If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1945

 

My husband has returned from overseas and I am sure has brought with him a misconception of some statement you made about overseas veterans. Would you kindly repeat the speech or statement in which you allegedly advocated having these returnees put "into a rehabilitation center until they could learn to readjust themselves to civilization"?

Of course I never made any such statement. This story was first circulated among the marines in the Pacific. I was supposed to have said it about the marines on Guadalcanal. That was before I went to the Pacific. Later, when I went to the Caribbean, the same story was circulated among the soldiers and I was supposed to have said it about them. Later I was alleged to have said the same thing about the paratroopers in Italy.

When I was in the Pacific area I discussed the possible origin of the story with some of the commanding officers. None of them had ever heard it, but some of the sergeants and corporals knew about it. Admiral Halsey told me he thought it might have been a bit of propaganda started by Tokyo Rose.

Many of the men said they had heard it over the radio, and some letters written to me by people in this country said their men had heard it over the radio, and I was told that some people said that they had seen it in magazine or newspaper articles. There is absolutely no truth in the statement. I have had sons in all branches of the service, and it would be ridiculous to believe that I would have any such strange idea.

 

Why can't conscientious objectors be used for the other side now?

Because soldiers are necessary on the other side, and the conscientious objectors very frequently will have nothing to do with war and particularly with wearing a uniform.

 

My son is eight years old and we try to surround him with the most healthful influences, but the only things he wants to read are comic books. He listens a good deal to the radio, and every program deals with crime. I have tried to tune in on an interesting program for him, but there is absolutely nothing aside from music or the news. Why is it that our growing children cannot be offered constructive programs—adventure without crime?

Because the radio is run by commercial interests which do not consider the demand has ever been strong enough for different types of programs written to interest young children, nothing is done to provide such programs. I think, however, that if organizations interested in this would get together and make some constructive suggestions to the radio corporations, they would be quite willing to arrange "children's hours" on different stations.

 

I think the new dime being minted in honor of Mr. Roosevelt should be changed in value from ten cents to seventy-five cents. It is possible to mint a coin of a new value, isn't it? What steps would have to be taken?

A coin of new value could not be minted without proper action by Congress. It would not be probable that Congress would be in favor of this idea, since there is no general demand. I think it is generally felt that the dime is connected with my husband because of the annual March of Dimes in behalf of infantile-paralysis victims, and therefore this is an honor to his memory. I understand the dimes will be ready for distribution in time for the annual drive.

 

Do you think it is fair for modern band leaders to cheapen the music of Frédéric Chopin and other famous composers? It hurts me to hear my favorite composer's music dragged to the level of jazz bands. Can anything be done about this? Popular songs have legal rights to protect them.

I do not think you can change what the public really wants, and many, many people enjoy hearing famous composers done in the modern way. Those of us who love the old songs can always get our own records or play the music for ourselves. I know of no way to make it impossible for good music to be changed. Even The Star-Spangled Banner is occasionally played differently.

 

If selected our first woman President, would you accept the nomination? I am one of many who hope you will be our next President.

This seems to me a foolish question. It would be impossible to have a woman nominated; but since you ask whether I would accept if such a completely improbable thing should occur, I will answer unequivocally "No." There would be no point in a woman's being President even if she could be nominated. A woman could not command a sufficiently constant following to carry through her program.

 

Have you ever been self-conscious? I am so ill-at-ease in the presence of company that I make everyone uncomfortable. I've tried to overcome this feeling, but it gets worse as I grow older. Is there any hope for me?

I have been self-conscious many, many times, and I am even today. There is only one way of overcoming self-consciousness, and that is to be so much more interested in other people around you and the things they are doing that you forget yourself. There is hope for anyone who really wants to forget herself, and I feel sure that if you can become interested enough in what other people are saying and doing, your self-consciousness will disappear.

 

Do you believe in horoscopes? If you do, do you think it is impossible for a couple, one born in July and one in August, to live harmoniously?

I really know nothing about horoscopes. I do not like to say I do not believe in anything, because the world is so full of many things that we do not understand that it seems foolish ever to say you don't believe in something when you do not understand it. It seems to me, however, that for people to live together harmoniously it takes character and self-discipline, and the dates of birth cannot be conclusive factors.

 

Our Girls' Club read in the journal that you had a nickname when in school, and we are wondering what it was. We would appreciate your telling us.

My nickname was a very foolish one. My aunts gave it to me when I was a very small girl. I was known as "Tottie."

 

Your answer to the questions regarding the Big House at Hyde Park would seem to indicate that the grounds are now open to the public. Is this so? I would very much like to visit the grounds, and more especially the grave of Mr. Roosevelt, but do not want to go unless the public is welcome.

The library is open every day except Mondays. The Big House and my husband's grave are not as yet open to the public, because the stone has not been obtainable and work must still be done at the grave. Secondly, the Government hasn't taken over and prepared the house for visitors.

 

Do you think it is correct for a girl of fifteen to wear lipstick and powder?

Personally, I would put it off as long as I could. I don't suppose it can be put off after eighteen; but if it could be put off that long, I should do so because the girl's skin will be better if too much powder is not used on it while she is still young.

 

Which do you think is the harder—working in an office all day or doing the housework for a family?

Doing housework for a family. Usually work in the office is centered about a particular job that needs to be done, and when it is done it is over for the day. The housework for the family, however, may start when the youngest member of the family wakes up and it goes on through the vicissitudes of the day until late into the night.

 

If a merchant marine is killed in a foreign country, in what manner is the body cared for? Is it subject to a military funeral or buried in a local cemetery? From what source should the nearest of kin be officially notified and how can all the facts be obtained?

There is no definite way of taking care of merchant marines killed in foreign countries. A great many of them are buried in military cemeteries, but they are buried in all kinds of places. Their remains are the responsibility of the consular officer of our State Department stationed in the country where the man died. If a man died at sea, he was buried at sea. The War Shipping Administration is a member of an interdepartmental committee which includes the War Department and a good many others, which are making arrangements after peace is declared to disinter all Americans and bring them home at Government expense. However, this whole plan will take legislation.

 

The next of kin are notified by the United States Coast Guard if the person was a war casualty. If a man died of illness on ship, the ship's officer would notify the next of kin. All facts can be obtained by writing to the War Shipping Administration.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1945

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, November 1945

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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