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October 2, 1951

“NEW YORK, Monday…A verse in the Bible we very seldom hear was used as a text in the morning sermon. Evidently back in Bible days there were people who thought the “good old days” were better than the present. This must always have been a way of escape for some of us. If life seemed particularly hard, all we had to do was to say how much better it used to be, and how dreadful it was to be born in a generation that had to endure all the modern horrors.

On all sides we often hear: “The young people are worse today than ever before”; “We used to get on well without all these modern inventions, which get out of order to make our lives hideous”; “When there weren’t any automobiles you could not go dashing around the country at high speed and suffering accidents”; “We did not have a crime wave or dope rings in the old days—they are all the product of the modern age.”

Yet, in spite of the low estate into which politics has fallen I have found that almost anything said by anyone of our modern candidates against his opponent can be matched in the “good old days” by things said against Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, for instance, and certainly attacks on a woman were never lower than those leveled against Rachel Jackson.

There are fewer drunken men reeling around the streets today than there were when I was a child. It seems to me that each age has its own drawbacks and they have to be met by the people confronting them. If you look back over several decades you can usually see how some people have done a good job in meeting the difficulties of their particular time and how some have failed.

So, I think it is a good idea to follow the advice our minister gave us yesterday morning. That was that we should not indulge in looking backwards with envy to the past, but to keep our eyes ahead of us with hope for the future.”

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September 22, 1942

“NEW YORK, Monday—…After writing my column yesterday, I began to think about how people, who have never been in public life, little know about the everyday things involved in living not as one chooses, but as one must.

Those of us who have lived in government houses know that no government house is ever our own, nor is it ever a home. For instance, I love the White House. It is a simple, dignified and beautiful government building. I take great pride in it, but it is not that intimate, personal thing—”my own home.”

I am always glad to see my children in the White House, because unless I did, I would often miss opportunities of seeing them. But it is at home, in our own house, in our own surroundings, that I really like to welcome them; for that is ours and we have an obligation only to our family and our own friends there.

It is a curious thing which is often stressed in electing a man to office in this country, we, naturally, do not elect his wife nor his children to office. Yet some people think that there is something very glamorous and much to be envied in this rather anomalous position, where you have certain responsibilities, pleasures and privileges imposed upon you through somebody else’s position.

You may find a woman living in the White House who has no interest in public affairs, and yet, willy-nilly, she must live there and she must entertain very often, for no reason except that her husband is in public office.

Many a shy and retiring child, I am sure, has suffered from being pointed out as the child of a President, or even the grandchild. No one will deny that there are great opportunities. To be the relative of a man in public life is useful in assisting those throughout the United States who need help, and it is also useful in meeting people of outstanding interest. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of drawbacks.

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September 18, 1946

“NEW YORK, Tuesday—I have just finished reading a novel called “Mr. Adam” by Pat Frank. It is inspired by our new ability to destroy, and deals with the numerous things that may develop from the power that we can now unleash. It is pure imagination, but there is just enough possibility that it might come true to make one read it with interest—and with the hope that it may make us realize what fearful responsibilities now rest upon us and what a very great people we must be if we are going to face up to these responsibilities.

We have the secret of the atom bomb. How long we alone will have it, nobody knows. But while we have it, the responsibility of what happens in the world is in our hands. Soon we may share it with others, and then we will have the uncomfortable feeling that, unless the other people of the world have goodwill and face up to their responsibilities toward humanity in general, we may have very little time left upon this planet.

One of the characteristics of human beings in the past has been never to face disagreeable realities until they were actually forced to do so. Fundamentally, that is the reason why we did not, after World War I, do much to prevent World War II. Sometimes I wonder if we intend to be so blind again!”

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September 2, 1940

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—To me and to every citizen of the United States, Labor Day must be one of the most significant days on our calendar. On this day we should think with pride of the growing place which the worker is taking in this country. In every walk of life, the man who actually does the work is gaining in influence and respect. That is as it should be in a democracy, and it is the surest way of proving that we intend to preserve democracy.

I was talking to a Frenchwoman the other day who, though married to a citizen of Venezuela, has lived many years of her married life in France and left there only last June. One thought she expressed has been echoing and re-echoing in my mind. It ran approximately like this:

“I wish I could tell the people in America what happened to the spirit of France. There were too many people there who had either a little money or a great deal, who cared more about what they had than about France, and who believed the Hitler propaganda that communism was something imminent and threatening because of demands being made by the workers. They were therefore almost willing to invite Mr. Hitler to control their country, in the hope that by doing so they would continue to retain all that they had without making any concessions to the workers.

“They never realized that these workers in their country had a right to share some of the things controlled by the little and big employer in shop or factory, mine or field. Now these employers have learned to their sorrow that Mr. Hitler has taken everything.”

She told me the story of a woman whose father was a self-made man, owner of a fairly big business, and who slept with her jewels under her pillow every night because she was afraid that the workers would come and burn the factory when they heard of the French army’s collapse. The workers did nothing of the kind, but Mr. Hitler has taken over the factory—and no doubt her jewels, though that was not mentioned in the tale. But all that went to make the factory a success is gone, and her country is gone too.

There is a lesson for us in this tragedy. Our people must be one. On Labor Day we must remember that this nation is founded to do away with classes and special privilege; that employer and worker have the same interest, which is to see that everyone in this nation has a life worth living. Only thus can we be sure that Labor Day will continue to be celebrated.”

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August 20, 1951

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—Day by day, those who are responsible for our policies in the Far East must revise their actions in the light of new events. I constantly get questions asking why we do not have a definite policy and stick to it. The reason is simple. We cannot govern other people nor control what may happen in the various parts of the world. We can only meet what happens as best we can, as it occurs, keeping always in mind our basic objective of peace.

I think perhaps we might play a better game of guessing what is going to happen if everyone were gifted with foresight and imagination. Many of our diplomatic representatives, prior to their arrival at the country in which they are stationed, are not very well versed in its history and literature. Hence they are not always successful in interpreting the reasons for the actions of people living in parts of the world which are little known to the greater part of the people in the United States.

Someone offered me a plan the other day for bringing in an ever-increasing number of people to this country, both old and young, and letting them stay for a few months before going back to tell what they have seen and heard. Of course, there is nothing so valuable as firsthand information, and it would help us, too, if we sent people abroad. You may think you can get the feeling of something by reading, but you do better if you actually see it.

I don’t know whether any plan of travel exchange could be carried out on a sufficiently wide scale to be of any value in the fight against Communism, but I am sure that every incident which brings better first-hand knowledge is important. For instance, I was told at the World Youth Conference that one of the delegates from the French Cameroons, on reaching here, found that he had to put one of his fellow delegates in a New York City hospital. He did this with great reluctance; but when he went to visit his comrade he found two colored boys in a room with two white boys, and all were getting the same attention from a white doctor and a white trained nurse. This completely changed his opinion of race relations in this country. He confided in one of the World Youth Assembly staff members that he had been told by the Communists that in the United States no colored man was taken into a hospital, no matter how ill he was, nor would he be allowed to eat the same food as the rest of the people.

People who preach isolationism or do anything to lessen the bonds between the United States and the United Nations are deliberately fostering fears which will eventually bring us war. Not supporting the continual strengthening of our forces at home, and not fostering a sense of responsibility for our work with the United Nations to create closer world relations and wider acceptance among our own people of their position in the world and their ability to accept leadership, will do us great harm in the long run…”

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August 11, 1942

“HYDE PARK, Monday—…Some of the students who were at the institutes there were able to remain in New York City for a few days. We had much singing and gaiety, but also some serious discussion on the personal stake of each boy and girl in the war. Most of the boys will soon be in the service. I was interested to find how many of the girls felt that their contribution might be made in factory work.

Sometimes I grow a little weary of the older people, who through the medium of the press, thoughtlessly suggest that everything done for young people today is unnecessary. It is a privilege to fight for your country and the world, but with that privilege must go the assurance that when the war is over, if you survive, you will have a part in creating the conditions under which you want to live.

The fact that we are now obliged to call our youth to this kind of sacrifice, shows that some of us in different parts of the world failed to live up to the ideals to which we gave lip service in World War Number One after it came to an end. Perhaps we did not realize that it meant political and economic changes, not only at home but abroad.

In any case, we were not prepared to face the situation. The boys of today are going into the armed forces as rapidly as they can be equipped, trained and used, and perhaps it is worthwhile for them to have a conviction as to what they are fighting for. They may fight better. It will help them if they know we really care about their convictions and will continue to carry on the interests which they, as young people, are consecrated to in the future, while they, at present, fight the war.”

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August 5, 1939

“HYDE PARK, Friday—The other day, I was sent a most amusing page from a magazine called “Future” “The Magazine For Young Men.” An article by Dr. S. N. Stevens, which contains the following quotation was marked for my attention:

“Women are generally more intuitive than empirical. In other words, they play hunches instead of examining facts in the evaluation of a situation. And I have never yet seen one who, in a tight spot, didn’t try to take advantage of the fact that she was a woman.”

I am willing to agree to the first part of the paragraph. Women have so much intuition and are so much quicker to feel things than men are, that they occasionally count too much on that particular gift. However, the woman who has trained herself has the advantage over a man in that she still has her intuition, but to it she has added his gift of examining facts and evaluating all the factors entering into a situation. As to the second half of his statement, I’ll grant some women do it, but they are never the women who succeed in their jobs. They are the ones who always preyed on men and always will, for that is a job in itself.

The fine women in the home or on the job learn to stand on their own feet. In fact, there are so many occasions when a woman is in a tight spot which only she herself can face, that it is rather rare to find her turning to anyone else and trying to share her burden or ask for assistance on the ground that she is a woman.

What good would it do to try to get someone else to stand by when you are about to have a baby? What good would it do to turn to anyone else if your husband drank and you had to try to collect his wages before they were all spent? A woman may use her womanly wiles to help her in tight spots, but she isn’t trading on being a woman, she is just handling the job which is hers, and frequently it is the job of handling a man and making him think he isn’t being handled. These doctors and editors who write for magazines like this are very clever, but they should know a little more about women and real life before they venture to write about them…”

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July 18, 1942

“NEW YORK, Friday—Yesterday morning, Miss Alice Nichols, who is in charge of the Victory Food Campaign for the Department of Agriculture, attended my press conference. I was much interested to find that we have had such a splendid response to the appeal made by the Department for more food production. Now they are going to be able to tell us at certain periods what foods we ought to buy and eat fresh, because they are so plentiful on the market.

Dame Nature has had a hand in this, and from now on we should be eating as many Georgia peaches as possible. Young chicken should form a large part of our diet, and even if Englishmen can only get one egg in every three weeks, we may have as many as we want every day and feel patriotic.

Someone brought up the cost of some of these products, which in spite of being plentiful still are fairly expensive. Miss Nichols told us that a number of the chain stores are planning to get together and sell these Victory Food Specials at cost as they are announced month by month.

If peaches are plentiful, there is no reason why even a woman in the city could not buy an additional amount and preserve them, if she has space enough for shelves where her fruit can stand ready for use in the winter months…”

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July 14, 1939

“NEW YORK, Thursday…A number of letters have come to me complaining bitterly about the fact that I said in an article recently that the repeal of prohibition had been a crusade carried on by women. I know quite well, of course, that the Democratic Party took the stand in its platform that prohibition should be repealed. I have always felt, however, that the women’s organization for repeal, which was a nonpartisan organization, laid the groundwork which finally brought about the vote for repeal.

I was one of those who was very happy when the original prohibition amendment passed. I thought innocently that a law in this country would automatically be complied with, and my own observation led me to feel rather ardently that the less strong liquor anyone consumed the better it was. During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.

Little by little it dawned upon me that this law was not making people drink any less, but it was making hypocrites and law breakers of a great number of people. It seemed to me best to go back to the old situation in which, if a man or woman drank to excess, they were injuring themselves and their immediate family and friends and the act was a violation against their own sense of morality and no violation against the law of the land.

I could never quite bring myself to work for repeal, but I could not oppose it, for intellectually I had to agree that it was the honest thing to do. My contacts are wide and I see a great many different groups of people, and I cannot say that I find that the change in the law has made any great change in conditions among young or old in the country today.”

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July 3, 1945

“HYDE PARK, Monday—Last week I went to the office of the American Federation for the Blind to receive the resolution which their board had passed and which Miss Helen Keller wanted to present to me personally. It was a resolution commemorating my husband’s services as honorary chairman. As I stood and listened to Miss Keller speak, I thought how wonderfully both Miss Keller and my husband typified the triumph over physical handicap.

Many of you may not know that Miss Keller, with her faithful friend and interpreter, has visited a number of our service hospitals. Some people felt that she might discourage our wounded men. Instead of that, the men recognized the greatness of her personality and the serene and courageous spirit which has made of her life a rich and full existence. She carried comfort to the men who were facing their own handicaps and trying to find the courage to build normal lives in spite of them.

* * *

I always found in hospitals that the knowledge among the men that my husband, who was their Commander in Chief and the President of the United States, nevertheless could not walk gave to every handicapped man a sense of greater determination in his own fight back to useful activity.

The presentation was a moving little ceremony and I was grateful to the board and to Miss Keller, for, in spite of the fact that my husband had little time to give to many of his interests, it still gave him a great satisfaction to be associated with their work. He managed to read their reports and to know what was going on, no matter how heavy were the cares of state…”

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