Eleanor Roosevelt against Dictatorship

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Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 and also an active political activist and accomplished a lot of tasks as a Human Rights ambassador. Roosevelt shared her dislike and disappointment about dictatorships with her speech, “The Struggle for Human Rights”. She spoke and made a statement on behalf of the members of United Nations in France to help eliminate the dictatorship and the issues about freedom and tyranny. Roosevelt’s exceptional credentials, strategically planned location, powerful logic, and heart-rending emotion allowed for the reaction she sought for.

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Roosevelt’s exquisite credibility helped her create a powerful and inspiring argument about Human Rights and brought to attention of the founders of Human Rights in San Francisco. Roosevelt is an extremely reliable speaker even before the day of her speech because of her good credential as a speaker and ambassador. To gain more trust and respect from all her audience, she made trust with them. She guaranteed that she and her audience shared the same beliefs about freedom and democracy. She uses words such as “I” and “We” to personally connect with her audiences and be able to understand each other. These words of connection she uses are her way to connect with her audience and help her fight to stop dictatorship. Roosevelt’s speech was very detailed and organized in order for her to accomplish her goal.

Roosevelt preferred to deliver her speech in France, at the Sorbonne for many valid reasons and one of theme is because this is where the Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed. Her ultimate goal is to grant every human being with their basic rights and freedoms, and to be able to accomplish this, dictatorship must be ended. This is only going to happened if there are enough supporters who are willing to fight for the cause. France was extremely sensitive to human rights due to their own history of revolution against their monarchy. The revolution resulted in horrible bloodshed, but also freedom for the common man. Roosevelt recognized this in her speech and said, “It was here the Declaration of the Rights of Man was proclaimed, and the great slogans of the French Revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity – fired the imagination of men” (page 1). She explained, “I have chosen to discuss this issue in Europe because this has been the scene of the greatest historic battles between freedom and tyranny” (page 1). Roosevelt choose wisely to speak to French civilians because she knew they have reasons to support her cause to end dictatorships. Roosevelt’s speech was crafted in order to appeal to her French audience.

Roosevelt informed her “free” French audience what it would be like to not live a free life. She reminded them that freedom encompasses freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, freedom to petition, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and the ability to be safe in one’s own home. This reminded her audience of all the rights they gained as a result of the French Revolution. That stirred the audience’s emotions and made the cause personal. Roosevelt claimed that every human being deserved these basic rights, yet not everyone had them. She felt entitled as a free individual, to gain followers to help those who still do not have those basic rights.

Roosevelt was very aware that lack of freedom created serious restrictions and inequalities. Roosevelt supported her cause with examples to help her audience imagine the dangers of an authoritarian state. For instance, she explained that while creating the Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. produced important bylaws that many countries still follow today. One was: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own”. To French citizens, travelling was an ordinary past time. However, when the Soviets were asked to agree to this bylaw, they said they would not until the words, “in accordance with the procedure laid down in the laws of that country,” were added. This example helped create a sympathetic emotional response within her audience. As her example showed, Russian citizens did not have the basic right to vacation freely. Roosevelt made their lack of freedom, personal to her French audience. That guilt and sadness that Roosevelt evoked within her audience was done for a reason. Guilt, sadness and anger will help drive her audience to want to change the plight of the trapped Russian citizens. Roosevelt connected her audience with both the cause and the individuals at stake.

While Roosevelt condemns the Soviets for their lack of Western freedoms, she also acknowledges and supports Russian patriotism. Russians have faithfully defended their country despite their situation, and have endured much misery at the hands of foreigners and revolution. Roosevelt stated, “They have been through a period of revolution, as a result of which they were for a time cut off from outside contact”. She explains to the audience why Russian government is suspicious. This is Roosevelt’s appeal to her audience’s rationality. While she argues emotionally against the tyranny of dictatorships, she also appeals to the audience’s rationality by explaining why Russia acts so mistrustfully of its citizens and the outside world. However, Roosevelt does not fail to acknowledge that that is not enough reason to enslave Russia citizens. Roosevelt believes everyone should live by the “Golden Rule.” Quite simply she states, “We do not think others should treat us differently from the way they wish to be treated.” The Russian civilians need to be treated with the same respect they treat their government with. Roosevelt expresses how blessed the free audience and herself are.

Roosevelt strongly stated that she would never live anywhere other than the United States. She explained that the freedoms, the opportunities, and the abundance that she experienced in the United States are unparalleled. Her strongly expressed convictions were meant to evoke in her French audience a response that they too would never want to live in a dictatorship. She expressed the values and benefits of freedom generated by democracy versus the constant battles that the bound citizens of Russia face. Roosevelt believed that freedom was the proper fertilizer to a functioning country. Non-free countries, like Russia, would never succeed until the West came to their aid.

Roosevelt’s speech was very impressive. Her carefully chosen audience listened and drank in her words. She enlightened everyone on issues that she felt entitled to share. She did so by appealing to the humanity, to the rationality, and to the character traits held in high regard by her audience. She showed great insight, tolerance and wisdom by not appealing to the base instincts of arrogance, hate and fear. Instead, she spoke of the Russians as if they were her own people. She said that they were borne into tragedy rather than it being a lack of character. Rationality, character, emotion and logic, are what made Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech so powerful and so successful. 

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Eleanor Roosevelt Against Dictatorship. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from
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