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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

International Health: The Road to Peace

Speech at the Albert Lasker Award Ceremonies

October 22, 1959


ER speaks at the Albert Lasker Award Ceremonies in Atlantic City. "International Health: The Road to Peace."

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[Unknown announcer:]

During the week, the American Public Health Association has been holding its annual meeting in Atlantic City. Tonight, NBC presents an address by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dinner honoring the recipients of the Albert Lasker Awards for outstanding contributions in medical research and public health. Mrs. Roosevelt speaks on the subject, "International Health: The Road to Peace." We go now to Atlantic City where Mrs. Roosevelt has already begun to speak.


I first of all made an apology for fear that I will tell many of you what you already know. But I'm very happy to be with you tonight and particularly because I feel that there are two things which we must have in order to have peace in the world, one: food, the other: health. And I think that this audience probably appreciates that these things go together and they form a basis on which we can work together all over the world. There's no question that what many people in the world, who do not have enough to eat, wonder about our domestic situation in the United States. They can't quite understand why we find surpluses of food a burden. They would like to have that burden very much. They could use it and I think this is one of the areas in which we can do fresh thinking and make friends in the world. To have peace, we must make friends. We cannot have peace unless we create an atmosphere of friendship. And it seems to me that we today, in spite of the fact that we have given generously of our money in the world, have not given in the right way: as friends. And this is something I think we want to remind ourselves of because if you are friends there is give and take. You give but you receive. And we should look for what we can receive. And it is in medicine that we have the example I think of beginnings of real cooperation. I was very happy that after the talks at Camp David, a new program of exchange between the Soviet Union and ourselves in the medical area had been worked out because it seems to me that it is in this area that we are going to make strides towards world peace. It sounds of course sometimes as though world peace were going to be accomplished when we had decided to stop nuclear tests or we had decided on a method of inspection of um production of nuclear weapons. Actually, it's not as easy as that.

We really have got to settle most of the difficult questions in the world, the questions in the Far East and the Near East, even in Europe, before we can really have total disarmament which is the one sure way of ensuring peace. So everything that we do and in the medical field we are really doing one of the vital things to bring about an atmosphere in the world in which peace can grow. I think that the international research, the realization that we need to cooperate and for that reason the Health for Peace bill, seems to me one of the most important things and I hope in the next session of Congress it will be enacted very quickly. It provides fifty million dollars annually, not a great deal when you think of what needs to be done, but nevertheless it is a beginning. And it would establish uh an international institute for research and bringing together the minds that are doing research in various parts of the world. It's this rubbing together of peoples' minds that produce the things we're looking for. And I am particularly happy over this institute which will be under uh the Public Health Service. And I hope that there will also be cooperation on the part of private efforts everywhere.

Wherever there are private groups working on research I hope that they will be a part of this international exchange, that they will try and make it possible for people to come from foreign countries and people to go from here to foreign countries. I happen to have been, as you know, twice in the Soviet Union. I had the opportunity of visiting a number of their institutes and they were kind enough to tell us a great deal about what they were doing, and I had a feeling that this was an area in which we could begin to create the understanding and to help each other. I think that we probably have a contribution to make, particularly in the field of psychiatry. And I'm always asked of course uh what about juvenile delinquency eh, what about their emotionally disturbed children. Well I tried my best to find out, I think that some of you here probably know much more than I do about it. But I came to the conclusion that there really was possibly less emotional disturbance among children up to a certain age. Whether that is true or not, I'm not certain. But it seemed to me that a fact that they were so carefully supervised and so much occupied-


-uh and that the discipline they were under from their babyhood probably had something to do with what seemed to be um a little less uh emotional uh disturbance. But of course, I am not qualified to judge. I felt that the amount of discipline was probably, in the long run, uh bad for initiative and yet we think that um Russian scientists are going ahead very fast. I came to the conclusion that the Russians had learned to stick within certain lines, that if they were scientists anything they discovered would help the communist idea and so as long as they stayed studying their scientific problems, whatever they were, they could think freely. And that that was one of the reasons why they were so successful. The minute you asked them a question on politics there was no answer. People who are so clear and intelligent, as far their own line of research might be, suddenly had no knowledge at all. They would say, "We're so sorry, we're not politicians. We know nothing about politics." And this seems of course absurd, but that's how it was. And my conclusion was that it must be a release to be a scientist because you could think freely as long as you never overstepped the lines.

