If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1943


Will you please tell me how you manage to answer, in such a friendly, courteous and considerate manner, the rude and impertinent questions asked you? Aren't you sometimes tempted to refuse to continue this column?

I never think of questions as being rude and impertinent. I have accepted the assignment of answering a page of questions once every month, and anyone has a right to ask whatever he feels inclined to ask. It is perfectly natural that there should be people who like neither me nor my ideas nor my husband and what he stands for in public life, and if they choose to ask questions I have an obligation to answer them.

I would not do this page unless I thought it was worth doing—not just because I am paid for it, but because I hope there is some actual value in the flow of ideas which is bound to come from honest questions and honest answers—so I am never tempted to discontinue the page, nor have I ever refused to answer a question.


Don't you think churches should have oil for heat before movies or taprooms?

I am not sure that I think churches need oil for heat more than do movies or restaurants. One is always dressed in one's outer garments in church and if one knows that there is to be little heat, one can wear extra clothing to keep warm. That holds good in a movie house, too, but the difference is that when you go to church you feel a moral obligation to do so, and you are not likely to stay away because you may be uncomfortable. In times of stress, the places where you can relax and forget what is going on are important; and if they are not at least moderately comfortable, people will not be tempted to relax much.


If we demand some return for our sacrifices after the war, do you think we'll be called "Uncle Shylock" again?

What return can we demand and from whom shall we demand return for our sacrifices after the war? It seems to me that our relations with the United Nations on war aid are on a more realistic basis than with our Allies in the last war. In the last war it was not generally realized that the countries to which we lent money would be in no position to pay it back, and that insistence on repayment under such conditions would disturb international economic and financial stability, and that we ourselves would be the greatest losers from that situation. In this war it is quite essential for all the United Nations to contribute all they can to the common struggle. Lend-Lease operates in two ways—we get aid from the United Nations as well as give aid to the United Nations. The real return we and the other United Nations must insist upon for the sacrifices we are making is to have, after the war, the kind of world for which we are all fighting.


Don't you think this country should stop talking about "helping" England and recognize that England kept Germany's weight off us for two years?

Yes, I do. We are not helping England. We never have. We realized that we were the next in line for attack if Great Britain fell, and so we helped ourselves.


Why should the Communist Party be recognized by a place on the ballot in this country when being a member of the Communist Party is considered sufficient reason to deport an alien?

Listing the Communist Party on the ballot is legal in some states and illegal in others. An alien may be deported if he belongs to a party which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force and violence. It has been held in some cases that the Communist Party is such a party. On the other hand, the party is still in review and it is not entirely definite that the party will be so held on further review; and in any case, the view of the Federal Government does not of necessity have a bearing upon state election laws. As a matter of fact, it would be an infringement of state sovereignty to decide what it can and cannot have on the ballots.


Do you think expectant and nursing mothers should be given priority in food rationing?

I do. Even in Great Britain the young mother is given the same amount of milk a day as the children under fourteen, whereas other adults are left to go without if necessary.


If other living costs rise, and wages are being raised, why shouldn't landlords raise the rent?

A great effort is being made to keep the cost of living down, as well as the rents, so that wages will also be kept down and in this way prevent inflation, which is essential to the economy of any nation. Ceiling prices and rationing and bond buying will all help to do this, and I do not think that the landlords will be unjustly treated.


Do you think it right that farmers be asked to work twelve hours daily while labor works only forty hours, or gets time and a half for eight hours of a forty-eight-hour week?

Work on a farm has always been different from work in a factory. The hours are longer, but the work is more varied on a farm; and farming is a way of life, and people who live on farms and work on farms usually do so because they like that kind of life. Farmers have been individualists. Many of them are their own masters, own their own land, and their work brings them personal satisfaction. In industry a man may be a skilled mechanic, but he always works for a company and the fruits of his labor do not return to him but to the company. His only strength has been in organization, and through the years he has found the type of work he does requires a limit on hours. He must pay in cash for all the necessities of life, and so he needs a greater cash income than does the farmer. I think the two ways of life are very difficult to compare, because the conditions and the rewards are so entirely different.


Can you, doing as much walking as you do, get along with only three pairs of shoes a year?

I haven't as yet tried to get along on three pairs of shoes a year, but I feel quite sure it will not be difficult since there is no rationing yet of indoor shoes or of play shoes.


Shouldn't there be a law preventing Tin Pan Alley musicians from "swinging" classical music?

I hardly think it necessary to pass laws about how performers shall play certain types of classical music. I have heard very finished musicians "swing" classical music and found it very interesting, though I might not like it at all times. We do not need laws on questions like this. It is very easy to control them by the likes and dislikes of the audience.


Have you ever been a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union?



Why must the President speak on all radio stations at once, leaving no other program to be heard?

When the President speaks he should be heard by every individual citizen who can possibly listen to him, because he is speaking to them. What he has to say is of importance to them, because he never speaks unless he feels he has something to say which every citizen should know about. This holds good for every President in office, and the radio chains naturally accept their responsibility by seeing that there is no other program on the air.


Why isn't something done to feed the innocent children of war-ravaged Europe?

Feeding the children of Europe has been under consideration by the Government for some time. There are great difficulties involved. The greatest question is whether this can be done without giving an advantage to our enemies which will prolong the war. Only the governments involved can decide this. To most of us it is heart-rending to think of children starving anywhere in the world, even in enemy countries, and I hope before long that some method of food distribution will be evolved to make it possible to send absolutely essential food to children all over the world.


Do you think that, after the war, discipline rather than democratic self-expression should be emphasized in the education of young people?

I have always thought that discipline was an indispensible part of education, but I think it is quite possible, also to have democratic self-expression. Democratic self-expression does not mean that a child has to be thoughtless of those around him, or through self-indulgence make life for everyone else miserable. It does mean that within the limits of a proper discipline, freedom should be allowed to every individual for personal development.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, May 1943

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
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