Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day: December 15-21

December 20, 1961

“NEW YORK—What can one woman do to prevent war? This is the question that comes my way in any number of letters these days.

In times past, the question usually asked by women was, “How can we best help to defend our nation?” I cannot remember a time when the question on so many people’s lips was, “How can we prevent war?”…

…Here is where the individual comes in. To the women and the men who are asking themselves, “What can I do as an individual?” my answer is this: Take a more active interest in your government, have a say in who is nominated for political office, work for these candidates and keep in close touch with them if they are elected.

If our objective is to do away with the causes of war, build up the United Nations and give the U.N. more control over the weapons of total destruction, we should urge that world law be developed so that people’s grievances can be heard promptly and judiciously settled.

We should begin in our own environment and in our own community as far as possible to build a peace-loving attitude and learn to discipline ourselves to accept, in the small things of our lives, mediation and arbitration.

As individuals, there is little that any of us can do to prevent an accidental use of bombs in the hands of those who already have them. We can register, however, with our government a firm protest against granting the knowledge and the use of these weapons to those who do not now have them.

We may hope that in the years to come, when the proper machinery is set up, such lethal weapons can be destroyed wherever they are and the knowledge that developed them can be used for more constructive purposes.

In the meantime, no citizen of a democracy need feel completely helpless if he becomes an active factor in the citizenship of his community. For it is the willingness to abdicate responsibilities of citizenship which gives us our feeling of inadequacy and frustration.

As long as we are not actually destroyed, we can work to gain greater understanding of other peoples and to try to present to the peoples of the world the values of our own beliefs. We can do this by demonstrating our conviction that human life is worth preserving and that we are willing to help others to enjoy benefits of our civilization just as we have enjoyed it.”

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