My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK—In Albuquerque last Wednesday one reporter asked if our schools were doing enough to acquaint our young people with the world in which they were going to live.

It seems to me that from primary school on up we could do more than we have done in the preparation of our children for a new kind of world, and in New Mexico, where they are so close to the development of atomic energy, there should be a great understanding of the changes that lie before us.

In the Southwest one also is constantly reminded of the problem of our own Indian population. Nowhere, not even down there where one is accustomed to admiring their skills, can one feel the United States has adequately prepared these original citizens of our land for their citizenship in our modern civilization.

One of my correspondents sent me two poems while I was in Albuquerque. One expressed his gratitude to be able to live in New Mexico, in which he says:

"Land of enchantment, land I love,
Where mountains pierce the sky above,
Where valleys green stretch out in space
And weary hearts may find their place.
How came I here, I do not care,
But well I know, 'tis answered prayer."

With all his love of the Southwest and his happiness in being there the Navajos trouble him, and he has put that problem into a poem, too. I am going to quote it in full because perhaps it gives an understanding of some of the sorrow that we have not been able to wipe out over the years.

"The white man asks:
Oh, Navajo, why the sad and stony face?
Immobile, silent, gazing into empty space,
Is it perhaps the dread that winter comes too soon,
Or white man's smog which dims the once-clear moon?
Has modern times so etched upon your brow, a scorn
Of all the progress here so lately born,
Or do you rue the day you smoked the pipe of peace,
And sealed your word to make the war dance cease?
And Navajo replies:
Why stony face? You ask of me and I will tell,
Yes, face is sad, and heart is sad as well,
I dread not winter's cold, nor white man's smoke,
Nor modern things he bring, nor treaties broke.
You call me Indian, you 'merican, you say,
I here for ages past before you come this way,
I true 'merican, you foreigner to shore,
And now you ask, I tell you one thing more:
You conquer land, now air to breathe, he's not my own,
And freedom of my hunting ground, he's gone.
Perhaps you, too, would have the face of stone,
If all your ancient heritage were gone,
You'd gaze, like me, across the grassy knoll,
Defying powers that be, to ask, also, your soul.

* * *

Meetings in Albuquerque were most successful and I did several radio interviews—only one live, the others all recorded. I had a family dinner with Mrs. Szerlip and her children. It was not quiet, because four children between the ages of eight and two and a half result in a good deal of turmoil, and also her telephone was constantly ringing. But I enjoyed it very much..

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL