AUGUST 24, 1962
HYDE PARK—It seems to me that the Senate is doing itself a great deal of harm in its long delay over voting on President Kennedy's nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is the Democratic Senators who are doing themselves the harm. In the Judiciary Committee the Republicans have had a field day speaking out for this nomination, whereas the Southern Democrats have hung back and thus done the country as a whole great harm on the question of equal opportunity for all our citizens.
This is no longer a question which intelligent Southerners can treat purely as a domestic issue. The world watches every move we make, and when they see us hanging back in an appointment which is evidently a good one they ascribe the delay to our whole attitude on civil rights and equality for all people. It is not just the South they blame, but the country as a whole. Clearly, this also hurts our whole foreign policy and economic situation as regards trade with areas of the world.
All of this is very evident to Republican Senators Keating and Javits, who have been particularly vociferous because it puts the Republicans in a favorable light and in a position to court the Negro vote. It is true that the last Administration, though it had several opportunities to name a Negro to this court, did not do so, and therefore the present Democratic Administration has a right to feel proud of the President's nomination. But politics being what they are, it is not astonishing that our two N.Y. Senators are trying to get all they can out of their support of a Democratic nomination and to minimize the value of the Democratic backing. This is not difficult to do when our Southern Democrats so shortsightedly refuse to look at this problem in the context of the world situation.
I think the time has come for a realistic appraisal of our whole economic situation, particularly in relation to foreign aid. We are still struggling with an outflow of dollars; yet in Europe today, plant equipment is modernized largely with past American aid and they are doing business with better equipped plants than we possess. Again, aid is needed in other parts of the world, but we should take a careful look at these areas to see whether they are willing to help themselves and to put in as much work and effort as we put in.
It is impossible to get people started on real economic growth unless they themselves are willing to make the changes necessary. Part of the trouble in areas like the Near East and So. America is the basic philosophy of the upper classes. For years a small group at the top has had wealth, education, and every advantage, Still, they have not realized that because they had a great mass of people at the bottom who furnished the cheap labor and lived at a very low standard, they themselves were far behind the rest of the world in many of the essentials for improving their own situation.
There is, for instance, a lack of knowledge about health matters in many So. America countries. Because of this, their children suffer from polio and have no rehabilitation program. They do not even know of a vaccination program is some areas—and this is true of the children of doctors, professors and scientists, as well as of the poor. Thus, the ignorance that prevents improvement of conditions among the lower classes has an equally bad effect upon the standard of living of the upper classes. If once you can make the upper classes develop a sense of responsibility for the community as a whole, technical assistance will begin to have real value.
A similar situation exists in the countries of the Near East and even in some parts of Asia. I know of no more charming people than some of the Arab intellectuals who come to our country—but they are not the ones whose lives need to be changed. They have got to assume community responsibility in order to make it possible for their country as a whole to use properly the assistance offered them through the U.N. and through individuals. Many of the Near Eastern countries have a large income from oil, but at the top there is great extravagance and very little discrimination in the way this money is spent. So far it has been largely considered the property of the rulers, when it is in truth the property of the people. A part of it at least should go into education on a broad scale, into housing, into health measures, into changing village conditions and into stimulating industrial growth. Until this happens—and it has to come voluntarily from the people at the top—all the aid given will make little fundamental difference.
(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 24, 1962
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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