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

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HYDE PARK.—I wish that more than the 50 million persons who heard President Kennedy's speech on the Berlin crisis could have listened in, for the President himself was so deeply in earnest that they could not have helped be impressed with the importance of what he was saying.

For the responsibilities that the President bears in this crisis are not his alone, nor only those of the Cabinet and the Congress, but must be shared by all of the American people.

The President emphasized the need for sacrifice, and rightly so, for our program of military preparedness will mean for many the sacrifice of civilian pursuits in favor of military service. In addition, the people must be willing to give up luxuries, if necessary, to accomplish what needs to be done in the military field.

I wish, however, the President could have had the time to stress in his address to the nation the importance of peaceful solutions in the nonmilitary field. These would, of course, come in the field of negotiation.

I hope men such as Adlai Stevenson and Chester Bowles are being asked right now to sit down quietly with other immediate advisers of the President to try to find some peaceful way of solving the Berlin problem so that we will not be in the position of merely refusing to consider the proposals of the Soviet Union.

Perhaps in the future the President will be able to talk to the people on other phases of defense in which all of us, including our children, must be active to win this long struggle with the Communist world.

I am still unconvinced of the value of shelters, although I understand the President's concern for our civilians in wartime.

The President was careful to say that he must leave no stone unturned in an effort to protect those who would be in the direct line of falling bombs. But I wonder, if we continue to increase the efficacy of our bombs, whether there will be any space left free from the effect of these bombs.

I feel that the next war would be over quickly, that the power of destruction we have created is so great there would be very few people left in a short time in our country or in any other country.

The world, therefore, would be desolate. And if shelters could be built that would protect us temporarily, what would happen to us when we came out? Would life be worth living under those circumstances?

I know that man's strongest instinct is that of self-preservation and it has been responsible for his progress through the ages. But man now has within his grasp the potential for both the greatest good to the human race and the potential to destroy himself, and I wonder if he has progressed sufficiently culturally and spiritually to refrain from self-destruction.

I realize this is not a question that faces us in this country alone. It must be answered by all of mankind.

That is why I think the peace of today's world must be resolved in the United Nations, with all of the nations of the world included in the debate. Whether they are U.N. members or not, they, too, will be among those who will die in the holocaust, if that should be our fate.

It seems clear, therefore, that this country should demand that the peoples of the world face this question together. It is one of the imperative steps that our nation should take, since we are the leaders of those who place the greatest value upon individual human life and upon the right of all people to participate in decisions affecting their own future.

I was deeply moved by the President's evident realization of his own responsibility and his appeal for the understanding and support of the American people. I hope he will have their full confidence and cooperation, for we are going to have to make a unified effort to live together or our future is indeed black.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 28, 1961

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.