My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

LONDON—Sometimes, in watching the UNO Assembly delegates from some of the European countries, I wonder if they are thinking of the days when the League of Nations was being set up. Many of them, as young and idealistic assistants to the leading statesmen of those days, played a part in that first effort to get the nations of the world together in a cooperative organization to keep peace.

The fact that we Americans were not there does make us bring a fresher outlook to this present effort. In addition, in neither World War I nor World War II, have we seen our country invaded, our factories rendered useless, our fields pockmarked with shell holes and bomb craters, our woods destroyed, our civilian population starved and terrified. This has left us with more vitality and strength than the other nations involved.

Without minimizing in any way the anxiety, strain and sorrow which we lived through during the war, still I sometimes think that the fact that we have been spared so much must mean that our nation is destined for a very high service of some kind. It puts a rather appalling amount of responsibility upon us—upon our citizens and upon our statesmen, who must lead us well if we are to fulfill our world obligations in this period of crisis.

We are not accustomed to thinking of ourselves in such a role. It is one we hardly relish, and yet it is one, I think, which it is going to be impossible to escape.

* * *

The other evening, the very few women who are delegates, assistant delegates or advisers to the Assembly met with me in a conference room at our office. I felt that, as long as there were so few of us here, it would be a pity not to become acquainted and find out what our special interests might be.

Among the few women who are full delegates, is Miss Ellen Wilkinson, British Minister of Education. She had just come back from Malta, where she had been inspecting schools. That island, which was one of the most fought-over spots in the Mediterranean, is slowly coming back to normal life. For a long time, the people there lived underground or in caves, but they came through by the grace of God, their own powers of endurance, and the courage of the British garrison and fliers.

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of lunching with Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, who is here with some of her children. I remember so well when a number of them came to the White House, while I was away, and lunched with my husband. He loved children so much that this rather large family, which had just landed in a strange country as refugees from their own, appealed to him greatly. This family knows well what invasion of a country means.

Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe, and to little countries peace is very necessary. They cannot hope to defend themselves in war, and for prosperity and happiness they must depend on the cooperation of their neighbors.

* * *

My mail is assuming proportions somewhat like my mail at home, and I almost come to the point where I think that, if I am going to attend to my duties here, I must cease answering or even reading any letters. However, the misery of the world is brought home to me in these letters in many different ways, as I read of various persons' difficulties, so many of which have been caused by the war.

Families who have been separated and cannot rejoin each other, people who have been in concentration camps, others who have been reduced to poverty in exile—all are now struggling to rehabilitate themselves. People who have been caught away from home, and are not yet able to get transportation back, cannot understand why travelling is not yet normal, since the war is over.

Shortages of every kind—in houses, food, clothing—add to their miseries. For instance, if people hoping to leave this country give up their homes and then are delayed, it is impossible to find any place in which to lodge a family.

The dislocation that comes to people's lives during war lasts for years afterwards. This is bound to happen. Now that I am seeing it for the second time, I cannot help feeling that the human race must now prove its real intelligence by successfully preventing war and all the miseries that accompany it. Otherwise, it seems to me that our civilization will go the way of many others in the past.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL