If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1944


Do you think our men now in Europe will be sent home when the fighting there is ended? Or will they be transferred to the Pacific theater without furloughs?

This is a question which I am totally unable to answer. It will have to be decided by the military authorities according to the needs of the war. The objective they now have is to end the war as quickly as possible, and the heads of the armed services will do whatever they feel will serve this objective best. However, I know nothing more about it than any other civilian in the country.


Do you think monuments commemorating war heroes waste thousands of dollars better spent for housing, or recreational and educational facilities dedicated to community heroes?

My own personal preference is a monument which will be of value to the living. Therefore, I would prefer one in any community to include recreational and educational facilities. However, in the case of war heroes, I think the feelings of the immediate families should be considered, and if they feel this type of monument does not bring home to the people of the community sufficiently poignantly what their men have done, then the more traditional monuments which you see in towns and villages as war memorials of the past should certainly be erected. The object is to give all solace possible to those who have lost men.


Are you ever lonely? If so, how do you dispel the blues?

I can never remember being lonely, but if I feel depressed I go to work. Work is always an antidote for depression, and loneliness is just one of the manifestations of this frame of mind or state of soul which is the lot of all human beings.


To what movie of this year would you give Hollywood's "Oscar," and to what book of those you have read would you award the 1944 Pulitzer Prize?

I am sorry to say that I do not go to enough movies to feel that I have a wide enough range of knowledge to decide which movie should receive a prize.


I read so much in the way of required reading—that is to say, Government reports, manuscripts which people send, and so on—that only now and then do I read a book just for pleasure. Even in this field, therefore, I do not feel that I should pick out one book and say it is my favorite, since my reading has not been wide enough to really permit me to judge literary values.


What do you think the average person, white and black, can do to promote better understanding between the two races?

I think that for all of us the first and most important thing is to face ourselves and our own prejudices and decide what we feel. Next I think we should analyze whether what we feel is justified or not justified. I f we feel it is not justified, either for personal or public reasons, then I think we should decide, taking into consideration our personal situation and the situation of our community, what are the ways in which we can help promote good feeling in our community. Sometimes it is unwise to move too fast. It is always wise, I think, if you feel something is wrong, to try to stand up for what you believe is right.


What do you look forward to most about your post-White House life?

Freedom from public notice!


What percentage of your and the President's salaries goes into War Bonds?

I cannot answer for the President because I have never asked him. I put well over 10 per cent of my income into War Bonds.


What do you think of our boys' sending home souvenirs made from the bones of Japanese soldiers? According to the newspaper accounts, the President received one of these with approval.

I think the idea of sending home souvenirs made from the bones of Japanese soldiers is a horrible one. I think you failed to read the full statement in regard to the President. A gentleman offered to give the President one such souvenir, but the President did not receive it.


Do you approve of your party's association with Mayor Kelly, Mayor Hague, Senator Guffey, James Curley, Tammany or any other political machine with a shady reputation?

I have never known any political party which did not have a political machine and bosses. At times there is nothing wrong either with the machinery by which the parties are run, or with the men who control that machinery. They become harmful when the rank and file of the people within the party allow them complete control. If the average citizen would see to it that the people elected, from the lowest positions on up, were of the caliber that they really wished to have represent them, there would be no question of harmful boss rule. I do not blame the bosses half as much as I blame the indifference and apathy of the average citizen.


Why not divide Germany, after the victory, among the nations it has tried to enslave; not to destroy, but to blend its population with more peace-loving peoples?

I have no idea what the people who actually meet to discuss the terms of the armistice and of the ensuing peace will decide where Germany is concerned. Personally, I should think it almost impossible to divide some eighty million people and forcibly try to plant them among other nations for the purpose of amalgamation. I should think it would be easier to try to re-educate the youth of the nation and allow new blood to come in and youth to go out and mix with other nations on a voluntary basis. Enforced changes of this kind were made after the last war, both in breaking up racial groups and bringing other groups together, but that does not seem to have been entirely successful. Therefore, I would prefer to rely on the encouragement of the more liberal element within a nation and the possibility of education, the voluntary assimilation and mixture with other nationalities.


What has happened to the law requiring that eighteen-year-old draftees be given one year of training before being sent overseas? I have read of several cases where boys were sent over in considerably less time.

The idea that any such law was passed is a very popular misconception. The question of having legislation requiring a certain period of training on the part of men twenty years of age was considered by the Congress in the course of debate on the Age Reduction Bill, in October and November, 1942. The bill that passed the Senate added a provision requiring a certain period of training of certain men under twenty years of age for entering combat. The bill, as it passed the House, added no similar provision. The Senate provision was eliminated by the conferees and so there is no legislative requirement.

The above is all contained in the Congressional Record for October and November, 1942. General Marshall's letter and also Senator Hill's letter on this subject are also contained in the Legislative Record. Some of these young men, by reason of their civilian work and training, such as radio, and so on, could immediately be put into a technical assignment or an overseas assignment. Also, as it takes considerable time to train green men, many of the new men coming in are interspersed with already trained units.


Civilians may be asked not to travel during the Christmas holidays again this year. Will my overnight trip to my parents' home be justified by the fact that my husband and brothers are all overseas, leaving the rest of us here alone?

I should think you were entirely justified if you were careful not to travel on the days designated as days when we should not crowd the transportation facilities, thereby making it difficult for the servicemen to reach their homes. You can probably manage to travel just before or just after those days, or in between certain specified times. I do not think we are expected not to do things which seem important, though we are expected to try to comply with the Government plans to facilitate the travel of servicemen.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, October 1944

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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