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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Constance Lindsay Skinner Award Dinner, Part 2

February 24, 1961


Speeches at Women's National Book Association's Constance Lindsay Skinner Award Dinner

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[Cass Canfield:]

She had to go to a little party. It was a little cocktail party um for her. And I remember trying to get into it through a 12,000 people [laughter from audience] I-I'm-I- that's probably a slight underestimate; it was the most crowded thing I've ever seen, one huge building. So that she didn't have a moment and had to shake hands with about a 1,000 people I'm sure. And then, without any preparation she was put on national television to comment on the convention and on Truman's statement. Well what she said had more effect than anything that was said in that whole convention. It was answerably clear and forthright and got a tremendous reaction, not only from people in Chicago but from all over the country. And it was an extraordinary example of um grasping a situation quickly, speaking with complete honesty and convincing everyone that she had the right solution. I like to speak on her contribution to the world of books. And a word, it seems to me what makes her contribution outstanding is the impact of her personality through her writing. As one thinks about literature, it's apparent that the book reflects the man. Sometimes, an author's work adds up to less than the man but never the more. Let's roam over the field a little and see whether we don't have a pretty clear idea about the personalities of authors who have made their mark on the world. Let's imagine that Charles Dickens were here incognito to speak to us tonight, and imagine further that he were masked so that we would not recognize his features.

Does anyone doubt that within two or three minutes we would know who he was from the thoughts he'd express and from his manner of expression? We would recognize the man from his books. I believe we'd reach the same quick conclusion with writers of many different types, from Mark Twain to Sinclair Lewis, from Lewis Carrol to E.B. White. In Mrs. Roosevelt, we have one of the greatest personalities of our time. The remarkable thing about her is that she's not aware of that. This, I think, is one of the outstanding characteristics of great people. Mrs. Roosevelt is honored and loved for many qualities. But the three I would pick out are candor, compassion, and courage. As she has written so frankly in her first autobiographical volume, "This is My Story", when she was a girl and a very young woman she followed the lead of other people. She felt she had no special talents and gifts. Then, having become a wife and a mother, she changed her outlook. She decided that there were certain things she wanted to do, certain things that she profoundly believed in. Few people in this country, or in any other for that matter, have pursued their objectives with Mrs. Roosevelt's deter-determination and drive. Fewer still have done so without ever hurting another human being in the process and without ever considering their own self advancement. This is true greatness. This is what is reflected in Mrs. Roosevelt's writing. Her personality, which comes through in everything she writes and which has given encouragement and hope to millions of Americans of all ages.

[Lilian Gurney:]

The Women's National Book Association is honored to present the Constance Lindsey Skinner Award for 1961 to Eleanor Roosevelt, for her continuing long-life long efforts to encourage reading and to establish books as an integral part of everyday life for all Americans. Her remarkable success in this endeavor has been achieved by her affirmation in her autobiographical writings of the importance of books in her life since childhood, by her keen interest in wide distribution of good books to children as evidenced by her long association with the Junior Literary Guild, by her interpretation of the United Nations and its purposes to young people through her books, by including references to books in reading in her widely read newspaper magazine columns, by fully using the printed word as a means of communicating with the vast public, by her willingness to take part in various book-oriented projects including programs of our association. To all that she has done out of her personal conviction concerning the importance of reading, she has brought her unequal prestige as an American public figure throughout the world. Mrs. Roosevelt, it is with great pleasure I hand you the Constance Lindsey Skinner Award.


Thank you.




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About this document

Constance Lindsay Skinner Award Dinner, Part 2

February 24, 1961


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