Perception of beauty, part two: Eleanor Roosevelt’s story

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. ~Roald Dahl

Yesterday, I wrote about ways in which you can feel beautiful. I talked a little bit about my own experience in learning how to feel beautiful.

Today, I am sharing a quotation from Roald Dahl about feeling and being beautiful. Beauty is more than physical appearance. It is attitude. As Roald Dahl said, ugly thoughts eventually show up on the face. People who think mean, unpleasant thoughts all of the time don’t look very appealing or attractive.  Good thoughts, on the other hand, shine through faces that are otherwise considered unattractive.

One person who was considered physically unattractive was Eleanor Roosevelt. Her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, called her “plain” and referred to her as “granny,” even though she was a young child.  Eleanor was very embarrassed by this. Although Eleanor Roosevelt came from a rich family, she had a very difficult childhood. Her father, Elliott Roosevelt, was an alcoholic. Despite the problems that the young Eleanor faced, she was very devoted to her parents.

She and her two brothers, Elliott and Hall, were sent to live with their maternal grandmother after Anna Hall Roosevelt died of diphtheria. Not long afterward, Eleanor’s brother Elliott died of diphtheria. By 1894, when Eleanor was ten years old, she was an orphan.

Eleanor was raised by wealthy grandparents who did not really want her. She received little love and attention from them. In 1899, she was sent away to school in England, and that experience shaped her life. Her teacher and mentor, Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, taught her history and politics. Eleanor learned to debate as she learned languages, history, and literature. She spent the summers traveling through Europe with her headmistress. She observed poverty and her heart was affected and her thought processes were informed by the things that she observed.

Through her life, Eleanor Roosevelt was committed to social service, justice, and human rights. She was opposed to racism at a time when it was seen as dangerous to speak out against racism. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to permit contralto Marian Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall because she was black, Eleanor Roosevelt very publicly resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was outspoken in her support of civil rights for black citizens, saying that there could be no democracy in the United States if it did not include democracy for black people. She called racism a “destroyer of freedom” and said that “democracy may grow or fade as we face this problem” (racism). Racism, unfortunately, continues, to this day, to be a serious problem in the United States.

Eleanor Roosevelt had many achievements in her life. She was a brilliant woman who believed in equal rights for all. Probably her greatest achievement was the International Declaration for Human Rights. She was the chairman of the Human Rights Commission and she introduced the declaration to the United Nations’ general assembly. That document is still one of the greatest documents created on the issue of human rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s attitude created a beauty that radiated out from her heart. The work that she did has helped improve the lives of countless people.  She truly had good thoughts that “radiated out of her face like sunbeams.” 

For more information about Eleanor Roosevelt, take a look at this fascinating and well written biography:
link to a great biography about Eleanor Roosevelt

3 thoughts on “Perception of beauty, part two: Eleanor Roosevelt’s story”

  1. loving Roald Dahl even more now! and Eleanor Roosevelt is definitely one beautiful woman – will add this book to my ever growing TBR.

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