The New America Foundation
Fifty-five years ago this weekend, Eleanor Roosevelt - described by President Truman as "First Lady of the World," by Vanity Fair as White House "reporter-at-large," by her son as "the writingest woman alive," and by contemporary historians as the "conscience of the New Deal" - was offered a basket of knitting materials.
The occasion was her 70th birthday – these items would be useful, the label ribbed, if she "decide[d] from 70 on to sit in a rocking chair." The former First Lady savored the joke, detailing the "hilarious evening" in her syndicated daily column, "My Day."
Roosevelt often wrote her "My Day" columns – which ran from 1935 to 1962 – in bed, after exhausting, eventful days. Conversational and wide-ranging, they provide a glimpse of an empathetic, curious, independent patriot.
In 1954, at the age of 70, Roosevelt had recently resigned as United States Delegate to the United Nations, where six years earlier she had chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1955, she crisscrossed America and the globe, traveling to France, Italy, Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Filed under: What You Will Be Talking About Today
Reporter's Note: President Obama has won the Nobel Prize, sparking what seems to be a worldwide debate over whether he should have. I have a similar, albeit smaller, debate every day over how long I should keep writing these letters with no response. So far “one more day” keeps winning.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
I heard a story a long time ago. I have no idea where, not can I remember whether it is real or made up. A young man is the only son of fabulously wealthy father. His dad dies when the son is in his early twenties, leaving several million dollars, and the boy begins contemplating what he might do: Retire even before he begins working? Buy a business? Invest?
He seeks the advice of a wealthy old friend of his late father, who startles him. “Spend it. Spend it all,” the old man says. “Go on lavish trips, pay for outrageous parties; gamble, buy things you don’t need; and don’t stop until it is all gone. Because you have not earned this money. You don’t really know what it is worth. It’s not your fault, but it will never mean as much to you and you can never respect it the same as money you make with your own sweat.” The son took the advice, had a wonderful year or two, then came home and built his own fortune from nothing. He became successful and happy, and prospered all his life.
I’m not going to dive into the raging debate over whether you should have been given the Nobel Prize or not. I noticed, however, that you said you don’t really feel that you belong in such illustrious company. So here is my advice: Put the medal away and forget it. Great success, too early, has a way of sucking all the air from the room, and snatching away future success. It can take the fire from your soul and leave you empty, wondering what else there is to strive for. Put your medal away as if it is made of Kryptonite and don’t take it out again, until you feel that it does belong in your hands, whether that is in two years, ten years, or never.
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