Saturday, November 7 will mark 53 years since the world lost an inspiring leader and major UN supporter, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the “First Lady of the World,” according to President Harry S. Truman. She served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the first Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1946. She was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, presenting it to the General Assembly, saying, “We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and the life of all mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere.”

In 1968, she was posthumously awarded the UN Human Rights Prize. At her memorial address at the UN General Assembly, Adlai Stevenson famously said, “She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow had warmed the world.” In honor of such a trailblazer, here are 10 of our favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes.

  • “Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just one step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
  • “Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’”
  • “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”
  • “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
  • “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”
  • “The UN is our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security.”
  • “Our own land and our own flag cannot be replaced by any other land or any other flag. But you can join with other nations, under a joint flag, to accomplish something good for the world that you cannot accomplish alone.”
  • “The important thing is neither your nationality nor the religion you professed, but how your faith translated itself in your life.”
  • “Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.”
  • “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

This article was originally written by Madeline Branch in November 2015 and updated in March 2023.