My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK—It seems to the outsider that "at the summit" a great venture is going on in understanding.

There is careful balancing and testing. How much can we trust each other? President Eisenhower seems to hope we can trust each other more than we ever have before, and the newspaper stories this week seem to reflect the fact that the President and Mr. Faure, the French Premier, are more trusting than their foreign ministers, Mr. Dulles and Mr. Pinay.

How much will we agree on disarmament and on the safeguards we think essential, no matter how we phrase them? How much compromise will there really be for German unity?

The one concrete concession, or let us say payment, by the Soviet Union is the decision to donate to the atom pool for peacetime uses. Nevertheless, the President stresses a change in atmosphere, and that is what we were told was almost all we could expect out of these first meetings. So perhaps we will go further than at first seemed likely.

There is another story that may be just as significant in the field of understanding and of change in atmosphere, and that is the description of the first day spent on an Iowa farm by the group of Soviet farmers and the first day spent by the American farmers seeing two farms, a model collective farm and a state farm in the Soviet Union.

One story I read quoted an American farmer, as he watched Vladimir Matskevich, Russian First Deputy Minister of Agriculture, testing oats by pulling off a few kernels and grinding them between his palm, "Look at him, that's the same way I do it."

Both Americans and Russians may find that there are a good many things that farmers do in the same way, and, what is even more important, they may find that there are a good many things about which farmers feel the same way.

The Soviet farmer may be putting on a struggle in competition with industry, just as our farmers find themselves doing here. They may have the same interest in cheap power, once they realize to what extent power devices can lighten labor. The touring Russians will see many labor-saving devices.

The Soviets astonished our farmers by being as interested in profits and in what could be bought with profits as any American farmer is. On the other side, the American farmers were surprised at the lack of labor-saving devices on the Soviet farm, at the amount of work done by the women, and at the state nursery for children, which took away the family feeling the American farmer was accustomed to.

The American farmer will not, of course, perhaps have enough knowledge of what the peasant in czarist Russia went through to be able to evaluate how far the people have come and how far they must still come before they see things with the eyes of people who have been bred in a democracy.

The responsibility for shaping your own government demands a tradition of education through which one can understand the problems of government and act to protect the individual rights and freedoms of the common man. There are centuries of change that have to be bridged before the Soviet and the American farmer can reach a full understanding, but these mutual visits may add greatly to that atmosphere the President is stressing at Geneva.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL