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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Interview in Paris

February 13, 1952


ER interviewed in Paris while UN General Assembly is in session, ER discusses importance and successes of the UN General Assembly participants, patience and persistence in dealing with the Soviets. She also discusses recent travel to the village of Lanoire and the city of Rouen in northern France, as well as plans for her upcoming travel to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and possibly the Philippines.

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[Unknown Speaker:]  Recently when Mrs. Roosevelt where the United Nations came with great expectation and excitement and eh, committee three on which Mrs. Roosevelt works was still in session and I waited for her for a few minutes in the delegates' lounge which is right in the shadow of the Eiffel tower and really one of the most exciting things I've ever seen. Um Mrs. Roosevelt, with her usual grace, has let me come back to the Palais de Chaillot this morning to interview her for all of our listeners and all of her many, many friends in America. Mrs. Roosevelt, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your taking time from your well, such a busy schedule to come talk to me.

[ER:]  Well you're very kind, I'm honored to gladly come. [Both laugh]

[Unknown Speaker:]  Now, Mrs. Roosevelt, could you tell us what you consider to be the most significant step taken at the General Assembly?

[ER:]  Well, the General Assembly, of course, was established to try and bring us a peaceful world, so the most significant step, from my point of view, is that we actually in this general assembly did set up a disarmament conference and that the Soviets agreed to work in it. Now that doesn't mean that I expect miracles, um if you work with the Soviets you have to have more patience and more perseverance than they have if you're going to do something constructive because in-in the main, the Soviets are destructive of the things that we think are important. They would like us to put on paper peaceful aims, but they are not very fond of the idea of actually putting into force measures of control and of inspection and for that reason I think that we'll move slowly in the disarmament conference, very slowly, and many people will think that it's never going to come to anything, but just as I think we will have an armistice someday in Korea, I think someday we'll have disarmament through the work of a disarmament conference if we have more patience and more perseverance than the Soviets.


[Unknown Speaker:]  Well that's very interesting and very hopeful, isn't it? Um what was-what has been accomplished in your particular field of interest this committee?

[ER:]  Social and um economic and humanitarian work, of course, that is very largely done by the specialized agencies and in special commissions and committees, but the economic and social council reviews it all and in this General Assembly we took up their review and um gave directions to the Human Rights Commission as to the line on which they were to work in their next meeting, which will be in the spring, and then along other lines. For instance, I think a very important thing was that while under the report on freedom of information, nothing actually was done except to postpone um writing of a covenant on freedom of information because in the present state of the world, writing that covenant means writing more restrictions than you do freedoms. [Unknown Speaker: Yes.] But we did have a chance to bring out as an illustration of the lack of freedom, what the Otis Case meant. And I think it was a good thing to do because I found that a great many people really believed that Otis was a spy and a great many people felt that um that was a normal and natural thing for a government to do.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Uh huh.

[ER:]  It grew out of the fact that a certain number of writers have written books explaining that there were spies in the way and so I've found a number people who have said, "but of course Otis was a spy," and I think the way we brought it out showed quite clearly that, in this case, Otis was not a spy. And I think that was a very helpful thing to do. Now, there were a number of other--in the economic field, the resolution passed on land reform and in various other things, I think were very significant.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Mhm.

[ER:]  And one of the things you come to realize here is the fact that new nations are coming into being, new pre-nations, and many of the weaker nations are being protected by the mere fact that the United Nations exists, and I think that's something we should constantly bring to people's minds because one delegate, he actually said to us one day, "If United Nations didn't exist, this question would have been settled long ago, we have more force than they have."

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes.

[ER:]  And that would mean a war, you see.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes.

[ER:]  And so it emphasized for me the point that it may be slower to negotiate, but we are growing, little by little, to negotiate questions instead of settling them by force and that's-that's the whole purpose--

[Unknown Speaker:]  The purpose of it--

[ER:]  For which we're here.


[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes, well that's wonderful, that's so interesting. Um, what has been the effect of holding the general assembly in Paris rather than in New York?

[ER:]  Well, we get more coverage here and probably more coverage of newspapers other than the United States services, you see?

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes.

[ER:]  And you get more of the European papers, I think you get more really of the papers from, uh, other countries even further away, so that perhaps, every now and then, it is not a bad thing to hold some kind-some of our meetings in other-in different parts of the world because it awakens a realization and a fresh interest in the work of the United Nations.

[Unknown Speaker:]  As usual, you have many, many outside activities. I've heard a little bit about your visit to Lanoire.

[ER:]  Well, Lanoire was very interesting. Lanoire is a tiny little village, really now within the towns that have grown up all around it, it's quite-quite close to Lille, which is, of course, a manufacturing town. They're nearly all textile towns in that area of France, and Lanoire was a little village, probably a walled town in its a little tower still remains from the early Eleventh Century and it happens to be a town which has the records that my mother-in-law's Delanoire family probably originated there. They went from there into Flanders and Netherlands, and finally those who came to America came, probably, from other places, but the original Jean de Lanoire seems to have lived in Lanoire. So all day they asked me to come become a citizen of the town; all day I kept feeling how much better it would have been if it could have been my mother-in-law or my husband who had a real tie. [ER Laughs]

[Unknown Speaker:]  Well, but I understand that you made many little speeches there that day and that your--

[ER:]  Yes, we went to three maries and one prefecture-prefecture du nord and in each one we had ceremonies and in each one I had in my fluent, but not very good French, to make a speech. [Laughs]


[Unknown Speaker:]  Now, I've heard your French and it is certainly very fluent and very good, it seems to me, but anyway, someone told me up in the lounge a few minutes ago, that they felt that you had done more good in your warm, natural, wonderful little talks to those people than they had done in the whole United Nations, preparing speeches and all the rest of it, you know?

[ER:]  Well that's very kind of them and they're always-and the French people are always very kind because they have-there is no politics involved and they have a great feeling that my husband's voice during the occupation was the one thing they clung to in their hope of being freed.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes.

[ER:]  And that means an enormous amount to a people while they're being occupied.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Of course it does.

[ER:]  It's hard for us to understand because we haven't been occupied.

[Unknown Speaker:]  That's true.

[ER:]  But, um, I think that is the reason why they have been so kind to me and been so warm in their welcome wherever I've been.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Well that's only one of the reasons. And you also went to Rouen.

[ER:]  Yes, I went to Rouen last Sunday, I just--I went to Lanoire the Sunday before. I went to Rouen last Sunday and I was shocked in Rouen, I think there you see--of course, I imagine the major destruction was done by our own planes in driving the Germans out

[Unknown Speaker:]   Yes.

[ER:]  But the cathedral, which is a lovely cathedral, has been so badly damaged and the Palais de Justice, which was one of the most beautiful buildings, has enough left so you see how beautiful it was, but the destruction is such that I doubt if they can ever rebuild it, and it just breaks your heart to see things that should belong to the world

[Unknown Speaker:]   Yes.

[ER:]  ruined in five minutes, which took perhaps a hundred years to really--and represent the life-work of so many

[Unknown Speaker:]   Yes.

[ER:]  men who labored out of love to make these beautiful things.

[Unknown Speaker:]   Mhm. Yeah.

[ER:]  It's just a very sad thing to see.


[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes. Mrs. Roosevelt, how long are you going to be here now?

[ER:]  Oh, now I will be here only another--well, till the ninth, practically just another week.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes, till the ninth, and then what-where are you going? Aren't you going--

[ER:]  Well, I go from here; I made up my mind that I'd been in the United Nations and talked a great deal about things and perhaps it was time to go look at some things that were-that seemed important to know about and I'm one of those people who, until I see things they do not mean um I'm not able to visualize them quite as clearly as other people can--

[Unknown Speaker:]  Well--

[ER:]  In little ways my husband could always see a plan of a house or of a room and he would see it in his mind's eye. I always had to actually be in it [Unknown Speaker laughs] and put the furniture round before I could see it. And so I decided that I would go--I've never been in the Near East, so I'm starting my trip by going to Beirut and Damascus and Amman and seeing the Arab refugees and then from there I will go into Israel and have an opportunity to see Israel, and then from Israel I will fly directly to Karachi in Pakistan. I will spend a week and see as much as I can of Pakistan, it's not a very long while, but I hope to get a-and then get a real feel of it.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes.

[ER:]  And then I will go to India, where I hope to have nearly four weeks.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Well, you can really get some idea.

[ER:]  And from there I will go to Jakarta for two days on the way home, one day maybe in Manila, but just-that's just flying home, you see?

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes, I see.

[ER:]  And then if all goes well, I should be at home on the third of April, but of course when you take this sort of a trip, you have to say, "if all goes well." [ER Laughs]

[Unknown Speaker:]  Yes, well, somehow I rather think that New York will see you on the third of April, you have a way with you. [ER Laughs]

[ER:]  Well, I hope so.

[Unknown Speaker:]  Well, Mrs. Roosevelt, I can't thank you enough for taking time, as I said before, from such a busy schedule to come and talk to us, I'm sure that all of my listeners will be so thrilled to hear you. Thank you ever so much.

[ER:]  That's very kind of you, thank you.

Program Participants

  • : Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962

About this document

Interview in Paris

February 13, 1952


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

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

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library