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

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PARIS, Tuesday—Before launching into another report on the hectic sessions of the Human Rights Commission and the Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to briefly comment on two rather outstanding experiences I enjoyed this week.

I saw the French preview showing of the motion picture "The Roosevelt Story" the other night and enjoyed it very much. The translation was splendid.

I also visited headquarters of the American Friends of France service committee to see the work they were doing. This organization, as you know, has been doing splendid work throughout Europe as well as in France.

A representative told me of their center in Berlin which offered training and nursery facilities for the younger children as well as accommodations for the adolescents who are ready for apprenticeship in some kind of work.

* * *

My hope that at least one article for the Declaration of Human Rights would be accepted without any amendments has not yet been realized.

Article 24, the latest, read very simply and broadly! "Every one has the right to rest and leisure."

This simple statement, however, drew so many proposed changes that an unidentified delegate sent a note to the committee chairman which read: "Every one has the right to eternal rest. This rest shall be guaranteed by the state." The latter sentence referred to the many Soviet amendments which invariably stressed state control.

The Soviet amendment to this article read, "Every one shall be guaranteed rest and leisure either by law or by contractural agreements and provision shall be made for limitation of working hours and periodical holidays with pay."

With all these specifications we were again involved in the wearisome argument against spelling out guarantees in limited and inadequate fashion. We simply can not make the Soviets realize that a separate and detailed article—Article 2—in the declaration provides for everything concerning human rights without limitations or recourse, and that it bears directly on every other article in the declaration.

The passion for specification, however, resulted in the acceptance of a text proposed by New Zealand which read, "Every one has the right to rest and leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours with periodic holidays with pay."

I pointed out to the committee that though we had accepted this amendment, I still would have preferred the original and broader declaration, but since this was better than what the Soviets had offered it still seemed to suggest certain possible limitations.

Perhaps they are right, but I am inclined to believe that the original declaration might have been even more valuable. It cannot be considered legally binding and the moral forces may be easier to rally behind its broader statements. To spell out ways in which all rights are to be carried out in the various countries seems unwise to me.

It is a curious thing too, the way in which our Soviet colleagues use the presentation of their amendments to expatiate on the perfections of their way of doing things as opposed to the bad customs and ideas of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Though I mildly protested, the Soviet Union still insisted that they had interest in the worker and that the democracies try to promote discrimination and slave labor.

Finally, an exceptionally long statement levelled at the United Kingdom and the United States drew a heated reply. The Soviet speaker was asked if those in the USSR's forced labor camps enjoyed paid vacations.

The Soviet representative gasped and demanded time to consider this one and to prepare a formal reply. His request for time was refused. He did not reply.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 24, 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.