My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK—At the fifth meeting of the Organization of American States, currently being held in Santiago, Chile, probably the prime item under consideration by the foreign ministers of the 21 South and Central American republics is "the effective exercise of representative democracy" in the Western Hemisphere.

So many of these republics have been republics in name only. The pattern of dictatorship is a very familiar one in many of the countries to the south of us and we all know that young countries go through various stages of development. Democracy is one of the most difficult forms of government but it provides more freedom for the people and more control by the people of their representatives than any form of government. Therefore, it is worth the effort that must be made to establish securely the habit of the use of democratic methods in government.

To develop freedom and participation in government means constant watchfulness on the part of the people. And in many countries where people are still struggling with illiteracy the people must depend for a time at least on benevolent dictatorships in order to establish educational systems and to start them on the way toward real democracy.

If, however, these dictatorships, instead of preparing for democracy, build up and hold for one man individual power, then there must inevitably be revolution. And that is the pattern that one can see in Cuba, in the Dominican Republic and in some other countries to the south of us. In time, however, those who really believe in democracy will triumph, and they should certainly get from the United States all the help that we can possibly give them through advice and example.

There is also the need for us to consider the best possible way of building up the economies of the South and Central American countries. They are our closest friends. They are too far advanced to be looked upon, as in the days of President Monroe, purely as countries whose freedom we must protect. They are now our partners in the great struggle to preserve freedom and democracy in the world. The sooner we can help them to economic and social stability, to guide them in establishing education so that their populations can be literate, and to encourage those in power who really want to give freedom to the people and will not strengthen themselves at the expense of the people, the better it will be.

One can have traditions of culture among groups of people in a nation and still not have literacy in the mass of the people. And without a literate people there can be no true basis for a democratic form of government. In many ways these countries to the south of us can contribute greatly to our culture, but we can help in developing the kind of mass education that is required for the best functioning of a democracy.

Our Secretary of State, Christian A. Herter, has a sympathetic understanding of these problems and of many other problems that must be considered in this conference. We wish to all of those who are meeting together great success in solving some of the difficulties between us and drawing closer lines of friendship and cooperation which are so essential to our joint well-being.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL