Lys Anzia – WNN Features
On March 8, 1960 Eleanor Roosevelt walked shyly into the lecture hall at Brandeis University nodding slowly to each of the hundreds who sat on the edge of their chairs in attendance. After all it was the famous Eleanor Roosevelt, that wife of Franklin, who was sometimes known for upstaging her charismatic husband. Eleanor had come full circle into her own power in the world after the death of her husband.
She completed sixteen books. She hosted and produced radio shows for ABC and NBC in the years between 1948 and 1951. Public Television station WGBH in Boston hosted her show called “Prospects of Mankind” from 1959 to 1962. She became an active guiding force for the NAACP, The Advisory Council for the Peace Corps, Americans for Democratic Action, and the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy.
Standing on the platform of that hall in 1960 at Brandeis University giving a personal hello to each person, Eleanor talked for over an hour on the conditions of the world. She talked of the problems of nations coming together, of the essential ingredients that brought the first days of the United Nations to a stronger focus. She lectured on the concept of nations as neighbors and families reminding everyone of the true original promise of the U.N., to bring the world to peace.
In the mid-1940s the United Nations was formed in an attempt to solve international disagreements and turmoil. The U.N. followed The League of Nations to give rise to the notion that the world could exist as nations together joined in the concept of no more war. Those days were exciting days. Days of a new prospect in world history.
That night at Brandeis University, Mrs. Roosevelt came to speak after being appointed by President Kennedy to fill a job once again of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. If you had been sitting in the audience you would have seen her tall and aging body before you in the chamber and you would have been overwhelmed with her grace. Her strong voice carried years of experience and grit. The audience was hushed.
In 1960, no one knew better than Eleanor Roosevelt the full original intent of the United Nations. For her outspoken words she had received death threats from the likes of the Ku Klux Klan as she refused Secret Service protection. In the 1950s, she opposed McCarthyism and held the notion that systems of government must not be enforced by formal machineries but voted in by its people. It was in 1948 that Mrs. Roosevelt was appointed the first ambassador to the U.N. as she became a strong advocate and guiding force for the committee that would also draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
That night in 1960, at Brandeis University, Eleanor talked to a hall full of students and faculty on the current conditions of the world as they applied to the standards and original goals of the United Nations. It was only two years later that she died from tuberculosis in November 1962, almost exactly a year before the assassination of President Kennedy would sear the country and usher in the days of the American civil rights movement.
“We are going to have to work for a peaceful world continuously without stopping because differences exist among people. They exist in families, they exist within nations and they will exist in the world. And therefore, without any question you are going to have to work to achieve peace in the world much more continuously than you have ever worked,” said Eleanor that night.
“Many of our people, I think, have never faced the fact that the real struggle in the world today is not just a struggle of power, of military power, it is a struggle of economic and cultural power. And we will have to study and meet the other forces in the world that think differently than the way we do.”
Today the world is in need more than ever for a clear and combined force that will work as Eleanor Roosevelt did toward international peace. The crisis in the Middle East is now a hot and troubled field that is testing the ability for the United Nations to stay close to its original intent.
Mrs. Roosevelt went on to say that night, “Actually, as far as world peace is concerned you will achieve steps. You will prevent wars. You will begin to find methods which you will use. For instance, now, we face the question of disarmament. Now, if you will do away with force you’ve got to find something to take its place. And what are you going to have to take its place? Law. That’s alright that’s an awfully nice thing to just say, but when you set to work to really build world law you’ve got quite a lot to do. And this is just one of the things that has to happen if you’re going to come to real disarmament which is the only way of insuring world peace. And it also means of course that there must be total membership in the United Nations. Everybody must be under the same rules. You can’t leave one great nation armed outside when the others are all disarmed and under the same rules.”
She went on to say, “You cannot do away with military armaments ‘til you’ve built something to take the place of force. And so there’s a long way before us. And the United Nations is becoming more important everyday because it’s only through the United Nations that you can take these steps, that you can really achieve the objectives that ultimately we want to achieve.”
These ideas of Eleanor’s are extremely applicable to our current time in the twenty first century. Perhaps we should read Eleanor’s words slowly and out loud over and over again to each other to review, to slow down the force between nations, families and cultures that push to separate all of us from each other.
We can still hold the same optimism today that Eleanor Roosevelt held fiercely during her entire lifetime as she said, “This is the only machinery we have. If people of different backgrounds, of different religions work together they do achieve results and sometimes very impressive results.”
- Listen to this entire lecture on audio file at HistoricalVoices.org:
-Lys Anzia, of Women News Network, is currently writing news articles through affiliations with WUNRN – Women’s UN Report Network. As an American historical playwright, Lys is currently finishing a true to life stagescript based on the secret flying lesson Amelia Earhart gave to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. Lys is also assistant book reviews editor for the UNESCO award winning online women’s journal, Moondance Magazine, and freelance radio broadcast journalist for WINGS radio syndicate.
-Sources for this article include the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers – Dept. of History. George Washington University – Mount Vernon College Campus, HistoricalVoices.org, Preservation Magazine, and Robert D. Farber University Archives at Brandeis University.
©WNN – Women News Network 2007