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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SARASOTA, Fla. —In the latter part of last week I went to Wheaton College, a liberal arts college for girls in Massachusetts not far from Boston. I delivered their Marjorie Otis Memorial Lecture and held two seminars, the first of which centered on human rights as part of world leadership. The theme of the conference was "World Leadership and the Use of Our Resources and Recognition of Our Responsibility."

The young women at the college, some majors in religion and some in philosophy, have made a very careful study of human rights. These girls made up my audience at the first seminar, but at the second seminar as well as at the lecture and the discussion period that followed the neighborhood in general was invited. The teaching staff was most cooperative, and the girls as well as the neighbors of the school were made to feel much a part of the two-day discussions.

As I was the first woman invited to give this lecture, I felt a great sense of responsibility, particularly as I was told that Dr. Paul Tillich had been the lecturer last year. Some of the girls told me they had found Dr. Tillich a little difficult to understand, and I felt quite sure that at least I would not be incomprehensible to them, which quieted my fears. Still, I do not know how much that I gave them was new!

The subject of human rights is a very vital one at present, and I believe that with our growing world responsibility and the leadership that is now ours it is encouraging to find people discussing it and preparing basically by trying to broaden their knowledge of the world as a whole and to analyze, in particular, the rift between the Soviet Union and ourselves.

We have certain resources which the Soviet Union cannot match, of course. Yet, we need to understand that until we do something to show the underdeveloped nations of the world that we can provide the economic leadership for them we shall not be able to offer them spiritual and political leadership. Until we are able to achieve the first in order to provide the second, we shall be at a disadvantage.

As I journey through the world I think the first human right that means most to the greatest number of people is the right to eat—and only after that is gratified can we offer cultural and spiritual leadership.

Since February is Heart Month, I should like to say a word about the local campaign of the New York Heart Association. Besides, heart research certainly has international interest.

Though heart disease is now the No. 1 killer—more than 54 percent of all people die from this cause—we have reason to believe that with greater development in research the average life span will rise above the century mark within the foreseeable future.

In Rome 2,000 years ago the life expectancy at birth was 19 years. In 1687 in England it was 31 years. In the United States in 1789 it was 35 years. By 1838 in England it had gone up to 41 years, and by 1900 in the U.S. to 47 years. It rose to 59 years in the U.S. by 1925, and by 1945 to 66 years. In 1961 in the U.S. our life expectancy at birth was 70 years. And since nearly 55 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease, it is pretty evident that we will be able to increase the life span even longer as more progress is made through heart research.

In some areas of the world the increases in life expectancy are a mixed blessing because the food supply does not keep pace with the scientific research in disease control. But here in our country this is not so, and we can rejoice very heartily at each new discovery. Therefore, we can support the American Heart Association with a sense of accomplishing results that will save many people from unhappiness either by loss of their dear ones or by seeing them reduced to permanent disability through their inability to control their heart difficulty.

I hope everyone will remember that February is Heart Month and that you will support your local Heart Association.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Sarasota (Fla., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 7, 1962

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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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.