think that only the U.N. itself could do this. But it would have to be, it seems to me, at the request of a group of nations, after which a vote accepting the idea had been cast by the General Assembly.

Mr. Shermer apparently is passing along this idea from the American Referendum Association, Inc. The president of this organization is Dr. James M. Farr, who was formerly a faculty member of New York University and of the University of Minnesota. In the release sent to me he is quoted as saying:

"Only the sovereign power of the people can stop their sovereign national governments from committing this sovereign act of criminal insanity. The fallout that falls on the world's people can be stopped if the people are permitted to register their irrevocable mandate on the matter. The way to enable the people to have their say is to have the U.N. or UNESCO conduct a world referendum."

Dr. Farr, now a management counselor for industrial firms, explains that the American Referendum Association is a voluntary organization of American citizens interested in local, state, national and international use of the referendum method of voting on issues. The group has "asked Canada, India, Japan and the United States to introduce a resolution for world referendum at the United Nations General Assembly," and Dr. Farr has urged that delegations of all nations "give serious consideration to this proposal for effective action to stop all atomic powers from poisoning the people of the world."

This suggestion seems to have possibilities to get the feeling of the world's people and to educate peoples to the realization of the consequences and the danger that fallout may bring to the world. No one seems to know the exact effect fallout may have on the next generation, or even on our own. But, of course, unless there is agreement on the part of the great nations to accept the results of such a referendum and abide by them, any government may continue its experiments even if its own people have voted against them.

Needless to say, it would be unfortunate if any government were to take this action. But it was made well known through representatives of various governments in the U.N. that the majority of the world's people opposed the last Russian series of tests but the people of the Soviet Union themselves did not even know their government was engaging in these tests until after they were over.

So it would seem possible for a government to ignore a popular referendum of this kind—though I certainly think it would be most difficult. I feel this way because such a referendum would be an expression of the world's desire. And even such countries as might abstain or vote against such a resolution in the U.N. would probably feel obliged to permit the U.N. to take a vote within their borders if the great majority of governments thought it desirable to register the world's feeling on this subject.

It is certainly unusual for a President of the United States to be asking Congress for an investigation into excessive stockpiling of materials that might be needed in case of war and thus are withheld from the market for general use at the present time.

I think we are fortunate that this investigation will be conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on stockpiling. One can be quite sure it will be made with the interest of the government and the people at heart.

There are dangers in a program of this kind and it is well, when secrecy is not longer needed to hide any possible shortcomings, that the Senate should have the opportunity to tell the public through an investigation of this kind exactly what the situation is.


(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • NORTON (Mass., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 2, 1962

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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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.