My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

GENEVA—As usual, a good deal of mail has been coming in, with many letters from people who just wish to express their interest in the work of the Human Rights Commission, which they feel was part of my husband's conception for giving the average man a better chance in life. One writer sent me a most interesting column written about my husband on April 25, 1945, in which she translated Walt Whitman's "Oh, Captain, My Captain" into French, and I must say I admired her effort.

I still see nothing of Geneva by daylight except during the drive from the hotel to the Palais Des Nations, but yesterday the clouds rolled up the mountain sides and I saw the snowy peaks across the lake. Mont Blanc, however, still remains hidden.

In several long sessions there was careful discussion of whether the Human Rights Commission was to write a bill which could actually be presented to the General Assembly—but which of course would not have legal weight, since it would not require ratification and implementation from the various nations—or both a bill and a declaration. Our own position as a government has been that on the drafting committee's report we should have sufficient material available to do a fairly finished job as regards a declaration. But many countries like our own would have to consider most carefully the points covered in a convention.

For instance, our government must remember the matter of states rights and decide just how far it can go. Other governments have similar considerations, but we felt it would have a moral value to finish and circulate a declaration even though we might only be able to set down certain principles which we felt could be included in a covenant or a convention.

This was unacceptable, however, to the majority of the other nations present. They felt that the world is expecting a definite commitment which would force the governments to change their laws, if necessary, to conform to an international bill or covenant, and they wished that to be considered first, or at least simultaneously with a declaration. This finally passed, and three working groups have been appointed on each of these subjects. As soon as possible, they will be asked to report to the plenary session.

Several amusing things occurred during these sessions. An amendment was passed to a Soviet resolution, whereupon the Russian delegate had to say that he would be unable to vote for his own resolution since the amendment completely changed its character. Later, the delegate from the United Kingdom inadvertently voted "no" on his own resolution and had to be reminded of what he had done. I myself constantly forget the poor translators and have to apologize for not giving them enough time to do their work!

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL