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

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NEW YORK.—Someone told me yesterday that while he sat on a beach and watched children at play and their parents happily at rest watching them, a thought settled over him like a cloud of doom. This somber daydream was triggered by the fact that in the hands of a few men lay the possibility of changing this whole picture of contentment in a matter of minutes to one of devastation and death.

Soviet Premier Khrushchev has said a number of things, among them (1) that he would not start a war and (2) that he would go to any meeting with a draft treaty on Berlin. Yet, there has never been a suggestion in anything he has written or said which implied that he would genuinely accept negotiations that considered other peoples' rights as well as his own.

I personally can see some very reasonable fears on Mr. Khrushchev's part and some very reasonable concessions that should and could be made in various parts of the world. But they cannot possibly be all on one side.

Mr. Khrushchev must realize, I think, that above everything else the American people want peace. The American people know full well that the price of war would be enormous death and destruction at home, but they are determined that it would be as costly for anyone who brings it upon them as it would be for them. I'm sure we shall accept anything our leaders tell us is necessary to build our strength and protect us as best it can. But if war is launched on us the payment for the attackers will be high.

I hope Mr. Khrushchev has thought this over carefully.

He does not know the American people. They are easy-going, slow to arouse, and they think well of other people until they are forced to think ill. People in small groups have tried to make them hate indiscriminately, but it has never been possible to do so on a very great scale. Fundamentally, the American people believe in the good that exists in human beings. But if they are aroused by an attack or by threats which they think touch their honor, the response is bad feeling and the determination to avenge goes very deep.

At the moment, by and large, Americans have a feeling that the Russian people are much like themselves—that we can live peacefully and harmoniously, do business together, exchange students, and on each side perhaps see our divergences moderate very gradually. I should like to warn Mr. Khrushchev that he is slowly arousing the people of this country to a sense of deep resentment, however.

We know, for instance, that to set off certain nuclear explosions months of preparation are necessary. This is not something that can be done overnight. Therefore, we know that during all the talks that have gone on in Geneva and elsewhere there was very little sincerity and no chance for accommodation between the Soviet Union and those who were trying to work out some kind of permanent cessation of nuclear tests.

Reasonable people know that no one can have everything his way. Negotiation means that both sides gain and also that both sides lose something. But from Mr. Khrushchev's point of view he must never lose anything. He will have to begin to realize that he has just begun to succeed in arousing the American people, and this will mean that they, too, will surely demand an equality of negotiation—and the sooner this is realized the better it will be for all.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 13, 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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.