If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1948


I am an American and have been living in Belgium for two years. In the opinion of all the Europeans I know, the purpose of the Marshall Plan and other American-aid-to-Europe plans is simply to stabilize American economy. They believe that without European markets the United States would be a bankrupt nation. They are also of the opinion that the United States is going to fight another war for these markets. I have tried to tell them that our reasons for helping Europe are purely humanitarian and to preserve the democratic way of life so that all nations may reap the blessings of freedom. Don't you think it is too bad that while America is spending so much money for aid, it spends so little to publicize its motives?

Yes, I think it is too bad that we do not do a better publicity job; but we must remember that after the last war we built up mutual feelings of distrust—with Europe looking upon us as Uncle Shylock and with us picturing European nations unwilling to pay their debts. Now we have fought another war, far more costly and devastating. Europeans know what that war has cost them on their own doorstep and we do not. Therefore we have allowed in this country a great deal of loose talk about another war, which must be terrifying to the Europeans. It leaves them rather open to believing the U.S.S.R. propaganda which is against the Marshall Plan and against any really orderly return in Europe to democratic procedure and economic recovery.

I think all we can do is to put as much of the burden of planning for recovery on the European nations as we can and to request certain definite things in return for the money given by us. If possible, we should keep our demands reasonable and watch such greedy people at home who might try to get more than a fair return out of whatever plans are made.

Time alone will answer this question for the Europeans. I think we may learn to spend a little more and to do a better publicity job about this country, but it will certainly take time, and during that time actual things should take place which will prove that our intentions are not evil.


Please tell me whether a young woman of 22 should rise when older men and women enter a room or when introduced to them. I was taught to do this when I was a child, but was under the impression that at 21 I should cease to follow junior etiquette. Is this correct?

My own feeling is that when you are introduced to people it is better to stand up; but it is possible, if you have been receiving for a long time, to sit down if you are very tired. Ordinarily I would expect to stand during an introduction. I think it would be natural to stand up if older men or women enter a room because they may want to sit in the chair where you are sitting, unless it is an entirely informal gathering where everyone is wandering around and where there are plenty of chairs; then there seems to be no particular reason for getting up if it disturbs your conversation with some particular guest.

As a rule it seems to me the thing to do is that which your own instinctive kindness would suggest as proper. One cannot always live according to somebody else's ideas.


When President Roosevelt was serving his second term, there was a cooky recipe published in the papers called "Roosevelt cookies." My mother made them and they became my favorite cookies. She has lost the recipe and all I can remember is the fact that it called for about two tablespoons of vinegar. The dough was rolled out and made quite a few delicious cookies. Have you the recipe?

I do not have the recipe, but I think perhaps what you mean may be the donkey cookies made by the Women's National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C. I am quite sure if you write to them they can give you the recipe.

I am a high-school senior of 17. I would like your honest opinion: How old should one be before she learns all the facts of life?

I am afraid one is very old before one learns all the facts of life. In fact, perhaps one comes to one's death with a humbler feeling than one had at the beginning, because the riddle of life is a difficult one to understand.

If what you mean by your question is just how old you should be before you know certain simple facts about sex, I should say that that depended entirely upon your own development. The earlier you come to look upon these facts as commonplace knowledge, the better. Everyone must acquire a certain maturity to handle these facts wisely, and nothing more.


I was called a communist by my Republican friends because I espoused the policies of President Roosevelt. Now it appears that I have reached the height of the ridiculous since you have joined the wolf pack screaming "communist." Recently I have seen the finest young people hide their convictions for fear the "loyalty" bill will lose them their jobs. If it is so serious, why hasn't the FBI taken care of it?

I do not happen to like the loyalty tests. I disapprove of them and have said so a number of times, but they will not lose young people their jobs unless their convictions are questionable convictions. You may have been called a communist by your Republican friends because you followed President Roosevelt's policies, but I do not quite know what you mean by "joining the wolf pack screaming ‘communist.'" You must know that there are American communists in this country, and unless you are one, you must admit that their beliefs and the beliefs of citizens of a democracy do not coincide.

I hope that the FBI will not do more than it is now doing about communism in this country. In fact, I would prefer to see it do less, and I would prefer to see us, as American citizens, do more.


What is your opinion of compulsory military education?

I have stated my opinion a number of times. It is usually called Compulsory Military Training, and I dislike it. I think that temporarily, until the U.N. has set up a permanent police force which can be used against aggressors anywhere, we should keep ourselves with sufficient military power to answer any demand made upon us by the U.N., and to defend ourselves until the U.N. can take over this job.

To do that, probably Universal Military Training will be necessary for a few years. I would not object to Universal Citizenship Service to be required of every young person, boy or girl, for a year—let us say at 18. I would not object at all to some basic military training being given through that period, but I should like the education and the future aspirations of the young to be taken into consideration in the type of work assigned to them, and I should like an emphasis placed on doing some kind of work which would develop their sense of responsibilities for citizenship in whatever communities they lived. This, in a democracy, seems to me a very essential plan, particularly when the need for military service is wiped out in the future, as we all hope it will be through the U.N.


Since I am to vote this year for the first time, I would like to know where I can get information on the basic platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties. I really want to choose my own party. I am tired of being told So-and-so is a Republican or a Democrat; or, "Look at what that man did in office." I'd like to know.

If you want this year's platforms, you will have to wait until after the national conventions, when they will be adopted. You can easily get a copy by writing to the national committees of both parties, or from your own state committee, or even from your local newspaper if it prints them in full.

I imagine that what you want, however, are the platforms of the past and the record of how these platforms have been implemented, if you are trying to decide which party, on the whole, is the one which best represents your own views. For this I think you could write to the national committees in Washington, D.C., and ask for a summary of past platforms with the actual carrying out of the principles stated. Even then you will have to do a good deal of checking through your own observations. The League of Women Voters would furnish this type of information also.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, April 1948

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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