The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

My Day

-- "In your opinion what are the issues of this election and what are the differences that you see for the resolution of these issues by the two candidates?" That question was in my mail the other day and I would like to take this opportunity to state my views.
One of the overriding issues is the conduct of foreign policy. And the man I feel best fitted to formulate a new approach that must be taken in our world situation is Mr. Adlai Stevenson. Of course, in the Democratic party we also have Mr. Chester Bowles, who is an extremely able man and familiar with Asia and Africa.
Mr. Stevenson has been in 45 countries during the past two years. He has studied the conditions of the peoples in these countries and their problems. He is respected by the heads of governments all over the world. He has been one of the close advisers to the Democratic candidate on foreign policy.
No candidate should be asked, in the event of election, whom he will name as his Secretary of State or for any other position in his Cabinet. But a candidate shows in his campaign with whom he is consulting on foreign affairs -- and I feel strongly that the issue of new policies in our foreign relations is one of the overriding issues between the two parties.
Next, I consider that the farm situation and our whole agricultural policy[1] has been a failure, both at home and abroad. We have treated this vital problem as though it were a domestic issue and as though the only consideration we had to think about was whether it annoyed us to have such surpluses that created a financial difficulty.
When one travels about the world one often is told: "We hear that you pay to keep land out of production and still you have more food in your country than your people can eat. Our people go to bed hungry every night. Can you think of no better way to use your land and its products?"
There has been no imagination shown by the present Administration to try to develop a completely new policy; there has been no willingness to cooperate with the United Nations specialized agency for food and agriculture.[2]
Here's another question: What leadership have we had from the leader of the Republican party in the area of human rights and civil liberties? The answer: Just one committee, named by the President and chaired by the Vice-President to try to remove discrimination where there were government contracts involved![3]
It is the head of the nation who sets the tone for what you do on a moral issue such as this one in our country. Instead, the Republican party has claimed that it was sufficient to let the U.S. Supreme Court render a decision and then to let the nation's leader declare that he did not wish to interfere in this situation![4] The result is that our leadership has been so down-graded that in Asia and Africa, where new nations are sensitive as to whether they are going to be treated as equals, it is held in really low esteem.
These are three big issues. And there is the record of votes between the two candidates which to me -- from the point of view of a voting citizen -- is rather important. And I would not hesitate to say that Sen. John F. Kennedy has an outstanding record for voting right on questions that involve the well-being of the people of our country as a whole.


(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
     [1.] By 1959, the amount of farmland in the United States had increased to a high of 1,183 million acres; however, the 1950s experienced a forty-eight percent decrease in the farm population and thirty percent decrease in the number of farms. Despite these reductions, farm production increased nineteen percent because of mechanization and the use of biochemical products. Increased costs accompanied improved tools and increased production, creating a real decrease in farm income, surpluses of agricultural products, and a fall in domestic farm prices. Eisenhower wanted to decouple agriculture from high government subsidies and proposed a "soil bank" that would pay farmers not to farm unprofitable land rather than producing surplus food that could be stored for later sale. Congress, while supportive of the soil bank concept, insisted that parities remain high and in 1956 and 1958 amended the president's bill to reflect their priorities. Eisenhower vetoed both bills and Congress overrode him. Ironically, the soil bank, designed to help the small family farmer, primarily helped his large corporate counterpart. [Richard B. Morris, ed., Encyclopedia of American History, 6th ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1982) pp. 686-709; Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: The President (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), pp. 299-301, 460-461, 620.]
     [2.] In 1960, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (a specialized UN agency charged with alleviating hunger, improving nutrition, and ensuring access to food worldwide) launched a worldwide campaign to recruit private support for its "Freedom from Hunger" initiative, a program designed to raise global awareness around the issues of poverty and help people grow enough to feed themselves. Although the United States joined the FAO in 1945, the government did not participate in this program. [Edmund Jan Osmanczyk, The Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements (Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 1985), p. 260.]
     [3.] In August 1954, President Eisenhower established, by an Executive Order, the President's Committee on Government Contracts. The committee, chaired by Vice President Richard Nixon, was created to enforce mandated non-discriminatory hiring practices by private industries receiving federal funding. [Herbert S. Parmet, Eisenhower and the American Crusades (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1972), p.437.]
     [4.] ER referenced Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court decision declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. ER saw civil rights as a compelling moral issue, often telling audiences that America "was on trial to show what democracy means" and criticizing Eisenhower's lack of leadership in the struggle to integrate Little Rock Central High School. [Allida M. Black, Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 109-118.]