If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1946


As a delegate to the UNO, will you be guided under any circumstances by your individual judgment of what is right, or under certain possible circumstances by the principle, "My country: may it ever be right; but right or wrong, my country"?

I will, of course, as a delegate to the UNO have to abide by whatever rules are set up within our delegation to govern procedures. Where decisions of policy are made within the delegation, I will try to represent the people. I know, of course, that my feeling of what should be done or of what people want may be wrong, but I would certainly try to work for what I thought represented the major good of the world as a whole. I will try to think at all times of ultimate objectives rather than of the narrower and more immediate aspects of any question that comes up as it affects my own or any other individual country.

I will do this because I believe so firmly that the good of all people in the future must be paramount in order to make it possible for any one of us to live and be free and happy on this globe.

"My country: may it ever be right; but my country, right or wrong" is a very good precept for men in our military services, since they are under the orders of Congress and their Commander-in-Chief and really have very little opportunity to form the policies of the nation. They are practically obligated, once a decision is made, to carry it out. For the rest of us, however, who have an obligation to take part in the forming of policies, I think we should make every possible effort to fight for the things which we believe are right, making it clear to the people why we hold our beliefs, thus creating public opinion. The majority must rule, but minorities sometimes become majorities, and full knowledge for the people is the only way that we, in a democracy, can be truly representative of the will of the people.


What qualifications do you think you have that make you a suitable representative of the U.S. in the United Nations Organization?

Since I did not choose myself as a representative, I shall have to rely on the judgment of other people, and I think your question could more properly be put to them than to me.


Why do so many returning servicemen think that "We'll fight Russia next"?

I do not think the servicemen think so, but there has been so much propaganda in certain newspapers and through other channels on this subject that many servicemen have been fed this idea.


Do you think the atomic bomb should continue to be manufactured, whether by ourselves or by the UNO?

I think the decision should be left to the UNO. It seems to me it might be well for the UNO to manufacture, and hold in reserve, a certain number of bombs; but a single nation should be forbidden to engage in the manufacture of the bombs, and we should set up a supervision and inspection system through the UNO which will prevent any nation from doing so.


Many mothers "give up everything" for their children and are then mortally hurt when children, in maturity, feel that their mothers do not fit, in appearance or social presentability, into their lives. Don't you think there is a kind of "escapist selfishness" in this kind of mother love that tries to live through the accomplishments of their children what they could not or would not achieve themselves?

I think probably a certain amount of selfishness in all mothers is good for children. We should realize that children have to stand on their own feet and we should not give up everything for them. The burdens in a family should be mutually borne and children should learn that they are a part of the community of the family, and I do not believe that any mother does a wise thing for her children when she makes life too easy for them.


Since a large number of first sex offenses are committed through ignorance or a youthful curiosity, do you feel that more adequate sex education in the home and in the high school might prevent some juvenile delinquency?

I do, but this is a question for parents and teachers and doctors to decide. Some children are prepared at an earlier age than others for this kind of education.


During the war, advertisers sold the public on War Bonds and other appeals. Now they are selling the same public on more and better luxuries. Don't you think the leading advertisers could be enlisted in a campaign to sell the idea of peace and world citizenship?

Yes. I wish they could put on a campaign for world peace and responsible citizenship in our democracy. I think they should not do it on a profit basis, however, but on the basis of their own responsibility as citizens to use their abilities, in part at least, for the good of the country as a whole.


Why doesn't the United States see to it that Palestine is opened to Jewish refugees?

Because the United States alone has no jurisdiction over Palestine, and she is probably not willing to accept full responsibility even if she could obtain full powers to act alone. I doubt very much if the people of this country as a whole would want the United States to undertake this, because it would mean accepting military as well as civilian responsibility.


What did you take to London with you in the way of clothes and, if any, gifts for English friends?

I took a few gifts of things I knew were scarce in Great Britain. In the way of clothes, I took one evening dress, so made that it can be either formal or informal; one silk day dress and one wool day dress and one suit with blouses; a heavy fur coat for the steamer, a fur jacket and a raincoat and galoshes; underclothes, stockings, extra shoes and one pair of evening slippers.


Do you think it a sound principle of justice to try the so-called "war criminals" for acts that were not technically illegal under either German or Japanese or international law at the time they were committed?

Yes, I think it is a sound principle of justice to try people for acts they committed, whether they were technically illegal or not at the time. I realize that this is not the procedure usually adhered to by the courts, but I have always felt that that was one of the unfortunate ways in which justice sometimes miscarries even in domestic issues.


Do you think Congress and the President are making a sharp turn to the right?

I think Congress has always had certain, perhaps the majority of, members who are markedly conservative in both political parties, but there is also always a goodly number of progressives, and those I think are still active. I should not say that President Truman has taken any sharp turn to the conservative outlook.


The Quakers are pleading with the people of the United States to feed Germany. Do you think it is our job?

I think it is our job to feed as many people as we possibly can, but I have already expressed myself quite a number of times on the point that I think this should be done on the basis of giving our Allies everything we have to spare above the bare necessities. They have less resistance left, having been for five years under German domination, and during that period the Germans took for their own use everything they could possibly remove from the Allies. Therefore, the Germans are far better able to withstand a period of restricted diet and hardship.


I have been holding my own in the business world for almost five years, but my mother still does not think it suitable for me to have my own apartment. Do you think I should stay at home obediently?

It depends entirely, I think, on the kind of relationship you want in your home. If you want to carry on a very close family life, it is certainly better for you to live at home. However, if you find that as you have grown older and more independent, it creates friction to live with the family, perhaps it would be better for you to have your own apartment. You might find you could really have a pleasanter and happier relationship with your family by actually living apart. I think every woman, if she does not marry, craves a home of her own, and perhaps you could explain that to your mother.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, March 1946

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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