The Moral Basis of Democracy by Eleanor Roosevelt
Open Road Media, 2016. Reprint of the original 1940 publication. E-book, 98 pages.
The Moral Basis of Democracy was originally written in the early years of World War II in an effort to rally a nation to both resist the totalitarian governments abroad and to remind Americans that though we are all different we need to respect each other and learn to work together. Eleanor Roosevelt clearly defines this in her first book’s chapter. She then uses the next to establish the historical context of democracy and how it exists to ensure the public good. The third chapter goes on to use Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase “All men are created equal” to bridge the divide between past and present. Eleanor claims that slavery and that famous phrase are incompatible and that slavery kept people unequal and that the inequality still persists to that day and it was not limited to just race, but also religion, ethnicity, and gender. Then she bridges from that to show how the totalitarianism in Europe (Fascism and Nazism) is the opposite and limits personal freedoms even more and uses that as a reason why those in America need to work together to keep democracy intact. From this, Eleanor goes on to say that under a democracy, everyone needs to have an equal opportunity to succeed. She also stressed that the youth are the future we need to build upon; that those of privilege should use part of their wealth to further the public good; and that change often starts with those at the bottom. Throughout the text, Eleanor quotes or refers to various historical documents, including Magna Carta, U.S. Constitution, and writings of the Founding Fathers as well as the Bible to support her viewpoints.
I was highly interested to review this work by Eleanor Roosevelt. I have always admired her and the way she stood up for others, whether they were minorities struggling for equality or the poor struggling to survive. In fact, Eleanor crisscrossed the country multiple times in the years before the original publication of this book to highlight their plights and learn more about the issues in an effort to help solve them, something she continued throughout the rest of her husband’s presidency and after. When I was offered the chance to review this work in honor of its republication and read a summary, I felt from the summary that Eleanor’s words were as relevant in today’s world as they were in 1940. We still face inequalities and prejudices 80 years later. And it is still the same issues at the heart of the matter: some want to advance their views at the expense of the public good. And it is necessary to maintain the public good for the majority to benefit. Our government leaders need to read this book and remember that. Perhaps then laws will be made to benefit the greater good instead of the small interest groups that seem to predominate politics in today’s era.
And, of course, I have only touched on the overall themes of The Moral Basis of Democracy. To really gather the full impact and process the arguments, consider reading this work. It is short, but every sentence has an impact.
Additionally, the book had a nice bonus: a photo of Eleanor with Clementine Churchill taken in 1944. I had seen photos of Eleanor with Winston Churchill before, but this was a first and very worth mentioning as it appears Eleanor and Clementine once did a BBC broadcast together. This photo was part of a series of images at the work’s end to present a visual biography of Eleanor’s life.
If you chose to read this, let me know what you think.
The reprint will be available tomorrow, July 19, in e-book and paperback. The copy reviewed was provided by the publisher, Open Road Media.