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

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NEW YORK—I have been saddened by two news items of the past couple of days.

The first was the word of the return to prison of Milovan Djilas, former Yugoslav Vice-President and formerly close friend of Communist dictator Tito.

Djilas is an extraordinarily courageous man, and he evidently is determined to make his own people realize that the worst thing that can happen is to be prevented from thinking and saying what one honestly believes. The Communist court had decided that because the trial would deal with certain Communist beliefs it should be held in private. Djilas protested this action, saying that everything he was now being tried for had already been published and was now public property.

Nevertheless, the trial was held in secret, and Djilas was sentenced to nearly nine years in the same prison where he has already spent a considerable part of his life.

He probably will not be treated too badly, but the mere fact of confinement is in itself a terrible punishment. One may hope that Tito's good sense will make him cut this sentence as soon as the heat and the attention of the moment has worn off.

But that will not wipe out the blot on Yugoslav justice or reduce the resentment against the general Communist idea that people who merely state their honest belief can be thrown into jail. No regime and no beliefs can be on a very firm footing if they cannot stand open criticism and truthful expressions of disagreement. The only way to growth and improvement is through differences of opinion and experimentation. The Soviet theories are no more perfect than are any other kind of theories, and if all criticism and disagreement have been barred there in no chance for any improvement.

The world will be waiting to see what Tito's action will be. If he is counting on the forgetfulness of people, I think he will be surprised to find how often Djilas' name will be mentioned by the peoples of the world in the months to come.

The other news item that caused me some concern was the rejection by the House of Representatives of the legitimate war claims on the part of the Philippines—although it now seems that this action may be rectified by the House.

Over a number of years I have had letters from Filipinos who fought with our men in World War II and some of whom accompanied them on what is known as the "Death March." These letters are usually pathetic appeals for recognition of their service to the United States, and I have sent them on to the proper government departments in the hope that something would be done to relieve these individual and personal appeals.

But it is far more serious when the U.S. Government, at least the legislative branch of the government, refuses to honor justifiable claims. True, the $73 million exceeds the original estimate, but to the Philippines it represents tangible losses and is vital to the Filipinos' ability to accomplish certain improvements that are necessary to their economic growth.

The really disturbing factor in this situation is that the Philippines represent our one really friendly nation that can be counted on in the Pacific area of the world. We have had years in which to build confidence and understanding and it would be tragic, now that this nation is free, if we would allow misunderstanding and bitterness to grow between us.

It is true that no matter how much assistance may come from outside, only the work of the Filipinos themselves will build their nation. But one may find many individuals taking the attitude that Uncle Sam is a rich uncle who may be called upon indefinitely to support a nation that is very anxious as a whole to be completely independent and stand on its own feet. For the U.S. this means that aid must not be given where, without it, the Filipinos themselves can do the job. But where a legitimate claim is outstanding it seems to me we only lose goodwill and stymie new efforts for growth if we do not honor such claims. So, I hope the present Administration at an early date will pass the new, revived war damages bill for the Philippines.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 16, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.