My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

PARIS, Thursday—When we met Tuesday afternoon the Soviet delegation at once made a formal proposal in the form of a resolution to ask the General Assembly to put off consideration of the Declaration of Human Rights bill until next year.

They gave as their reason that there was a whole series of articles that they wished to amend, and they talked at length about the fact that many of us have said the document is not perfect. Therefore, they could not see why we would not continue to work on it, particularly as it seemed such a backward document to a really modern democratic people.

It is, of course, true that any document, wherein 58 nations collaborate, is apt not to seem perfect to any one of them. For instance at lunch yesterday the delegate from Santa Cruz said I must realize the declaration is based on Anglo-Saxon ideas and in many things it shocked Latin-American ideas. I told him there were many Latin-American ideas I could not accept.

Also, I would have been delighted to see in the preamble a paragraph alluding to the Supreme Power. I knew very well, however, there were many men around the table who would violently be opposed to naming God, and I did not want it put to a vote because I thought for those of us who are Christians it would be rather difficult to have God defeated in a vote.

I preferred greatly to accept the fact that there were people of many religions around the table, among them some who had no religion at all and they had as much right to their conception as what should go into the Declaration of Human Rights as I have.

The position of women, of course, in many Latin-American countries is very different from that which is described in the declaration. For instance, I was told of one country where a woman cannot even cash a check. Her husband has to cash it for her and the idea of her taking part in voting is simply inconceivable.

But when all is said and done, the declaration will set a standard for human rights and freedoms, and if these standards are recognized as good I believe peoples throughout the world, who feel they are not being treated fairly, will gain a knowledge of the declaration. Then that silent pressure of the masses will be felt in the Kremlin in Moscow or any other government abode the world over.

When you think of all the different groups represented at our table in Committee No. 3, it was highly encouraging to find that the Soviet motion to reconsider the bill gathered no outside votes. No one was deceived and no one wanted to put off the day when this declaration would be a part of the world's consciousness.

During the meeting yesterday, Dr. Malik, the chairman, gave us some interesting statistics. He said the declaration had been adopted with no dissenting vote, though the Soviet bloc abstained as usual. He said we held 85 meetings, and the average of absences at these meetings was 17 people. But the aggregate vote was overwhelmingly in favor of almost all the articles.

Very few of the articles were adopted simply because there was no mention of God, and there was a very considerable mention of man's social security in the declaration. Of course, this is so, but I think the spirit of the declaration was inspired by Christianity and it never would have been written if there had not been many people behind it who were motivated by the Christian spirit.

It is true the social and economic rights so much stressed by the Soviet and, for that matter, a great many of the Latin-American countries are discoveries of this century, but I doubt if they show in reality a lack of the Godlike spirit.

I think that spirit is plainly visible by the fact that more and more people accept these facts that men must have a certain degree of security before spiritual ideas can have any real hold on them.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL