My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Monday—To the average person on the outside, like myself, the whole situation regarding Secretary of Commerce Wallace's speech and Secretary of State Byrnes, reaction is very confusing. As I read Mr. Wallace's speech, it seems to me he tried to make clear that we neither approved of British imperialism nor of Soviet aggression. He stated that we wanted to be friendly with Russia, that we wanted to meet her halfway, but that she also had to meet us halfway.

It is perfectly obvious that we desire no European territory, but we have a distinct interest in keeping Europe at peace since, when war comes there, we invariably find ourselves involved.

In the Atlantic Charter and later statements, the great nations pledged themselves to no annexation of territory. We do ask for strategic air and fleet bases which we think will form a defense for our shores in the future. As long as force remains the final way that nations settle their differences, such bases are essential. But they do not mean that we want to attack any nation.

As long as the atom bomb is in our possession alone, and is not controlled by the United Nations, it is perhaps natural that other nations should be hesitant to trust our motives. But our whole history points to two things—one, that fundamentally we have been stirred to help people who were oppressed in the past; and two, that aggression for the sake of territorial aggrandizement has never been a temptation for us.

We still have sufficient national resources and land to accommodate our people, and it looks as though that would continue to be the case for some time to come. Added to this, we have had a streak of inventive genius which has provided us with new resources which have benefitted not only ourselves but the rest of the world. If we ever get to thinking of atomic energy for the benefit of mankind and not for destructive purposes, we will again have provided the world with a new and helpful force.

* * *

The Soviet and British governments are seeking influence where they feel they need defense of their interests. Why any American audience should boo Mr. Wallace for saying what he did about Russia and the need for Russia to come halfway in her contacts with us, is beyond my understanding.

In daily contacts such as are going on at the Paris Conference, it is easy for the individuals involved to become so irritated by the little things that they lose sight of the big things. I have always disliked saying that we had assumed a "tough" policy towards Russia. We have followed the American line of wanting everyone to have a fair deal, and wanting no one to grab undue power, particularly when it entailed the forcible persuasion of other peoples. That, I am afraid we must say, has been part of the Soviet and British policy in certain countries which they consider essential to the defense of their interests.

Where the President's attitude is concerned, one is forced to the conclusion that some secretary did not read Mr. Wallace's speech with great care. Otherwise, the President would not have found himself in the position of not really knowing what Mr. Brynes' reaction was going to be. The foreign policy of the United States must be formulated by the State Department and the Secretary of State, but the people of the country have a right to understand it and to express themselves. Fear of Russia has been built up in this country, but I think fear is unrealistic at the present moment. We should think calmly of what policy will bring the best chances for peace and insist on that policy.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL