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Liveblogging World War II: December 21, 1940

Eleanor Roosevelt:

December 21, 1940: A short time ago, I talked to a French woman and an American woman who have lately been in Lisbon. They led me to think along the following lines.

There was a time when this country of ours felt strong enough in its devotion to democracy to accept political refugees, just as they accepted the immigration of large groups of people for the economic development of the country. Gradually, as the need for labor has decreased, we have looked over more carefully the people whom we wished to accept, for one reason or another, as future citizens and workers in our nation.

We have not shut ourselves off from accepting all new blood. We know there are people it is worth our while to acquire as citizens of the future, because of their value from the economic standpoint as well as the racial. In the case of people who come to our shores, not for economic reasons but because their ideas, intellectual or political, have clashed with those of the rulers of the country in which they lived, it has also become more complicated.

For one reason, democracy has become more complicated, fewer people understand it. Fewer people really know what they want democracy to mean in their nation. Until we clarify our own minds again, so that there is no question of what the majority of our people want, it is well not to complicate matters by bringing in too many conflicting elements.

However, just as new blood is important from the racial and economic standpoint, new blood is important from the intellectual and political standpoint. We have today a very great opportunity. People who have been known and recognized in the world as great scientists, educators, writers and sociologists are all seeking new homes. It will be short-sighted indeed on our part, if we do not continue the policy which has worked so well in the past— to enrich our own land by inviting into our midst these people who have a contribution to make to civilization.