Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling

From 1936 until she died in 1962, six days a week, virtually without interruption Eleanor Roosevelt wrote her column, “My Day” which was syndicated in newspapers across the country and in many other countries around the world. In the column Mrs. Roosevelt wrote about social issues that were on her mind, she wrote about her work at the United Nations and for the Commission on Human Rights, she wrote of her travels around the world and her meetings with dignitaries from around the world, and she wrote about her mundane daily activities, she wrote about her day whatever that day might contain.

Here is the text of her column from June 16, 1951. I particularly think it fits here because in the column she highlights the human rights implications of a section from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Check it out!

ER my day

JUNE 16, 1951

 BOSTON, Friday—Kipling has gone out of fashion more or less, whereas when I was young it would have been almost impossible to find a child who did not know the “Jungle Book.” It is a rare thing nowadays to find a child who does. But on the afternoons when I am home some of my grandchildren gather around at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and I read aloud. The other day we read “How Fear Came” from the “Jungle Book.”

Some of my contemporaries will remember from that story a few of the rules of the jungle, as taught by old Baloo, the brown bear. These particular rules apply to the wolves, but as I read I could not help thinking how well they applied to us all. For instance:

“As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the law runneth forward and back,
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

Isn’t that a pretty good picture of why we should have a United Nations and why each nation in the U.N. should look to its own contribution? The success of the organization depends on what each member is and can contribute.

I could not help looking at my small fry with a smile as I read:

“Wash deeply from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep.”

And then again:

“When Pack meets Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken—it may be fair words will prevail.”

So, even in the law of the jungle the value of conversation before action was recognized.

And here again is one of the human rights expressed as the law of the jungle.

“The lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.”

So the right of privacy and the ownership of property was one of the laws of the jungle! Kipling even made it clear that in the jungle you could not be completely selfish. Here it is:

“If Ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.”

In other words, if you can get it, you can take the major part. But don’t take everything or you may regret it later. And now for the last verse:

“Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the bump is—Obey!”


 (World copyright, 1951, by United Feature Syndicate, inc. Used with permission of Mrs. Roosevelt’s literary estate.)


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