My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK—In his Chicago speech on Friday night, President Kennedy declared that the goal of his Administration and his programs is to build an America which will fulfill its own promise of greatness. He added that in doing so the nation would "prove to a turbulent world that human welfare in the context of human freedom is the foundation of the future of the race. We would like to show here a civilization where every citizen is free to pursue those goals which his talents and his capacity permit, unhindered by artificial barriers of ignorance or prejudice."

This means, as I see it, that the President believes we must set our own house in order. Since we are engaged in a worldwide struggle with another ideology, we must realize that guns never really change ideas. We must have new ideas to fight those in which we do not believe, and the place to demonstrate what we believe and what we can do for people is here at home.

There is a wider field when we go out to other countries, and that is what must be considered in the whole preparation for foreign aid. The President's statement that we could only hope to defend the freedom of those people to whom we have made commitments if they were determined themselves to be free, applies also in the area of foreign aid. We can only help people to build a successful economy if they, themselves, are ready to work for it. In most countries where good use is being made of our aid, as in India, the people themselves are putting in two-thirds of the money that is going into development. The one-third they receive from outside consists of technical skills they cannot find in their own country or of capital investment which makes it unnecessary for them to buy foreign currency, and thus fills a gap that would otherwise exist in capital investment.

As you look around the world where the Russians have supplied arms and materials of war, it is a strange thing to find that the peoples who have received this aid seem to fight harder than those to whom we supply arms and materials of war. There must be a reason for this, and I think it would be well for us to ferret it out. Perhaps those to whom we give aid are not entirely sure they can trust us. Why those who take aid from Russia should be sure they can completely trust the Soviets is a mystery, but it is one for us to study.

We badly need a breathing spell in international tension in which to think over and reappraise our foreign policy all over the world. It does not look, however, as though the Laos and Congo crises will allow us this. At the time of writing, a cease-fire in Laos has not materialized, nor do any peaceful advances seem to be seriously considered. Russia, in any case, is perhaps only half-heartedly interested in Laos. Her real interest seems to lie in what she can stir up over Cuba. Khrushchev is attacking President Kennedy and Pravda is using inflammatory language about the President's immediate intentions. One never knows whether attacks of this kind, which accuse the President of certain future actions, are meant as a deterrent or are written in the hope that they will suggest such action.

The temptation is to point out, as in the case of Khrushchev's last letter to the President, how much misunderstanding, misstatement and distortion of the truth there is in these attacks. The difficulty always is that there is a seed of truth here and there. For instance, Khrushchev said that Mr. Kennedy had tried to starve the Cuban people. He was undoubtedly alluding to the fact that we had stopped buying sugar from Cuba and that this was undoubtedly a measure designed to hurt Cuba's economic situation. This is true, of course, but we did not do this without provocation. Our objection is to Cuba's acceptance of domination by the Soviet Union, not to Cuba's desire for open trade with other countries.

We have certainly not been blameless in our attitude toward Cuba on the military side. But the Soviets are hardly in a position to take us to task unless they wish to argue: "When we do this we are always successful. You tried to follow our example and for a number of reasons you were not successful. Therefore, you are wrong and we have always been right."

Perhaps in a complete reappraisal we can think of some new and better ways to fight the battle against Communism. I still believe that it is the example at home and abroad, where we succeed in giving people a better life with freedom, which is more convincing than even Soviet propaganda.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL