If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1946

 

What is your opinion of Andrei Gromyko, Russian UN delegate?

I know Mr. Gromyko very slightly. He is very pleasant to meet and I am sure he is trying to do a very good job for his country.

 

My second cousin and I are very much in love and plan to be married. I asked my mother's approval, which she wouldn't grant. We have consulted a priest as to the reference the Bible makes to such marriages and find the Bible doesn't mention them at all. Then I wrote to a well-known psychologist. His answer was favorable. Knowing there have never been any deformities, blindness or hereditary diseases on either side of our family, we decided to get married. What is your personal opinion of second-cousin marriages?

I haven't any. My husband and I were fifth cousins, once removed. I have known second cousins to marry with no bad results, and I have heard that first cousins were too close, but I really know nothing about it and I think it is another of those very personal questions on which you will have to get the best possible advice and make your own decision.

 

At a meeting at which you were the principle speaker I overheard two women who appeared to be intelligent and leaders in their own communities state that they were not prejudiced, but they just "did not like Jewish people." How can we hope for lasting peace and better understanding among peoples of the world when here at home intolerance exists among people who are trying to assume positions of leadership?

I do not think we can. Those of us who have prejudices will have to make every effort to overcome them, since the only hope for peace in the world is to understand and like people of different religions and nationalities and races.

 

I am a girl of eighteen and worried by my father. He tells me that my ideals about international responsibility for peace are just "book theories," that there has always been war and always will be. He says that now, like the last time, we are going back to isolation. Must this be inevitable? Is he right? If you believe, as I do, that people and nations can change, what would you suggest that I, as one too young to vote, can do about it?

I do not think it is inevitable that we make the same mistakes over and over again. As you read history, you feel that human beings are slow to learn and that our steps forward are often accompanied by waves of retrogression. There is nothing to do, however, but to work for the things in which you believe. You may not be able to vote now, but you can work in the organizations that are trying to bring about the things that you think are right; and in your own life, you can live as you think people should live to bring peace and better citizenship into the world. You will then be prepared to vote more intelligently and to be a better citizen.

 

They say that many great men's wives have a feeling of intuition, before the men become well known, that their husbands are marked for greatness. Did you have any feeling like that about your husband when you were first married?

No, but I am not given to going much beyond the things that have to be done each day. I have always been so busy that, if I thought I had adequately met the demands day by day, what was going to happen in the future never received a great deal of thought.

 

What do you think are the three most important requisites for happiness?

A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and with those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.

 

I've heard it said over and over again that an intelligent young woman must make an effort to hide her intelligence if she wants to be popular with men. Do you think it is smart to act dumb?

I never think it smart to do anything which is not natural and truthful. The kind of young men who are attracted to you because you are stupid, or try to appear stupid, are not worth having around. I think every girl should make herself as attractive as possible, but I do not think she should pose and appear to know things that she really does not know. Honesty, modesty and naturalness are three very good qualities in making and keeping friends.

 

Should a wife raise a fuss because her husband refuses to include church support in the family budget? My husband and I are not churchgoers except at Christmas and Easter. However, both of our children were baptized in church and expect to be confirmed in church. I feel that obligates a family to help support the church. My husband doesn't agree. What do you think?

It all depends on whether one believes that a church is a good influence in the community. If one does, then as a good citizen, one has an obligation to support the church to which one belongs.

 

Have you ever told a "white lie"? Do you think that white lies are ever justifiable?

If what you mean by a "white lie" is such pleasant things as one says casually in social relationships—for instance, saying to someone when you meet that it is a pleasure to see them, when you really have no idea whether it is going to be a pleasure or not, or telling people when you refuse an invitation that you are refusing because of a previous engagement when you are not willing to give the real reason—I certainly have told white lies and I do think they are justified.

 

Did you have to cope with the awkward age in your daughter? If so, how did you do it and keep the family fur from flying? I have a daughter, sixteen, who wants to wear her dresses too tight and too old, and wrong shades of make-up. She also has a strange taste in friends and keeps too late hours. How can I avoid argument, yet instill in her some ideas of good behavior and good taste?

Of course every youngster, boy or girl, goes through an awkward stage, and family fur will fly, and you cannot avoid arguments. I can remember very well periods when my children felt very bitterly toward me, but we became firm friends again as they grew older and realized there was sense in what I made them do and in what I said. The important thing is to love them and they soon know you are not just trying to be disagreeable—which they often think!

 

Do you think the Japanese people can be democratized, and if so, by what means?

Yes, I think all people can be democratized, but it has to be done through example; and if we are to give the example, then we must busy ourselves to become, in deed as well as in words, a really democratic nation.

 

Socialized medicine has been tried in England and France and in other countries under different systems of administration. What are your views on Government control in this field in the United States?

I believe the Government should improve its Public Health Service. I believe it could also aid in a better distribution of doctors in areas where at present there are none. I believe that the Government could aid in building hospitals and clinics where they are needed, by grants to communities. I do not know that we have found the best way of getting the best possible medical care for all our people. I think we should try whatever is suggested until we find that we have something which works well, because it is essential that medical care be accessible for all at a moderate cost where people can pay, and free where they cannot. A healthy nation is essential for future strength.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, October 1946

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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