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October 13, 1984

She “learned to temper idealism by the reality principle,” historian and personal friend Arthur Schlesinger told over 500 scholars, activists, government officials and students attending a four-day conference, “The Vision of Eleanor Roosevelt: Past, Present and Future,” celebrating the centennial of Eleanor Roosevelt’s birth. “She believed in hard work, self-discipline, civility, decency and goodness,” he said. “She believed above all in individual responsibility.”

Sponsored by the college and the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the conference mixed scholarly papers on Mrs. Roosevelt’s accomplishments with reminiscences and the drafting of “an agenda for the future,” addressing such of her concerns as the quests for peace, civil rights, economic opportunities for women and international human rights. As psychology Professor Anne Constantinople explained, Mrs. Roosevelt—or “Eleanor,” as most participants referred to her—“would have had a stroke if we just had an academic conference. She always said, ‘It’s fine to talk, but where’s that get you?’ What we hope happens here is more than talk.”

Other speakers included civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, Howard University history professor and United States Civil Rights Commission member Dr. Mary F. Berry and women’s and labor historian Dr. Alice Kessler-Harris of Hofstra University. Professor of Political Science M. Glen Johnson, the conference’s initiator, explained the conference’s broad intention. “A lot of people,” he said, “are questioning the worth of liberal values. We thought it was important to ask, are these values, are Eleanor’s values, relevant to the present day?”

The New York Times

The Years