If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1947

 

To what do you attribute your boundless energy? Coffee, cat naps, sweets, inheritance, will power, vitamins, inner strength, secret formula, religion, or what? By noon, after housework and children, most women are tired. Do you ever get tired?

Of course I get tired, but I happen to have inherited a very strong constitution. In addition, I think I learned long ago how to relax and how to be disciplined, two things which help conserve one's energy.

 

How can Great Britain afford to give $60,000 a year to Princess Elizabeth and pay every other member of royalty in proportion?

Princess Elizabeth is not paid by the British people. Since there is no Prince of Wales at present, her annuity is defrayed from the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, which normally would go to the Prince of Wales.

 

Other payments made to the Royal Family, exclusive of Princess Elizabeth, amount to $2,000,000 a year, but these payments are offset by the net revenue, exceeding $4,000,000, from the Crown lands which, under an arrangement begun by George III were surrendered to the nation by George VI shortly after he succeeded to the throne.

A dog is known for its attachment to the surroundings of his home. Was it easy to keep Fala in New York City, or has he ever had the inclination to stray back to Hyde Park?

He never has had an opportunity, because when he is in New York City, I never let him out except on a leash. Fala has been accustomed to going wherever his master went, so he is very well trained in the art of adjustment.

 

The overcrowded conditions of our public schools and the low salaries of the teachers present a problem that must be typical of our income group. Do you feel that it is wise to make considerable sacrifice to maintain our children in a good private school in order to get the advantage of individual instruction that the public system cannot give at this time? I hesitate to assume this financial burden unless convinced that is the wise thing to do.

No, I have always felt that there was only one advantage in private schools and private colleges. That was if they were so conducted that they carried on the experiments in education which public schools and public colleges could not afford to do. Then private institutions of learning serve a good purpose.

On the whole, I think it more important that all of us send our children to public schools and try to make public schools, because of our interest, what they really ought to be. It is true that teachers' salaries should be higher, but only the acceptance of that fact by the taxpayers will ever bring it about. It is true that more money should go into education, but again it is the taxpayers' realization of this fact that will bring it about. I have always felt this way, but my mother-in-law felt very strongly about private schools and we deferred to her wishes where our children were concerned, but I am not at all sure that it was wise in all cases. I am quite convinced that it is not the right and public-spirited thing to do.

 

It seems to be rather common practice for people who worked for the Government under the New Deal—their services having been to a degree in confidential capacity—to capitalize on their Government service by writing books or magazine articles. These people were compensated for their public service as they rendered it. Do you think it entirely proper and ethical now for them to divulge, for money, information that may reflect discredit on officials or agencies they once were paid to serve and protect?

I cannot think that anyone who was employed in the New Deal would write anything to discredit officials or agencies for which he once worked. I think it entirely proper for anyone who worked in any capacity to write a truthful account. It may not be entirely good, because many efforts had to be made to meet new situations, and you could not always be sure beforehand that everything would be successful. If the people who worked in these efforts write truthful accounts and show why certain things were done and what the objects were, I cannot think that there is any harm in writing what must eventually be of value to history. History must take cognizance of what was successful and what was not, and no one would expect that everything would be 100 per cent perfect.

 

It is my impression that in the early days of the New Deal you minimized the influence of the communists in this country. Your alliance with Americans for Democratic Action seems to indicate that you thinking with respect to communism has changed. What caused you to see the picture in a different light?

I do not see the picture in any different light. I have always thought that communists were of very minor importance. The important thing is to make democracy work, and then communism will have no hold in any country.

I have, however, worked in enough organizations to discover that if you allow American communists to infiltrate into key positions, in either the staff or the policy-making body, you will find your organization doing things which you did not intend it to do. That is one reason why I was interested in the formation of Americans for Democratic Action. I am neither an official of the organization nor an active worker but that part of their effort I think is entirely correct.

 

National affairs are becoming so involved with those of other nations, with world economics and such scientific developments as atomic energy, that there seems a demand for government officials with training and intelligence far, far beyond the qualities of character and wisdom required in the past. How can a nation of 140,000,000 possibly hope to become educated to all these problems which the intelligent U.S. voter is supposed to understand? How can we possibly find, under our present elective system, public officials wise enough to lead this nation as the No. 1 power of the world?

We have always managed to meet whatever was required of us in the past, and I think, as citizens, we will be able to do so in the more complicated present and future. If we need better-trained public officials, we will have to get them; and if we need better-trained citizens we will have to develop ways in which to inform them more fully and to help them to discuss the problems before the nation and before the world, so that public opinion may be really informed and intelligent on the new and complicated questions that come before us.

 

I would like to know your opinion of aptitude tests. I am unhappy in my work as a stenographer, and although I have had training and four years' experience in this kind of work, I have not been a success. Since I am not working now, it would be a good time to look into the possibilities of some other type of work.

If I were in your position, I certainly should take aptitude tests, and if I had any interests I had never tried to develop, I should try to develop them to see if I enjoyed working along some particular new line.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1947

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 64, July 1947

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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