My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Monday—I had a very pleasant and interesting visit the other day from Begum Shaista Ikramullah of Pakistan. I had not seen her since the early days in the General Assembly when she was on the Pakistan delegation and it was interesting to find that she had left her four children and come over here to study some of our institutions. She was worried about leaving her children, but said that there was so much to be done in Pakistan that all the women felt they had an obligation first to learn everything possible and then to do all they could to improve conditions in their own country.

I am becoming more and more intrigued by the difficulties that are created by words and their use. Some people use the words, welfare state, as a term of great opprobrium. One would think it was a terrible thing to live in a welfare state. Yet, if you said instead that you believed in a state that concerned itself about the welfare of its people, it would be very difficult for anyone to say they did not wish to be a citizen of that kind of a state.

Some people say that the welfare state has usurped the initiative of the individual, because for instance, a social security system has been set up under which a state does something for the old people, something for the handicapped people, something for the unemployed, etc. that we are removing from our people the need for forethought, for saving, and for pleasing their employers.

As a matter of fact, if an old person had only the pension provided by the state they could not live very well. It merely forms a good basis and, knowing that that much is certain, individuals have more courage to go on and try to plan for a little bit more. Perhaps it does make an employee a little more independent to know that he will receive some payment if he is out of a job through no fault of his own for a period of some weeks. But was there not a time when the employer had so much power over his employees that they were practically his slaves? And is it not better to have these benefits provided as a right than as a charity?

Another combination of words that I think has created unnecessary excitement is "socialized medicine." Most people have no idea what these words really mean.

Vaguely they think you would not be able to choose your own doctor or hospital and they think it spells more regimentation than most of us like to live under.

Of course, if you changed the words and said you were looking for a method by which, in modern society, all people could receive such medical care as they needed at a minimum cost, and that no one, because of lack of means, would go without necessary medical care, you would be saying something that everyone would agree was advisable and quite worthy of attempting to achieve.

One of the things the American Medical Association has been most afraid of under what they term socialized medicine is that doctors will lose their real interest in searching out new methods and that research would be almost at a standstill. That, of course, is not necessarily what the words would mean if the purpose were stated as I have stated it above. I wish we could get down to saying what we are trying to achieve and ignore the labels that get tacked on often to the twisted meanings.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL