If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1948

 

Why does a religious sect need a special country? Knowing that you have favored the partition of Palestine, I am asking why.

I favored the partition of Palestine, first, because no better plan than the one suggested by the majority of the United Nations Commission was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations in the autumn of 1947. Secondly, because it seemed to me that Great Britain and the United States had allowed the Jewish people to make many sacrifices under the impression that they were building up a country of their own.

It must be remembered that the Jews are a race as well as a religion. It is true that many of them have lived in many countries and have become citizens of many countries, but there still is among them a group that has a strong sense of racial solidarity.

At the time of the Balfour Declaration we concurred in it, and it was not only agreed that Palestine should be a national home for the Jews, but negotiations were entered into by Doctor Weizmann and the Arabs, in which they agreed. Therefore it seemed to me that since the British mandate had permitted hundreds of thousands of people to settle there, many of whom in developing the country lost their lives just as some of our early settlers did, and since there had been a number of commissions which had looked into it, and the British had never wished to follow any of the findings, this was a final appeal to the United Nations, so apparently we had to accept it. I still think carrying it out is the only fair thing, and not in any way unfair to the Arabs. They have not developed their country and are a nomadic people who will lose very little territory and who, being of the same race, have lived side by side with the Jews in perfect harmony ever since the original agreement was made. They are not being maltreated, because they have always prospered in the areas where the Jews have lived.

There is, of course, religious sentiment about Jerusalem, and therefore making that an international city and allowing each of us, whether Moslem, Jew or Christian, to retain rights of worship in that city would seem to be completely fair to everyone.

 

I have the great fortune of being able to go to California for my vacation to some relatives of my mother. These people are Catholic, and I am High Church of England. I would hate to miss church when I am on my vacation. Should I go to the Catholic church with them, and say nothing? I have never visited relatives and don't want to start a feud for nothing. I am twenty-three years old.

If your relatives live in a city, there is no reason why you should not attend your own church, which in this country would be the Episcopal Church. If you will be living in some area where churches are difficult to reach, and the rest of the family drives to a Catholic church and there is no way of your getting to your own church, it is purely optional whether you wish to go with them or not to go at all. No one will be offended if you say you prefer to go to your own church. At twenty-three you are a grown person and not a child.

 

I would like to know the reasons why you are not endorsing Henry Wallace as a third-party candidate for the presidency.

I am not endorsing Henry Wallace because I do not believe he is a good candidate. The third party, as I see it, is made up of a great many good people, but the managing group is influenced very largely by communists. The good people have no understanding of the communist influence or the effect it would have on any party in power. Any candidate for the presidency who publicly states that he does not know what the foreign policy of the Communist Party is not a person who should be President.

If Mr. Wallace were a Democrat and running on the Democratic ticket, and free from communist influence, I might feel differently about him, since there was a time when I believed strongly in Henry Wallace's intelligence and integrity. This belief has been somewhat shaken by this campaign. I do not see how any American who does not wish to see communist control grow in this country can support this third party.

 

Do you approve of the peacetime draft?

At the present time I do because conditions in the world are so unsettled. I think the knowledge that we are willing to submit to military training for a great number of our young people will undoubtedly have a stabilizing effect in parts of the world where a threat might exist to the peace of the world. I hope very much, however, that we will bend every effort to build up international strength in the United Nations, and that as soon as possible not only the peacetime draft will be dropped, but general disarmament will begin. Joint strength acquired by the United Nations, when it is strong enough to insure the peace of the world, whether a great or a small nation chooses to create trouble, is the only way to bring about national disarmament and leave us free to devote our resources to social developments for the greater happiness of all people.

 

I read an article by Westbrook Pegler in which he stated that Mr. Roosevelt "signed his name to a property deed at his real-estate promotion at Warm Springs, Georgia, forbidding forever the sale of his land to any Afro, or its rental or occupancy by any such." If the statement is correct, how do you reconcile the inconsistencies of the Roosevelt family in relation to their public utterances and private actions?

I know nothing of the property deeds signed by my husband in Warm Springs. I do realize, however, that in signing a deed he would have been obliged to conform to the laws of the state in which that deed was signed. If the state of Georgia has any such laws as you mention, he would have been obliged to sign in order to obtain the land. Since the property passed out of my husband's hands very soon after he acquired it, as he sold it to the Foundation, I have never heard much about the conditions under which the land was acquired or sold.

 

My husband and I have been married for seven years and only recently learned that we would not be able to have a family of our own. We both adore children and decided to adopt one. To our great disappointment, after contacting several societies in New York, we were told that because we are of different faiths we cannot adopt a child. We are hoping this law does not exist in every state. Do you know if there is any state where we can adopt a child?

I do not know what the laws are in the various states. I do know that in New York State when children need care outside of their families, they must be placed with persons of their own religious faith. This, however, undoubtedly is not the law in every state, and you could easily find out by writing to the secretary of state in any state where you thought of trying to adopt a child.

 

I am a girl fifteen, and will be sixteen in January. My nine-year-old brother is all the company I have. There aren't any girls my age living in this community. Therefore, I am quite lonely. There is a boy who will be eighteen next January. We are quite interested in each other. He is a very nice boy. He has asked me to date him after I become sixteen. My grandmother says sixteen is too young. Do you think I should ask my parents to let me have dates with this boy after I am sixteen, or wait until I become eighteen in hopes of finding another boy as nice as he is?

I think your grandmother is right. At sixteen it would be a mistake to date one boy so much that you do not see other boys. Can you see this boy occasionally and go out with other boys too? Sixteen is pretty young to make a decision to associate exclusively with one particular boy.

 

Do you consider your work with the United Nations as a "sacrifice"? If so, what would you rather do than this?

I cannot remember saying anything which would give the impression that I consider my work with the United Nations a sacrifice. There are times when that work does entail sacrifice of time and comfort, but so does all worth-while work. I consider it an honor to be allowed to work with the United Nations; to have the confidence of those who appoint me and of the majority of the legislative group that has to ratify the appointment. If I am able to keep the respect and good will of those with whom I work, I shall be extremely grateful.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, September 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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