SEPTEMBER 14, 1962
NEW YORK—I often wonder, as I note how nervous we seem to be about Communist build-up in our world, why our country does not use new initiative to think out fresh approaches to the uncommitted people all over the world.
It has always seemed to me that we never present our case to the smaller nations in either a persuasive or interesting way. I think most people will acknowledge, for instance, that we have given far more military aid to these nations than economic aid. It is not very pleasant to palm off this military equipment on people who really are not looking for it. The fiction is that they are being given military aid so that they will be better able to cope with any Communist attack. But all the nations where we do this know quite well that it is pure fiction and nothing else. Practically none of them could withstand a really determined Soviet attack.
In view of this, why don't we offer them something they really want? For one thing, most of them would like food. Many of them, as they watch the development of the bigger nations, want to establish the beginnings of industry. But they know that wider training of their people is essential before they can make industrial advances, and hence a primary need is aid to their educational system.
Frequently I hear people argue in reply: "Well, look what has happened in Ghana. They are completely under Communist influence." Yet I wonder if this is quite true. Some Communist influence has doubtless proved effective. But we must realize how much more Russia has done in other areas of the world to persuade the young of the efficacy of their system. Unlike the Soviets, we have not established a college for these young foreigners. We have not brought them here at our expense and supported them during their years of study, nor have we indoctrinated them at every turn.
We have allowed them to come to this country on the exchange program arranged by our two governments. But I can't say that we take a great deal of trouble about them once they are here. These students, no matter what their official subjects may be, quite naturally want to study our country as a whole, and they want to find out what may be wrong with our way of life, our government and our people in general. It is important that we prevent them from being disillusioned about us.
It might be profitable to us if we would study what is really good in Soviet education and in their way of life. We can't have a premium on all the good things. We know that there are fundamental differences. We are a Christian nation; they do not believe in God. We are anxious that people should learn to think for themselves and not simply accept what somebody else has told them. But there are good things in the Soviet world and we should give them credit for these. Then, on our own initiative, we should develop a program that we believe will be of greater advantage to the newly developing nations of the world.
Similarly, we might profit by the study of other cultures of the world. The nations of Asia have some of the most ancient civilizations and philosophies, yet rarely does it occur to us that we might learn from them—or that they might offer to the newly developed nations ways of thought that would be far superior to anything we could suggest. In the same way, we might learn from the West African tribes described in Allard K. Lowenstein's "Brutal Mandate." These people are Christians and they have said over and over again that they have no use for Communism. But we still persist in thinking of them as bush savages who have nothing to contribute to the rest of the developed world.
I have an idea they have a great deal to contribute. I was struck by the fact that some of the young Harvard graduates working in Tanganyika with the bush people came to have great respect for their ceremonies. For instance, before you could ask them to do any work, they had to welcome you with traditional ceremonies; and they had to ask you about all of your family and you had to reciprocate. This is indeed a gracious custom, and I can see why our young graduates came to respect these people and their customs and to hope that we would not wipe them out.
I would like to see more of such new approaches to people all over the world. If we use new initiative, forget about Russia as a rival, and think about what we can offer as a nation, I am sure we would benefit greatly.
(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 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
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