My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

This is the Thirtieth of May and Decoration Day, and though it is Sunday and the holiday and celebrations will really take place Monday, still I think it is a good day to think back and remember what Memorial Day means to us.

On this day we decorate the graves of the patriots who have died for America. In their day they gave to the utmost what their country asked of them. We may not be asked today to prove our patriotism in just that same way, but we have abundant opportunity to give of ourselves in the same unselfish spirit which was in the hearts of the patriots of old whom we honor on Memorial Day.

Take this question of the payment of taxes which seems uppermost in many people's minds. It is true that you may work twice as hard and that when your income is above a certain amount, you may retain for yourself a much smaller percentage of the fruits of your labor. Perhaps the day will come when the man who is paying a high income tax will say to himself "This is proof of my patriotism. The measures which are supported by this money are what make my country a better place to live in. They insure to me and to my children a greater security under the form of government which I have chosen."

We may pay high taxes but if it means that many hard working people have better lives, I am glad to do so. I am entirely in accord with the idea that it is hardly worthwhile to try to give a better way of life to those who will not work and help themselves, but there are many, many people who work hard and for one reason or another have very little return for their labor. There is much charity that is bitter to the recipient and much of it might be a part of government. I also realize that many people will say we would willingly pay these taxes if we were sure that government is efficient. To safeguard the people's money what we call red tape is tied around all government activity until the really efficient honest public servant has a somewhat difficult time, but we are still laboring under the theory that the majority of the world is dishonest. Perhaps with the new patriotism, that can be changed and we can believe and trust that our public servants will be as efficient in government service as they would be if the interests of the public were their own.

This would mean that in the future on Memorial Day we would be decorating the graves of public servants who had given of themselves in the same way as our heroes of the past and their service would be considered as valuable to their country as though they had died for it.

E.R.
TMsd 30 May 1937, AERP, FDRL