The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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It seems to me I have been talking steadily since I left NY and I should think you are beginning to be tired of hearing me. I hope that most of you have not been at the other meetings where I have talked.

First of all I want to tell you why I came back into active political work. I worked for the United Nations for six years and in doing that I tried to act as a representative of the American people not as a Democrat or a Republican, but for all the people of the country. I went to the first meeting in London to organize the UN and that is where I first really came to know Adlai Stevenson. I had met him before, but never really knew him as a person. I think because I have become conscious that we were losing, not gaining friends in the last four years that I began to think who was the best candidate to bring us back to world thinking, and to realize that now practically all domestic problems tied into the problems of the world. At that first meeting Adlai Stevenson did all the preparatory work since the meeting in San Francisco up to the London meeting. Every country had a group of people working in the Preparation Committee, he headed ours and did wonderful work. He knew all the other people and told us when we came who they were and what they did. I was worried as I was the only woman and felt I was looked on not as "one of the crowd." Mr. Dulles and Mr. Vandenberg were not happy that I was along, so I worked with great care and read all the time on the steamer about the State Department position papers. They were quite hard to understand for the State Department has a language all its own devised to keep others from understanding it, and I had to learn this new language. There were briefings every day for all delegates and for the press, and other than that I spent all my spare time reading these papers. One day I met Mr. Vandenberg in the corridor and he said "we decided to ask you to serve on Committee 3." This made me feel that they were all meting without me, and I had no idea what Committee 3 was, but I said I would be delighted to serve, and then went on to find out what work Committee 3 did.

Adlai Stevenson told us about the people in the other delegations. He really made a study of the people we would deal with, and what the setup would be and much background information. This made all the difference in our ability to work with the others. I watched Adlai Stevenson from then on, and he worked on several of the Committees. Some people gain respect and others lose respect when you are working with them. Adlai Stevenson gained. All the trips taken by the Secretary of State have not gained friends for us-we have had four years of dealing with crises. We have no one who has looked at the whole world and tried to map out what we are going to do. It is not necessary to reach a crisis if you prevent them from happening. We must have a clear cut policy and we need to state it. Otherwise we must just drift along and hope trouble will disappear, but it doesn't. The case of how often little things are often important in relation to other countries-using the wrong word-handling people without understanding of background-lead to real trouble when we are trying to make them see things from our point of view. Take Asia-over and over again-not because we meant an insult, but because the Secretary of State has no sensitivity as to what people really feel. On my trips around the world I have been confronted in country after country with stories of little things. The story of Dulles going to Egypt's ruler just when Great Britain had finally negotiated to leave, and presented him with two pistols. Of course Great Britain was angry. It is an amusing thing to tell, but it didn't make friends for us! And when the Secretary of State was in Israel and was presented with a remarkable Bible, beautifully bound-he said "of course this includes the New Testament?" Ben-Gurion got red up the back of his neck. These things are not really funny, as they are the things that lose friends for us in the world.

I remember after the 1952 elections Adlai Stevenson went on a trip around the world. I followed him in most places and particularly in Asia. Always I was told "We like your Mr. Stevenson-he listened to what we had to say." This taught me a lesson. If you want to learn it is a good idea to listen. I discovered that we Americans have a reputation for doing all the talking. If you don't know much about the people and their background doing all the talking and not finding out their ideas, is not a wise thing to do. One difficulty of course, is that we have become the leaders of the free world and possibly this came without our wanting it and without much preparation, so we need to learn. Adlai Stevenson took his trip to Africa-not only because it was the one place I had not already been as he joking said-because he had not seen this Continent which he realized was one area where our problems would lie in the next few years, and he felt obliged to learn about these people. I like that kind of a mind, and a person must take the trouble to learn what he needs to know if you are going to solve new problems in new ways.

How about things happening here at home? There is hardly a domestic problem that doesn't touch on international problems. Civil Rights is an example. We must use patience. We can't do everything at once, nor as quickly in every place, but we must move and we must show that we really intend that every citizen shall have equality of opportunity, recognition as a citizen and live without feeling that he is not an equal of every other citizen in our democracy. If this doesn't happen and we show that we are not in earnest, it will hurt in our world leadership. We must bear in mind that 2/3rds of the world's population is colored, and we are the minority race. We have often exploited the people of other races, but this is not wise. Today they long for freedom in all areas of the world. We are the people who lead in the struggle for freedom and we can't afford to let people see any exploitation here at home. That is not the example of a nation that says everyone is created free and equal!

I am deeply concerned about education, and if you have been listening to Adlai Stevenson you will know that he too is deeply concerned in giving young people a better life. We may think this is just a domestic problem and that it doesn't tie up with the struggle between Communism and Democracy and in the defense of our country. We may think it is just a difficulty in our own community to get good teachers and more classrooms. I think we had better face the fact that if we go on not meeting the crisis in education we are losing out on the biggest challenge that Communism has put before us. Why? Because today in the Soviet Union 90% of the people can read and write. Any young person who shows an ability to use higher education can achieve it. Not only an education, but a subsidy grant while he is getting his education. Of course it is a type of education you would not like. We don't want to be regulated and indoctrinated, but it is a tremendous challenge to our system. We should know it and face it. Last year the Soviets trained 1,200,000 young engineers and physicists for export to be sent in their program of Technical Assistance to countries to whom they promised help. We trained 900,000 and our own industries took them all. Last year the Herald Tribune Forum had the Deputy Commissioner of Education from the Soviet Union here for a visit. She was a woman, and from peasant stock. Our State Department did nothing to plan this woman's trip, for she was not here on official business. One day I was called in New York and told about this woman and asked if I would not like to have her come for tea. I said I would be delighted, and I am glad hat I did. I learned much about the Soviet teaching program. If a student is going to be sent to Brazil they are told to learn Portuguese. If they are going to Burma they are taught the Burmese dialects. Then when they go to a country they can not only offer their skills, but they have a common language so that it is much easier to import their thoughts. It means a great deal to people if you have taken the time to learn their language. You have gained much confidence for your efforts. I believe our young people should know as firmly why they believe in Democracy as the young Soviets know why they believe in Communism. We do our jobs because we understand-we believe in our democracy-we believe that individual personality is endowed by God with certain inherent freedoms and therefore we have something as individuals which we can delegate to our government which gives us a stronger basis than the Communist people. As I told the Deputy Commissioner we can demonstrate this-we are not ordered as you are, we do what we do because we want to. If we go outside of our own country to work we do so because we want to-not because our government says we must. There are large areas of the world that have never known freedom and don't know what it is, so to many it seems freedom to be allowed to have an education. When you speak of freedom you mean something your government has given you, we mean something inherent in us as a gift of God. So, this women told me her story. She is a peasant woman and did not have much opportunity and had no chance for education. She said that she had worked hard for what she had, but her government gave her every opportunity. She said "I am here because of my government. How can I separate my rights and the rights of my government?"

So, we can no longer put questions in one package and say we are just interested in more classrooms or more teachers or more schools. We must know what the challenge is, and then have a plan for meeting it.

[Recording from the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York]