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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Friday—The dinner given to Pandit Nehru, Prime Minister of India, Wednesday evening by four Asia-minded organizations—the India League of America, the American Institute of Pacific Relations, the East and West Association and the Foreign Policy Association—at the Waldorf-Astoria, was a very impressive affair. There were tables all around the gallery and even the top gallery was filled with guests before the speaking began.

Two things in the Prime Minister's speach impressed me very deeply. The first was the explanation he gave of Mohandas K. Gandhi's strength, which came through the teaching that there was no need to fear. This lesson led to strength and Nehru added that this attitude developed confidence in every human being, no matter how lowly he might be. In learning not to fear and in gaining self-confidence, one leads others to confidence and through this chain one may well change the atmosphere of the whole world. The trouble with the world today is largely made up of the world's fears.

The second thing that impressed me was the tribute Mr. Nehru paid to the women of India and the help they have given in the struggle for the freedom of India. He said he felt that the development of India could be measured by the development of the women of India. This means, I imagine, that the women learned to accept change and not to resist it. The changes had to come and were very great. Had the women made it hard for the men, it might indeed have been a long time before the necessary changes could have come about.

After the dinner I dashed home, changed, and caught the night train to Springfield, Mass. I slept until a few minutes after seven in the morning and drove to Northampton where I had breakfast with the newly installed president of Smith College, Dr. Benjamin F. Wright, and his wife.

I had a kind message from Mrs. Calvin Coolidge and only wish that I had time to see her, but the morning went all too quickly.

First there were photographs with all the other women being honored at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the college.

I was glad to see Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Dr. E. N. van Kleffens, Netherlands Ambassador to the U. S., who arrived by train from Washington just after I arrived. One of the honorary degrees was conferred on Princess Wilhelmina and Dr. van Kleffens accepted for her.

The most colorful and picturesque in her academic robes was a member of the French Supreme Court, Madame Charlotte Bequignon-Lagarde. She is the first woman to hold this high place in France. President Sarah Gibson Blanding of Vassar; Mary Ellen Chase, whose writings I have always admired and enjoyed; Barbara Ward, the brilliant young British woman who is foreign editor of The Economist; Mrs. Bodil Begtrup from Denmark; Margaret Clapp, president of Wellesley College, were all to be given degrees and so underwent the ordeal of being photographed.

Then the three speakers of the morning stood on the steps and did as the photographers ordered them to do! Dr. Gerty T. Cori, who with her husband won the Nobel prize in biochemistry two years ago, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting in St. Louis last year, and Miss Helen Maud Cam, the first woman to teach constitutional history at Harvard and who comes to us from England, were photographed with me. We gave our talk at the morning session which began at ten o'clock.

All precedents were broken because I had to leave, so the president conferred my degree of LL. D. upon me before the afternoon convocation when the others were honored. At 11:30 I was on my way to the airport, and before 2 o'clock I was back at Flushing being instructed on what was going to come up at the afternoon session of the General Assembly.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 22, 1949

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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.