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

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PARIS, Thursday .—In Committee Three (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee), we have made a step forward. On a motion made by the Egyptian delegate we decided we should consider the draft declaration of human rights for presentation to the General Assembly for its adoption in the present session. It was decided, furthermore, that the delegates should be allowed to present their views on the covenant and the question of implementation in order that at the next meeting of the Human Rights Commission they might have these views for guidance in their work.

An amendment presented by the French delegate and accepted by the Egyptian delegate added that these discussions should be directed toward decision as to the relation between the draft declaration and the covenant to be presented at the next session.

In the meantime, the Haitian delegate made a passionate appeal for the implementation to be included in the declaration. He evidently felt that if there were no way of enforcing the rights as set forth in the declaration, the people of the world would feel that they had been cheated and that the document was merely an empty shell.

Haiti was not a member of the Human Rights Commission at the Lake Success meetings and apparently does not know that it was originally decided that the covenant would have to carry these assurances of legal enforcement and of implementation. This is because the declaration is a document that could be accepted by a vote of the General Assembly and would have the weight of recommendation by that body to the people of the world. On the other hand, the covenant would not only have to be accepted by the Assembly but, when accepted, would have to be ratified in the same way that a treaty would have to be ratified by each government and would therefore require the changing of any laws within a nation that did not conform with the agreement entered into under the covenant.

That is why it has been so often suggested that the first covenant should cover only ordinary civil liberties, which we are accustomed to having enforced by law, and that other points should be taken up as they appear necessary in the major part of the world.

To some of the people who have made speeches on the subject it appears incredible that we should not be able to go beyond this because this is a document of accepted rights and we must look forward to advance in the future.

However, when a nation ratifies the covenant, the majority of people will have to understand what they have undertaken and accept it, and in many parts of the world it will take some time even for this first covenant to be implemented.

I would agree that civil liberties, without some degree of acceptance of social and economic rights, might prove to be a very empty gesture, but these will be more carefully considered and weighed before they are accepted. Though the Communists may insist that, for them, they are already an accomplished fact, there are arguments to be presented that have not been carefully considered as yet. The Communists' standard of living is not yet as high as in some other countries, and though they may have a minimum of security that minimum might not be satisfactory to countries which might wish for more security and which have at present a higher standard of living in spite of less security.

* * *

On Tuesday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was going to have a couple of free hours for myself, So after I had done a recording on our motives backing the European Recovery Program, I dropped my brief case at the hotel and made my way down to one of the beauty spots of this very beautiful city—Sainte Chapelle, which is within the courtyard of the Palace of Justice.

I did not get beyond the gate, however, because every Tuesday afternoon it is closed. This was a great disappointment, for as I remember it the glass in the windows is among the most beautiful I have ever seen. But my disappointment was somewhat assuaged by the fact that a short distance away is the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

I visited the cathedral as though I was seeing it for the first time. I looked at it from across the square and noted the different types of architecture. Then I walked around it, almost tripping over the babies playing in the gardens and along the banks of the river. Every mother or nurse seemed to be busy knitting while their children romped, and it gave me the feeling that no one in Paris is so well off that his hands can remain idle.

Then we went inside the cathedral, and the beauty of the color took my breath away, as it has before. The years have not changed it—only the realization of it had dimmed in my memory. I did not climb to the tower today. That is also closed on Tuesdays, but in any case, having taken my two youngest sons up those steps on my last visit 19 years ago, I think I will let my grandson, when the spirit moves him go up those steps alone.

I then paid a short visit to the Louvre and walked back through the Tuileries gardens. The planners of these gardens had vision and imagination and they created beauty with a lavish hand. The flowers are still in full bloom. From this vantage point one can look in almost any direction and find that someone had planned a view that makes one marvel at the accomplishments of those who laid out these palaces and streets and squares.

It is amusing to see people strolling in Paris, seemingly unconscious of all this beauty. However, I am quite sure that the children unconsciously drink in this beauty as they play, which explains one of the reasons why this nation has always been so great in its creative atmosphere.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Paris (France) [ index ]
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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 8, 1948

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.