If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1943


What is being done to help relieve the doctor shortage? Are doctors in the service with time on their hands caring for civilians?

A great deal of thought is being given to the shortage of doctors, and older men who have retired are being called back into active civilian service, since they cannot be in the armed forces.

There may have to be a better allocation; but on the whole, civilian communities should not suffer if we learn to go to the doctor instead of having him come to us and to follow rules which will keep us in good health.

I have had several people write me, stating that doctors were being given military training, which they felt was quite unnecessary and outside the realm of their responsibilities. Therefore, they felt the doctors were doing nothing and should not have been taken from their civilian communities. I made an inquiry and found that all doctors must receive military training for their own good, since it is quite possible that a doctor might find himself in a position where he was a fighter as well as a doctor. He has to know how to command men and he has to have a knowledge of military discipline to meet whatever situations might arise. It is therefore thought essential in the armed forces to give doctors basic military training.


Why are gambling and intoxicating liquor allowed in Army camps and naval stations?

I do not think that intoxicating liquor is sold in any Army camp or naval station. You cannot control what a man does when he is on leave. Neither can you tell Americans that they cannot play games for money if they desire to do so. Games that are purely gambling games, like "craps," are always stopped when discovered. Certain essential discipline must go on in the Army and Navy, but an effort is made to leave men some kind of personal freedom.


Am I right in believing that Army camps throw away food not consumed by the men at each meal?

According to testimony given in Congress, the Army is conscious of a certain amount of waste, which has been due largely to the fact that the soldiers will not eat what they do not like and are accustomed in their own homes to wasting a certain amount of food. An effort is being made, and they think that the 20 per cent estimated wastage has been cut to 11 per cent. I know from what I have heard that military police and stewards watch the boys as they come out of mess and try to prevent their throwing away uneaten food—and often send them back to eat their cold potatoes! The Army is making an effort to give the soldiers the kind of food they like. This may not be completely wise, as in many cases boys have been brought up with eating habits which are not consistent with the best nutrition values. I imagine this situation will be corrected as quickly as possible now that it is openly recognized.


Do you think it right for Madame Chiang to wear mink and sable, and to attend elaborate banquets for her while asking financial help for China?

Has it ever occurred to you that Madame Chiang, like some people in this country, belongs to a family which has had, in the past, considerable wealth? She may have owned one or more fur coats for some years, and I have no idea whether they are mink or sable, but I do know that such things in China do not cost as much as they do here, and I do know a good many people here who are not well off, who own the same kind of fur coats and wear them.

Madame Chiang can hardly be blamed for the type of dinner that is offered her by individuals or groups in this country. Neither can her hosts be very much blamed if they live up to what they considered, in the past, was the proper kind of attention to give to a distinguished foreign visitor.

I entirely agree with you that at the present time, however, no entertainment, even of our most distinguished foreign quests, should be of the type which has been given in the past, but it is hard to make people understand that immediately.

Rationing will very shortly do this, and so I do not think you need worry about the food; neither do I think that you should blame Madame Chiang for something which she could not possibly prevent, since she is the guest and not the hostess.

It is quite legitimate for Madame Chiang to ask for help for China, since the whole of China, including even the very rich people and the very poor, today is, as a whole, poorer than the people in this country could possibly conceive. China is one of the United Nations and has gallantly contributed her share in fighting this war against our common enemy over a long period.


What do you think of Captain Rickenbacker's denunciation of absenteeism and of proposals that "work slackers" be drafted?

I am a little hesitant about saying anything about Captain Rickenbacker, because I have never heard him speak, and only know what is reported in the newspapers as coming from him.

In a general way I have always found that praise for what has been well done brings out greater effort than criticism. There are undoubtedly things in both management and labor that should be corrected, but I rather think that constructive criticism would be more valuable in conversations with the leaders of both capital and labor than in speeches which are reported in the papers and sound like scoldings to a group of citizens who have as much stake in the war as has anyone else.

I understand that the Labor Committee in Congress has held hearings and found that one of the frequent causes is illness. Of course, where you have a six-day working week and are employing women, there are a number of causes which enter into absenteeism, because we haven't yet organized our communities to make it possible for women who have families and homes to care for to work every day in the week. Where it is proved that a man has gone into industry because he hoped to evade the draft and he has a record of absenteeism, I think it is entirely justified to draft him immediately.


Is it true that beer was served at the White House when the President had a group of freshmen congressmen in?



What can an enlisted man do to be considered for officers' candidate schools, if his superior officers refuse to consider his application?

Nothing, as far as I know.


What do you think freedom from want means?

Freedom from want means being sure that if you want to work, you can get a job and that that job will pay you sufficient to give you and your family a decent standard of living. A decent standard of living means that your shelter shall be adequate for healthful living; that your food shall be adequate and of the kind which will keep your family and yourself in good physical condition; that you shall have medical care as needed, by some method which your Government may agree on; and that there shall be a margin of income to provide the necessary clothing, educational and recreational needs.


Do you believe that the following quotation states accurate facts: "In all of known time, the world has followed the same path on a graph. It starts with a free economy and then inevitably discovers the inequalities of man. Because man is unequal, the wealth under a free economy is gradually accumulated into the hands of a few, and these few ride on the backs of the masses. The mass of man always finds this system of enslavement and starvation intolerable and revolts, and a planned or government-controlled economy results. No matter where the planned economy starts, it always ends by becoming more and more rigid, more and more restrictive and with the wealth accumulating in the hands of the planners, the bureaucracy. So when that situation becomes intolerable, it is smashed and drowned in blood and desperation and the progress begins all over again."

I do not know the context from which your quotation was taken. It is untrue as it stands, because there are no qualifications, and facts of this kind are never just black and white, as this statement is. Through the ages we have gradually progressed, and though there has been a rise and fall and a certain repetition throughout history, each time, it seems to me, some advancement has been made and there is no reason, as far as I can read history, that we should feel we must always have the same results. If we learn from the past we can improve our methods. We do not of necessity follow the same pattern or make the same results.


Is it really true that the President approves of the fourth-term propaganda being sent all over the world to our fighting men?

As far as I know, no fourth-term propaganda has been sent anywhere in the world to our fighting men. If you are referring to the Office of War Information publications which have gone abroad, they are not fourth-term propaganda; they are designed to inform people in other countries as to what kind of people we are, what we believe in and what we want to do. As far as any other information they give on the President, that is purely historical information, and designed to give men in the services and men in other countries a knowledge of the man who is the commander in chief of the united forces of the United States. This is necessary information.


Don't you think you were unnecessarily harsh on landlords in your recent page?

No. I still believe that nobody should ask whether you have children or not in renting you an apartment.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, June 1943

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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