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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Speech to the National Advisory Council of Campfire Girls

October 13, 1939


Radio speech, ER speaks to the National Advisory Council of Campfire Girls, topic: Women's role in public life, Dr. Raycroft presents Wohelo award to ER

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[unknown speaker:]

The National Broadcasting Company has the pleasure of introducing Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chairman of the Campfire Girls National Advisory Council, who will speak to young people and their parents and friends everywhere on the subject uppermost in most minds at this time: the challenge of the future. This will hold a message for everyone, though Mrs. Roosevelt is speaking to the two hundred and fifty thousand campfire girls listening in throughout the country and to a national conference of councilmembers of campfire girls being held in Berkeley, California. These men and women, doing their part for youth in their own communities, are now seated at dinner in the Claremont Hotel, listening to this broadcast. Among them is Mrs. Elbitt Williams of Dallas, Texas, National President of the Campfire Girls and Lester F. Scott, National Executive. Mrs. Roosevelt was greeted on her arrival here in the studio by Dr. Joseph Raycroft, National Vice-President of the Campfire Girls and former head of student health at Princeton University and by four campfire girls. These girls look pretty cute, all dressed in their service costumes of blue skirts, white knitties, and red ties, wearing the blue armbands on which is embroidered the organization insignia of the crossed logs and flame. They're honor girls who have just won new ranks by doing a lot of good things. One ten-year old girl just told me that she hasn't eaten candy or anything but fruit in between meals for three months. Another one passed her senior Red Cross lifesaving test. And the dark-haired little girl with the dimple in her left cheek made the skirt she has on, pleats and all. At the conclusion of Mrs. Roosevelt's talk, there's going to be a - well we have a surprise in store for everyone, even for those in this room. This committee is here to do something very special which no one will want to miss. But we shouldn't take any more time from the big event of the evening, which is to bring to you the words of Mrs. Roosevelt as she gives her message to the people of America and the campfire girls. During the last six months, all over the country, the girls have been at work on a project, writing true stories about women of achievement in their own communities. And Mrs. Roosevelt uses this as a background for her talk. May I present, Mrs. Roosevelt.


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to have this opportunity to talk to the Campfire Girls of America and to their leaders assembled at their annual meeting. I shall speak to the girls, knowing that it is a message which must also go to their leaders as they help the young people to put this message into practice. I have been over some of the work which you girls have been doing this summer, studying American women of achievement. And it seems to be of very great importance, particularly at this time, when the world is in a state of such distraction, that you girls all over our country should learn to evaluate the qualities in human beings. I know your program through long contact with it, and I know that the people you admire are the ones who have thought things through and have done good things in their own communities. In your own communities, you have been looking into the lives of people who, in their own localities at least, have meant something. It is sometimes harder to achieve real greatness within the narrow confines of a village, than it is if you have the world as a stage. But there are similarities in the experiences of nearly all these people whom you have written about, that are worth noting. Practically none of them has achieved greatness of character without some struggle with herself to overcome certain difficulties of personality. There have been struggles with economic circumstances, struggles against physical handicaps, or against some emotional catastrophes. This is a good thing to keep before you, for you might as well learn when you are young, that no success comes without fighting for it. I think there is another thing which the study you have made should have proved to you. Namely, all success requires a certain amount of generosity. You cannot be successful and harbor grudges or bear other people ill will. And you must have discovered also that all these people who achieved success were people of character and people of integrity. Wishy-washy people are rarely remembered in their communities. They pass into oblivion with surprising rapidity. Even if you do not always like or agree with people, like Catherine Cornell, or Judge Florence Allen, you still would not forget them and you would have respect for them and for their achievements. They are people of character and have convictions. (5:46) In the present state of the world, you will grow up to face grave responsibilities. Nobody knows what the next few years will bring us. You may be sure of one thing however, this is no world for weaklings and we better prepare ourselves for struggle. If you are inclined at times to think that what you do today will make very little difference in your ultimate ability to count as a real person in your community, remember that habit has a great deal to do with the control you exercise over yourselves. Each time you exert yourself to live up to your highest standards, you make it just that much easier for yourself in the long run, to count for positive good in your community. No one could have accused the women and girls who landed on the Mayflower of being soft, but a good many people today say that we have in America thought too much of our physical comforts. We've grown soft, not only bodily, but mentally and spiritually. I think it is up to all of us to prove that this is not so. The way to begin is to set ourselves certain tasks and live up to them, day in and day out. It will not be easy, but if you keep remembering the lives of your heroines, I think you will find that either of their own volition or the cause of the force of circumstances, they were trained in a similar school. This country, and the world, is going to need heroic women as well as men during the next few years. Begin now, to prepare yourselves to meet the challenge of the world of the future..

