One of the earliest books I remember checking out of the library as a child, was a biography of the President and Mrs Franklin Roosevelt. Since biographies of women in politics, were virtually unknown at that time, it left a lasting impression. And well, I’ve pretty much been an Eleanor fan ever since.
So I have to say I was doubly thrill (being a Hillary supporter, goes without saying) to read that on May 18th Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be presented with the Eleanor Roosevelt Following in Her Footsteps Award. It is an award in celebration and honor of Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy in human rights, equality, preserving the environment and social justice. And it is given to those whose work echos Mrs. Roosevelt’s legacy.
I can think of no one who is more fitting for this particular award and honor than Hillary Clinton.
Since we frequently get the opportunity to feature the activities and achievements of Secretary of State Clinton (some recent are here, here & here). I thought I would take this moment to highlight just a bit about the remarkable and inspiring woman that was Eleanor Roosevelt.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the daughter of Teddy’s younger brother. She married Franklin in her early twenties and had 6 kids in eleven years. As she later wrote in her autobiography, “I suppose I was fitting pretty well into the pattern of a fairly conventional, quiet, young society matron.”
But life changed. As Franklin became a stronger political figure, she became a political helpmate. And after he was stricken with polio, she took on a more independent and active role as his eyes and ears to the outside world. When Franklin became president, she travel across the US and internationally, always listening and learning, giving lectures, radio broadcasts and even writing a daily newspaper column. It was a role that she would expand through out her life and even after Franklin’s death.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless advocate for the underprivileged of all creeds, races and nations. And while her outspoken advocacy earned her political enemies, she was one of the most revered and beloved women of her generation. And to future generations, she symbolized the independent and politically active women of the twentieth century.
As a member of the UN’s commission on Human Rights, Eleanor took on role the of ambassador for the common man and woman. She felt her work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was her greatest legacy:
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
Eleanor Roosevelt said throughout her life: “we are all on trial to show what democracy means.”
… It depends on what each of us does, what we consider democracy means and what we consider freedom in a democracy means and whether we really care about it enough to face ourselves and our prejudices and to make up our minds what we really want our nation to be, and what its relationship is to be to the rest of the world. The day we know that then we’ll be moral and spiritual leaders… You are going to live in a dangerous world for a quite a while I guess, but it’s going to be an interesting and adventurous one. I wish you the courage to face it. I wish you the courage to face yourselves and when you know what you really want to be and when you know what you really want to fight for, not in a war but to fight for in order to gain a peace, then I wish for you imagination and understanding. God bless you. May you win.
[Also posted at No Quarter]