If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1941


Do you believe we should censor movies for export to avoid giving a false impression of the United States to South America?

I have a great objection to censorship. I would far rather see us doing a constructive job of producing movies which tell the truth about this country and really give the South American people some idea of what our problems are and what we are trying to do to meet them. That is the only way of helping them to understand us and of taking full advantage of the present situation, which should draw us very closely together. If we are honest enough to acknowledge our own difficulties and disadvantages, they will be honest with us and we may be mutually helpful.


As his wife, do you believe in all the ideas of the President?

Certainly not. I am an individual and so is the President. It happens that on nearly all big issues we agree, but any two people are bound to differ now and then, on method if not principle.


Would you have free hospital aid to all needy maternity cases?

Certainly. I would favor a reorganization of our whole medical system so as to supply complete medical care for those who cannot afford to pay for it.


What is your favorite radio program?

The news of the day, Information Please, and Raymond Gram Swing.


What is the President's favorite menu for "just family" dinner?

It depends on the place where he happens to be. If it is in any place near the ocean, he likes fish chowder. At home, I think he likes a steak broiled over charcoal, all kinds of game with proper garnishings, and cooked exactly to his taste. He prefers salad and cheese and crackers for dessert.


We have read that you and your family have cleaned up a cool two and a half million out of writing, lecturing, broadcasting, fat insurance commissions, and so on, since Mr. Roosevelt was elected President. How can you defend this commercialization of the White House to those of us who have been taught to die for our country, not make money out of it?

I have no idea on what information this statement which you have read is based. I know that as far as my husband is concerned, he has spent, in fulfilling the obligations of his office as President, somewhat more than his salary.

Where I am concerned, I earned money by working for it before my husband was President and I have gone on doing so. I have made more money, but I haven't as much principal as I had before my husband went into office; and when I am not in the White House I live simply.

The demands on anyone in the White House are very great. One could, of course, refuse them all. If one could not do anything to earn money and did not have a large personal fortune, the demands would have to be ignored.

It wearies me a little to hear criticism of what the children do and make. They have to work in any case, or be supported by their families, and no good American who is able to earn a living desires to be supported by his or her family. Because their father happens to be in the White House, they are not commercializing the White House or their father's position. If their father were not in the White House, they would not have lacked opportunities or contacts.

I personally do not think that earning a small or large amount is commercializing the White House. When you make money and help to employ people, you make money for your country. The point in making money is to earn it honorably and always to feel an obligation to use your work and what you make out of it for the benefit of the community as a whole as well as for yourself.

When it comes to being taught to die for your country, I doubt if that has been left out of the education of the children in any branch of the Roosevelt family.


Why don't you smoke or drink?

I am afraid I do both occasionally. I do not happen to enjoy smoking, but I have on occasion puffed a few times on a cigarette when I thought it made it easier for those around me. I never liked anything which is done to excess and so I doubt, even if I liked smoking, whether I would do it to any great extent.

I feel the same way about drinking. An occasional drink with friends at the proper time may be a pleasant ceremony, but again any excess is most distasteful to me. During Prohibition, I never touched anything with alcohol in it because I felt we had an obligation to live up to the law, but I was brought up in a household where wine was served at meals and feel that it is the excesses which are wrong.


Do you think that wives should spoil their husbands—give them their own way and smooth domestic waters for them—or should husbands be made to remember marriage is supposed to be a fifty-fifty proposition?

I am afraid that I think all of us, whenever it is possible, should spoil anyone we can, if it can be done by smoothing domestic waters or in any other way. We need discipline in our youth, but later on life disciplines us all. Therefore, in our personal relationships, I think there is much to be gained by remembering that all of us accomplish more and make a better contribution in life if we are happy. If any of us can contribute to the happiness of those around us, I think it's a good thing to do.


Outline briefly your ideal of a "day of rest."

It is so long since I really have had a day of rest that I do not know just what my ideal would be. Perhaps a very slight change in Omar Khayyám would be my ideal:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of "Milk," a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

In other words, a day out-of-doors, someone I loved to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music—that would be rest.


Is there anything you have always longed to do, and never quite gotten around to?

I have always wanted to try to write fiction, but I have never had the time.


Have you any good friends who are Republicans?

I hope so.


What, in general, is the best age to marry?

I should feel that it was a mistake to marry too early, before one's character has had an opportunity to develop, but between the ages of twenty and twenty-five seems to me good.


What do you think might cause an increased church attendance?

Determination on the part of the church people to live their religion and not to leave it behind when they leave the church. Determination on the part of the church to meet honestly the problems of human beings.


What moving picture have you most liked in the past year?

I am ashamed to say I cannot remember what movies I have seen this year. Two movies stand out in my mind as being enjoyable from beginning to end—The Story of Louis Pasteur and Goodbye, Mr. Chips.


Do you mean by "racial equality" intermarrying of the races?

Not of necessity. Marriage is an individual thing and each person must decide for himself. Equality of the races, however, can be established whether individuals desire to marry or not. There must be equality before the law, equality of education, equal opportunity to obtain a job according to one's ability and training, and equality of participation in self-government.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1941

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

Ladies' Home Journal, vol. 58, September 1941

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

TEIP5 markup of transcribed text

  • McCarron, Rebecca (editorial_intern) [ ORCID ]
  • Kremer, Eadie Rose (editorial_intern) [ ORCID ]

Digital edition published 2014-2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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