[unknown speaker:]

Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt. I believe Dr. Raycroft has something to say to you. Dr. Raycroft.

[Dr. Raycroft:]

Mrs. Roosevelt, this is a very happy time for the Campfire Girls Organization as well as for me personally. For many years, we have appreciated all the things you have done for us, without being able to do more in return than just thank you. This evening, it is my privilege to express our sincere gratitude in more tangible form. The National Board of Campfire Girls authorized me to present you with the highest honor, which is in the power of the organization to give: the Wohelo Award. This recognizes outstanding service to the youth of America through the campfire program. It is jealously guarded. There have been only one hundred awarded during the twenty-seven years of the organizations history. As I give this to the little campfire girl at my side, and she ties around your neck the ribbon which holds the silver pendant, you will see that it is the crossed logs and flame, which symbolizes both the hearth fire, the center of the home, and the campfire, the center of outdoor activities. To Eleanor Roosevelt, Chairman of the National Advisory Council of the Campfire Girls, author, humanist, first lady of our land, we make this presentation. For her untiring efforts in behalf of the youth of America, for her patience in counseling with them, for her tolerance and her understanding, and especially for her work in directing and in judging the older girls projects of the Campfire Girls in the fields of community service, recreation, conservation, and the study of women of achievement among our pioneer ancestors. For all these important contributions, we present the Wohelo Award.


Thank you, Dr. Raycroft. I am very happy to receive this award. I think we all need to be reminded that the hearth, the home of each one of us, is the first thing that we women must care for and then we want to add the recreation that our children should learn young to acquire in the out of door life that they can lead in this country. This preparation, of living at home and living out of doors, is a good preparation for the grown-up citizen, which each one of you girls is someday going to be. You think little perhaps today, of what you will do in the future as a citizen in a great democracy. But I, who receive this award, am happy to have this opportunity not only to thank you for the award, but to tell you that I hope through the training you are receiving today, in your homes and in your outdoor life, that you will grow to be a useful citizen, with a full understanding of what it means to be a real democrat, and take your full share of responsibility in caring for your nation, as you care for your home. Thank you again and good night.

[unknown speaker:]

You have just heard a talk by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, directed to the Campfire Girls Council Conference in Berkeley, California, followed by the presentation to her of the Wohelo Award, given for service to the youth of America through the Campfire Girls program. Now those who are interested in the objectives of the Campfire Girls are cordially invited to write for information and for copies of Mrs. Roosevelt's talk, The Challenge of the Future. We'll gladly send them if you write to the station to which you are now listening. This program has been a public service feature of the National Broadcasting Company, RCA Building, Radio City, New York.


Program Participants

  • : Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
    Raycroft, Joseph, 1867-1955

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced


About this document

Speech to the National Advisory Council of Campfire Girls

October 13, 1939


Eleanor Roosevelt

Project Editors
  • National Endowment for the Humanities

Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Transcript Editors
  • : Lewis, Britanny
  • : Grodin, Olivia
  • : Albrecht, Vikram
  • : Alhambra, Christopher   [ ORCID: 0000-0002-6299-793X | VIAF ]

Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library