My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

SAN PEDRO, Calif.—I have just been informed of the formation of an organization of students to try to get repealed Section 1001F of the National Defense Education Act, which was passed by Congress in 1958. This section requires all students receiving fellowships or loans under the act to sign a disclaimer affidavit and take the loyalty oath.

This organization of students wants to have this particular section deleted or drastically amended. They have been told that the reason the Kennedy-Clark bill—designed to do just this job—was defeated last year was because a number of Senators felt that college and university students were really not interested, since so few of them contacted their representatives in Congress.

As a result, a group of students decided to organize and express the feeling of a large majority of students. The Congress again will soon consider a bill sponsored by Senators John F. Kennedy (D., Mass.), Joseph S. Clark (D., Pa.) and Jacob K. Javits (R., N.Y.).

Up to now 2,000 letters and post cards have been sent by Harvard undergraduates to their Senators and Representatives and a similar campaign has been initiated by the University of Chicago and Antioch College. Already more than 1,000 post cards and letters have gone out from these schools. Wellesley and Swarthmore and a number of other colleges are in the process of forming their groups. Also, some of the students are planning a national student organization or clearing house to assist in coordinating the campaign and to extend its scope to as many campuses as possible.

This committee would disband as soon as Section 1001F has been deleted or substantially altered.

Not long ago I read an article by Gerald W. Johnson in the New Republic magazine, which said that there is another organization set up to retain the clause, and he characterized that organization as "an outburst of clamorous servility." That to me sounds like a good description of any group that would want to uphold such a law—a law that demands of the signer an affidavit stating that he could be held accountable for anything he had thought or done in his short life, even though he might have changed his mind a number of times on many of the things.

Those who are working against the rention of Section 1001F are trying to raise a small budget of $1,000 to cover the expenses of organization. This seems little enough to prevent such a drift toward the increasing curtailment of our freedom.

It is natural that some people who need the scholarship money very badly would be willing to take almost any kind of an oath. But it is quite wrong for a government to put such pressure on young people, and if the law remains as it is it will simply lead to more and more pressures of this kind.

I keep thinking of how free I was at the age of 18 to find out about new things and to experiment with new ideas that came to mind. And it makes me rather sad that the young people of today have to be so rigidly prevented from obtaining all kinds of experiences. We older people should know that youth will change its mind very frequently and learn through experience.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL