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

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NEW YORK.—Two things are becoming more evident as one watches the world news:

(1) The strength of the United States in its dealings with other countries, primarily with the Soviet Union, lies in its economic strength at home.

(2) The unity on important questions with which people back the President as he and his emissaries approach both our allies and our adversaries in the world.

The important thing we have to remember is that in the interests of preserving freedom we do not destroy unity on the basic issues where unity is so essential.

The President has asked for certain stand-by powers with which to deal with recessions. It is high time such authority was granted. We not only lose a great amount of wealth each time there is a business recession—and idle plants and idle men bring about loss in production—but we come out of each recession with a larger number of unemployed. And this constantly mounting number of unemployed is one of the serious drags on our economy.

The President's suggestion for tariff reform obviously is aimed at greater production and greater employment, and his proposals which are now before the Congress are really aimed at giving economic stability at home and greater confidence in the world that we are mature enough to understand the changing world in which we live and to change with it.

We can ill afford the losses which the recessions of the past have forced on us. We want to face the world with a strong economy, and it is essential that we preserve it.

It is not only in our economy that changes must come, as they have come in other areas of the world, but also we have to accept social changes. This, very often, we are slower to do, for they touch our lives more closely sometimes than do the economic changes.

Many of us have been watching the controversy over the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., where recently an application for membership of an Assistant Secretary of State, Carl T. Rowan, was turned down by the admissions committee. The public has learned that two adverse votes will prevent the acceptance of a new member, and nobody will ever know who cast those two votes in the case of Mr. Rowan.

Undoubtedly, applicants have been denied membership before, but what has brought this case into prominence is that in a time of changing social values the construction put on the refusal of membership is that discrimination because of race was the cause. This type of discrimination is going to be wiped out in this country. It may be a slow and bitter process, but then again it may happen fairly quickly and easily. The recent annual meeting of the Cosmos Club declared unequivocally that religion, race, color or national origin should not be the cause of rejection of membership in the future.

The trouble is that unless our people as a whole accept these changes there will be no way of telling who casts the ballots that exclude a member, nor why those ballots are cast.

Such a resolution as passed by the Cosmos Club was needed, but the fight against prejudice is not yet over, for it will have to become an accepted part of our honorable dealings with one another as human beings that this discrimination cannot be practiced even when it is hidden in the depths of our individual knowledge alone.

This change will not happen overnight, but the mere fact that the vote against discrimination was overwhelmingly large in one private club is a most encouraging thing. I think it means that we are beginning to wake up to the fact that we cannot stand against basic changes in the world—whether they are economic, moral or spiritual.

Greatness and leadership shows in knowing when the time has come to accept such changes and be, in reality, as free as we like to believe we are.

Arnold Toynbee, in an article written for a British magazine, reviews Britain's history from 1914 to date, and it is interesting to note that he praises Great Britain for not crying over spilled milk. He lauds Britain for accepting the realities of the situation and trying to change it into profit rather than mere disaster.

For instance, instead of fighting as the French people have done every change in empire, Great Britain has transformed an empire into a commonwealth and gracefully granted what she was undoubtedly going to be forced to accept.

This is great statesmanship and it shows maturity and experience. We who are very young as a nation might well study how to accept great changes and make out of them new and different kinds of greatness.


(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 17, 1962

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.