The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > Audio Materials
Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches
Message to the People of Australia
February 19, 1948
Message to Australia, ER talks about the importance of the United Nations to world peace.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am very glad at this opportunity to speak to the people of Australia. I have very happy memories of the trip which I took in Australia in the summer of 1943. That was a time when we had a great many soldiers on your soil, and the kindness which the people, especially the women of Australia, showed to our men will never be forgotten, and I still hear of it, in letters from men whom I saw overseas at that time. This opportunity I grasp because I think today the women all over the world are anxious to get in touch with each other and discuss the questions which are a greatest interest to us, namely, "How can we best help to preserve peace in the world?" I happen to have been a delegate on our delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations ever since its first meeting in London. And I have seen the delegates from Australia and worked with them many times, and always enjoyed my contacts. I feel that the people of Australia and our people in the United States have many interests in common. We are both of us still pioneers, in a way, and we do feel as individuals that we carry a responsibility for what our government does. Therefore, I think that Australia has a great interest in the United Nations just as we have in this country. Particularly the women, I hope, are thinking seriously of the fact that this is the only machinery which we have established to achieve something which the peoples of the world have been trying to achieve for centuries. Man has wanted to live in peace for a long time, but each time that he starts to work something out, difficulties arise and even up to our last effort in the League of Nations, we failed. [ER coughs] Now we have in the United Nations, a greater and more united effort than ever before, [ER coughs] and when I hear people talking of the possibility of a third world war, I wonder whether that means that we, as people throughout the world, are making the maximum effort to succeed this time. It will take all the peoples- the peoples of Asia, the peoples of Europe, and - of India, and of South America, and of North America, and of all the countries in the Pacific- to really accomplish a meeting of minds where difficulties can be ironed out. We know that difficulties are bound to arise, human beings will always have difficulties. We have them in our families, we have them within our nations, we are bound to have them between nations. The point is that now, we've set up machinery, first to try and find ways of meeting difficulties before they really arise in the specialized agencies of the United Nations, like the Food and Agriculture Organization. We are trying to meet basic things which have caused war before. One war goes on all the time between the people and the soil. We waste our soil and then we do not have proper food for our people, and migrations of people take place then war comes. Now we have a world organization trying to overcome hunger anywhere in the world, trying to teach people how to use and conserve their soil, trying to teach people the use of forestry, trying in every possible way to organize on a world basis and meet some of our difficulties before they reach the boiling point, and have to be discussed in the Security Council where people get excited and call each other names. I happen to have been working in the Economic and Social Council, or rather in a commission under the Economic and Social Council. The commission of which I am chairman is called the Commission on Human Rights. And from my point of view, every woman-- no matter how busy she is at home, and I know in Australia the women are busy at home--but no matter how busy any woman is, she should take time to know what happens in this organization which is our only organized effort to preserve the peace of the world. The Human Rights Commission was given a very difficult piece of work to do. It was a told to write a bill or a pact or- the name doesn't matter much but it was told to write a document where standards would be set for the rights of people all over the world. And the little nations were particularly concerned because in the last war their rights were infringed upon in many ways, and minority groups felt that this might mean that in the future that they would have rights that no governments could ignore. And so we have worked for a long time now, and the end of our labors is still some six months or eight months away. We have now sent a declaration, and a first convention to all the governments for comment, and when those comments return during the month of May, the drafting committee and then the full Commission on Human Rights [ER coughs] will meet and try to make final documents which will go to the Economic and Social Council in July, and be presented to the General Assembly next autumn at their meeting in Paris. Every woman should be interested in this because many people feel [ER coughs] that it is basic to the working out of peaceful relations throughout the world. If we can have a standard of the rights of every human being--we may not live up to it at first, they are many things, in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution in the United States that we do not completely live up to- but it gives us something to strive for. And I am hoping that this declaration will be the document which all the nations of the world will feel they are striving for. Those rights will have been declared to belong to the people, the individuals of the world. In the covenant, when the different nations ratify, they are bound to change their own laws to agree with whatever they have agreed to in the covenants, and that, of course, will mean even more to individuals all over the world. It's hard to ask men and women who are busy to watch what goes on in the United Nations, but I'm hoping that we will do all we know to strengthen this organization because it is all we have in the way of machinery to bring about better understanding among the nations of the world. Some of us have great difficulties to understand each other and to work together. The language barrier is always a difficulty, but somehow as long as we stay together and meet periodically, even though we argue, even though we say rude things to each other, which we often do, I think we are safer than when things seethed underneath, and people did not really know how people or their representatives were feeling. Sometimes, it's only governments that feel angry with other governments. Peoples, I am sure all over the world, want to get on, want to feel that the future may hold peace and better understanding and economic security for them and for their children. That is how the United Nations was conceived. It is the peoples of the world that will have to give it strength and support. I hope that the people of Australia and the women particularly will give it all that they possibly can in order that it may be a successful organization for peace.
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 :
About this document
Message to the People of Australia
February 19, 1948
- 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
Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27
Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library