MAY 14, 1962
NEW YORK—The attitude which Germany is taking these days in the Berlin crisis seems to me just a little bit arrogant. The German government is behaving as though it would dictate to all the other Allies what the position should be at the bargaining table of a conference at high levels. It is well to remember, I think, that Germany owes her position today to what the Allies have allowed her people to accomplish with their help—and the help has been generous. I feel quite sure that the Allies are not going to take a meek or unfair position as regards USSR demands; but there must be some flexibility and the final decision of what is good for the world will really be the best for Germany too.
Many strong governments in the next few years will have to make the discovery that in the long run their own interests will be best served if they are considered in the context of world interest as well. I am certainly not suggesting that we take at any point a "soft" attitude toward the Soviet Union. Much as I believe their people want peace, I am only too conscious that their government believes it essential that the world someday be a Communist world. Some of their leaders think they can wait; others believe this change must be brought about by force, and still others believe it can be effected by economic and cultural pressure. Reasonably enough, the latter insist that this method will make Communist countries stronger since without the use of force there will be no destruction; and if a belief in Communism is brought about by persuasion, they will have the benefit of existing advances that have been made in every country of the world.
We can meet and bargain with those who believe in this latter kind of competition even though they are convinced of final victory, for among us there should be just as strong a conviction of our ability to win. Once this challenge is understood we can win out, I believe, even on a voluntary basis. We have our own great country in which, if we strive to do so, we can demonstrate to the world what our beliefs in democracy can do to bring about justice and well-being for the people.
We will have to work hard to improve our democracy, however, for we are the mirror where all the world can see how the values of our form of government and our way of life actually work out. At the same time we can be carrying the message to the other nations by our example in any contacts we have—whether these be diplomatic, business or Peace Corps contacts. Individual contacts in countries all over the world, of course, will also be of great importance. Yet, though the Soviets can carry these out on a compulsory basis which makes it a little easier for their government to organize, this is a fair competition which we can meet as an informed people on a voluntary basis.
All this being true, it seems to me essential that the Allies get together on a unified policy when they come to a serious discussion of the whole settlement of Central Europe. No nation, not even Germany, can expect not to subordinate its own interests to the interests of the whole, including a satisfactory settlement between the Soviet Union and the United States as well as between all the Allies and the Soviet Union.
On Thursday evening I went to New Jersey to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Monmouth County Social Service group and the 90th birthday of Mrs. Lewis Thompson, the original founder. I hope that when I am 90 years old I can give as charming and as pointed a speech as Mrs. Thompson made at the dinner held on this occasion. She has kept her interest in youth, feeling more urgently every year the need to treat youth with understanding and consideration and to give the kind of help which can only be given with this desire in mind.
I think it is possible to grow old gracefully by keeping some broad interests active. The way to do this is not only to continue your own interests as long as possible but to merge them, if you can, into the interests of the younger members of your family and friends. In this way, as your own ability to take an active part lessens, you will still have the contacts of the youth that surrounds you.
(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 14, 1962
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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