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

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HYDE PARK—It is a very long time since I have sat and looked at a beautiful landscape and had nothing to do otherwise but read. Not being strong enough yet to do anything active, I have simply lolled in the sun, watched the sunset and enjoyed the beauty of the summer scene. I must say it has been a delightful experience.

Outstanding among the books I have read was the recently published "Brutal Mandate," by Allard K. Lowenstein. This is the story of a secret trip taken by the author and two young companions through the mandated territory of West Africa. South Africa has held this mandate since the League of Nations days and has refused to surrender it to the U.N.

Mr. Lowenstein and his companions went to West Africa to gather information about conditions there and to talk to the leaders of the various tribes. They obtained remarkable recordings of these secret conversations, and by ingenuity and great good luck were able to smuggle these out of the country. The recordings, which were used at a hearing before the U. N. Trusteeship Council, had a considerable effect on our own U.S. attitude.

If read purely as an adventure story, "Brutal Mandate" will hold your interest from beginning to end. But there is far more to be found in this chronicle. Here we see suppressed the things which we in the U.S. believe essential to the development and happiness of human beings—freedom of thought, freedom of movement and opportunity to participate in one's own government. All of these are wiped out for the people of West Africa, and by the people of South Africa, who are supposed to be a part of Western civilization. Yet what does the West have to offer any part of the world except its belief in the right of human beings to freedom and equality?

What is being forced on the natives of So. Africa and W. Africa is nothing short of totalitarianism. They are being taught communism—and it is not being sugar-coated, as even the Russians might think it necessary to do at least at the start. All of this is brought out clearly in "Brutal Mandate" and I urge every American concerned with the development of freedom in the world to read it at the first opportunity.

In the bookcase, too, I found Elmer Davis' "But We Were Born Free," a volume I at first thought would be too dated to be of interest. But certain things need to be said today as much as they did when Elmer Davis said them in 1953 and '54, and "But We Were Born Free" seems to me still worth reading. Are we worth saving and, if so, why? Isn't that a question which people are asking themselves today, just as Elmer Davis asked it nearly ten years ago? His analysis of the difference between Communism and our own type of thinking is as true today as it was when he wrote it.

Trust in our own people's courage and beliefs is an essential to preservation of our freedom. Davis quotes G.F. Hudson, who said: "To repudiate faith in freedom is to abandon Western civilization." It is still true, as Davis says, that people here "in the name of anti-communism try to strike down the freedom of the mind, which above all things differentiates us from the Communists. In the name of Americanism they try to suppress the right to think what you like and say what you think, in the evident conviction—in so far as they have reasoned conviction at all—that the principles on which this republic was founded and has been operating will not bear examination. People like that are not merely un-American but anti-American."

Just as true today are these words from Davis' closing statement: "This republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it." We must fight to preserve our freedom to think and to differ.

I should have read long ago, but had not, Fannie Hurst's autobiography, "Anatomy of Me." I found it completely delightful. What a gift she has to make people come alive! This she does with her father and mother, and also the very unique and remarkable relationship with her husband is so delicately told. I have had the good fortune to know Fannie Hurst for many years, but after reading this book I better appreciate what she made of herself and what struggles she went through to become a writer. She has contributed much to the understanding of the contemporary American scene, and I can hardly wait to tell her in person how much I have enjoyed "Anatomy of Me."


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 22, 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.