And perhaps that's one reason why they do very well in their scientific research. A writer or a painter, musician, Mr. Khrushchev may wake up some morning and say you hurt the communist idea and then he has to apologize and he has really no freedom even along his own particular line. But a scientist he--whatever he discovers helps the communist idea. And I am still in a great quandary about the whole question of discipline. It seems to me that in our country we have discussed for many years how much imposed discipline you must have to develop self-discipline in a child. And in a democracy self-discipline is absolutely essential. But as far as I know, there is no real agreement among educators as to what we should do to give our children the power of self-discipline. In the Soviet Union it's entirely simple. At two months old you are started on the road to discipline. I don't know how many of the people here have gone into the nurseries and watched the way exercises are taught, but I was fascinated. At six months old a baby cooperates in his exercises, knows exactly what's expected of him. His-his [Audience and ER laugh] you don't have to hold his hands. The exercises are the same. We lift our babies up and let them down-down, but uh in the nursery in the Soviet Union they just hold out two little rings and the baby grasps them and he's just lifted up and down he holds on until the requisite number of times are accomplished and then he lets go. [Audience and ER laugh] Now this is most interesting to me, I watched this uh with a great deal of interest because it does produce exactly what the Soviets want.

They want a completely disciplined citizen who is quite amenable. You can tell him that Stalin was the best father of his country on Saturday night and Sunday morning you tell him Stalin committed every crime in the book and he doesn't question what he's been told. Now um this is not what we educate for and this is not what we do, but uh we want people who can think for themselves and can speak up even when they differ and explain why and stand by it. But the Soviets want disciplined people and by seven years old when the child goes to school the discipline is something astounding. How many of our seven-year old children could we entrust with the responsibility of appearing one day a month at the same hour in the clinic of their district for their regular examination-health examination? Up to seven, the mother is responsible for bringing the child. But at the age of seven when the child goes to school, the child is responsible for appearing. And if there is a posture defect or anything, he must come back and that child is responsible for coming back until in the gymnasium he has corrected that defect. Now this is something which would be awfully pleasant if we were sure our children would always be as well-disciplined as that. But I'm not at all sure what effect it will have uh in other ways. And I'm very interested in watching, but nevertheless this points out one of the basic things I think that you as scientists and all of us as citizens must be interested in because we in this country have to do whatever we do on a voluntary basis because we are convinced that this is essential.

In the Soviet Union, all you have to do is to tell people that this is what they have to do and they do it. Here it's a question of how intelligently our children are trained and how much self-discipline they have acquired. Because the overall challenge of course today is between the Soviet system and our own. And we have to not only prove in our own country that what we have to do uh that what we do is a value for all human beings, but we also have to-what-have to show the world through what we do in-among all the people that we come in contact with, that we understand what the world needs. And that we are able to learn as well as to teach, and that we are actually fully aware and able to discipline ourselves to meet whatever the challenge may be. Now this is of--a really important thing from my point of view. And that's one reason why I'm so interested in seeing medical cooperation because I think you are pointing the way first to how we can learn from other people and give them the feeling that we are willing to learn and then how well we can cooperate to develop together the things we need. I'm very happy to be here on this particular evening because I think the Lasker Awards are awards that we all of us deeply appreciate. They recognize good work that has been done in this field. We're all of us grateful to Senator [Joseph] Hill and Mr. [John] Foga-Fogarty for the work that they have done in the legislative field. I know that we are grateful to every one of the medical scientists. And I am particularly grateful to Mr. [Maurice] Pate because he has, in the field of the health of children, shown that if you bring together food and medical care you can do something which is really vital to the well-being of children in the world. And I think in UNICEF we have an instrument in the United Nations which is doing something which all of us recognize as extremely important: trying to have the next generation grow up stronger, healthier, better able to work, so that they will be able to lift their countries to better standards.

We know that this is essential, that these children in faraway countries who've often not had enough to eat, who've often suffered from disease, are going to have to work with our children. At some point they will control the policies in the world. And I, for that reason, have always been grateful for the work of UNICEF and for Mr. Pate's leadership in this field. I want to particularly tonight thank both Mr. Hill and Mr. Fogarty for an interest which I wish we could find in every member of the Senate and the House. It would help us enormously if we could find it growing very rapidly. And I want also to say how grateful I am to Mrs. Lasker. She has pointed the way for the work of the laymen in the field and has shown how, if you have real interest and real capacity, you can do a remarkable job. And I thank you again for being kind enough to ask me to be with you. And I want to say that I'm deeply appreciative of the work of the Public Health Service and of all that is being done today in our own country. But more than anything else, I appreciate the continued research and now the international research which I feel will solve for us many of the important questions which we are worried about and which take a tremendous toll of human life all over the world. Thank you.

[Unknown announcer:]

NBC has just brought you an address by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt on the subject, "International Health: The Road to Peace." She spoke at a dinner in Atlantic City, honoring the seven winners of the Albert Lasker Awards for extraordinary public service to the nation's health. Music and laughter comes your way when its network time with Frank Blair, Don Russel, and their special guests, every weekday over most of these NBC stations.


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International Health: The Road to Peace
Speech at the Albert Lasker Award Ceremonies

October 22, 1959


Speech at the Albert Lasker Award Ceremonies

Eleanor Roosevelt

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  • 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

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

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library