My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—The brief time that we had before dining with the faculty at Central Michigan College in Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday night was spent in one of the girls' dormitories. Some mail awaited us and I took time to read my personal letters and then hastily dressed for the evening, knowing that people were waiting for me. Even though they were so polite as not to say anything, I was quite sure they were anxious to tell me to hurry. When I finally emerged with my bags packed and all ready for leaving later in the evening, I found the hall filled with girls, and the house mother told me that they were all my hostesses.

We did not have much time to greet each other because members of the faculty were waiting to take us over to dinner. The president of the college and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Anspach, were at the dinner and the president asked if I would say a few words there before going to the auditorium.

Like the night before in Iowa, there was plenty of snow on the ground and it was cold. Inside, however, there was a warm welcome and a filled auditorium. The question period following my lecture produced a great number of questions, but I only had time to answer half of them. A half hour goes quickly when people are really interested and anxious to get more information than you have given in an hour's talk.

Hidden among the questions on the state of the world in general were two that evoked some amusement. One person asked what had happened to Fala; so, the little dog is still remembered.

The other question asked if I wrote my speeches myself. This was among my unanswered questions, but it amused me a great deal because I would have had to say that I had never written them, or at least that I hadn't written them for a great many years.

When I first began to speak, which was soon after my husband had polio, his very wise adviser, Louis Howe, told me that as a beginner it was well to write the opening sentence and the closing paragraph and in between never under any circumstances do more than put down headings. His cardinal principle was: have something to say, say it, and sit down.

I have tried to remember that ever since. He used to say that beginners often went on talking, repeating themselves over and over again because they did not know where to stop or, as he phrased it, they had no terminal facilities. That was why he told me to write an ending as well as a beginning.

Now I think about the subjects and try to have clearly in my mind what I want to say to each audience. As I often talk on the same subject I could not write a speech and not become bored with it. If you have nothing written down you must think about what you are saying and that not only holds your own interest but that of your audience, too.

After this question period ended, the young men of the college sang me a song and gave me some flowers, which was a nice gesture.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL