Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The First Blogger

Before there was Blogspot, before there was HuffPo, before free personal email, before the internet was even a mere glimmer in Al Gore's eye, Eleanor Roosevelt kept in touch daily with a depressed and fearful nation. For 27 years, she delivered her syndicated column six days a week, breaking this tradition only once, when her husband died, and then missing just four days. She was, truly, the nation's First Blogger.

Perhaps contrary to the image its title might conjure, "My Day" was not always a daily muse on the frustrations of running the White House, the endless demands on a first lady, the finer points of proper State Dinner etiquette. No. In many ways, it was a response to these sorts of First Lady limitations. Trapped in an "office" to which she was not elected, bound in a politically and financially imagined marriage, Eleanor Roosevelt developed her column as a means of reaching out to a desperate nation, one reader at a time, and educating it on the policies and politics that affected one and all.

She tackled many subjects and at times, in hindsight, seems remarkably prophetic. Here,for example, excerpted from PBS's American Experience website on her, are Eleanor Roosevelt's thoughts on the new device known as "television":
"November 5, 1958 - If the use of leisure time is confined to looking at TV for a few extra hours every day, we will deteriorate as a people.

Actually, preparation for the use of leisure time should begin with our schoolchildren. The appreciation of many things in which we are not proficient ourselves but which we have learned to enjoy is one of the important things to cultivate in modern education. The arts in every field - music, drama, sculpture, painting - we can learn to appreciate and enjoy. We need not be artists, but we should be able to appreciate the work of artists. Crafts of every kind, the value of things made by hand, by skilled people who love to work with wood or clay or stone will develop taste in our people.

These are all things that can give us joy and many of us will find that we are capable of acquiring a certain amount of skill we never dreamed we had, which will give an outlet to a creative urge. But, these things must be taught, and in the age now developing about us they are important things. For if man is to be liberated to enjoy more leisure, he must also be prepared to enjoy this leisure fully and creatively.

For people to have more time to read, to take part in their civic obligations, to know more about how their government functions and who their officials are might mean in a democracy a great improvement in the democratic processes. Let's begin, then, to think how we can prepare old and young for these new opportunities. Let's not wait until they come upon us suddenly and we have a crisis that we will be ill prepared to meet."

1 comment:

Shea's Mom said...

Wow, I didn't know that ER had a daily syndicated column. What a novel idea! What would she say about the state of public education today. Me thinks she would be pissed.