If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1948


What would you say to the increasing amount of testimony piling up, including that of former Ambassador to Russia William Bullitt, that President Roosevelt knowingly let communists into the Government? Was this because they made yes-men to his policy of appeasing Russia, giving them everything they asked for?

I do not think that my husband knowingly allowed communists to enter Government service. I do not think, though I read Mr. Bullitt's articles carefully, that he says that. Mr. Bullitt has written articles giving his point of view. Other people may hold different points of view. He was not at the meetings of which he writes. The amount of credence that you give to Mr. Bullitt's statements, of course, will be conditioned by the amount you know about Mr. Bullitt's character.

The second part of your question naturally has been answered when I said that knowingly my husband never permitted anyone in Government service who was a communist; but since you seem to imply that he was bent on appeasing Russia and giving her everything that she asked for, I would remind you that the U.S.S.R., once she became an Ally, was killing more Germans than anyone else, and therefore it was in our interest to give her the weapons to accomplish this end and to keep her fighting. It saved our men and it was not appeasement.


During the war I served as a white officer commanding colored troops for a year and a half. What careers are available in the field of race relationships if I should decide to devote my life to this type of work?

I do not know that there are any careers open. If you want to work with an organization like the NAACP, and you are a lawyer, you could possibly be retained by them, or you could work in the office in some executive capacity, or be an organizer in the field. There is work in race relations to be done in the labor unions, but there is the greater work to be done in our own communities in the effort to wipe out bigotry and discrimination where they are most apt to crop up. There are, of course, opportunities in government service, on both the state and the national level, and many personnel jobs in many industries today give opportunity for doing good work in race relations, since both the unions and employers, in many instances, are working to eliminate discrimination.


I am asking you for help in settling an argument. Does the tomb of the unknown solider contain a body?

The tomb contains an unidentified soldier's body.


I am a seventeen-year-old boy in love with a girl of seventeen, who is also in love with me. Her sister is always criticizing me for something and telling her mother. Now the girl wants me to join the Navy until it blows over. Do you think I should join the Navy?

I am afraid I am not in a position, without knowing you or the girl or your respective families, to give you advice, but at seventeen it would be foolish for you and for the girl to decide on your future. You may, of course, soon be in the draft, and if you prefer to go into the Navy it might be wise for you to try that. It would give you a change of interests and it might be a good thing, since you ought to be very sure before you marry that you are not yielding to the fact that you and the girl live near each other and that it is easy to go together.


My best friend, who is an attractive blonde, is losing all interest in life because of a certain fellow. It has been a year since they broke up. He made varsity football and doesn't seem to want to bother with her any more. How can I help her overcome her feeling for him, or advise her how to get him back again?

I think you had better be a little careful about interfering, even with your best friend. She would probably resent it, and in all probability time is what is needed to solve her problem.


I am a sophomore at the University of Oregon and wish to spend my junior and senior years studying in France. I understand that UNESCO has an exchange-students plan and that you work in UNESCO. Where can I get complete information about the plan for exchange students between countries?

I do not work in UNESCO. I am chairman of the Human Rights Commission. UNESCO is a different body, a specialized agency that works in co-operation with the Economic and Social Council of the U.N. They do take a great interest in exchange students and therefore I think if you write to the representative of UNESCO, Lake Success, New York, you will be sent the necessary information.


What is your opinion of the Kasenkina affair?

I am very sorry for Mme. Kasenkina. She has been through a very trying experience. Russian nationals are not allowed to leave Russia without permission.

Her husband and son were evidently suspect and disappeared. Her sorrow and her fear must have been very great, and I think she showed how desperate she was when she determined to jump from the consulate window rather than return to the U.S.S.R. Incidents of this kind point up for us the kind of terror existing in any country which is controlled by secret police.

We know nothing about this in our country, and we had better be extremely careful never to allow such a condition to come about in our country.


Have any of your sons been killed overseas in battle or lost for years, to be presumed dead and later found in an isolated grave in the jungle? If not, are you qualified to state how "members of your family" feel about being brought home to lie in the family plot where they belong?

I am surprised at the tone of your question. I have no criticism of those who wish to bring home their dead. I think it is harder on the family sometimes when it is done, but they are the ones to decide and the Government has taken that position, as I understand it.

When I said how members of my family felt I did not state what my feeling was, but my boys did fight all over the world and they faced the fact that they might die in far-distant places or on the ocean and they told us what they felt. My own feelings would not enter into such a matter. I would do what I thought the person I cared about would wish to have done.


In your candid opinion, are the women's clubs of this country accomplishing any good purpose? Do you think women's clubs are too militant or too apologetic in expressing their opinions?

Women's clubs in this country vary in their activities. Nearly all of them serve some really good purpose to which they apply their energies. I do not think they are uniformly valuable, but I think there is every opportunity to make them more valuable. The woman power of the nation can make itself felt more than it does at present if the women's clubs function more cooperatively on certain great questions which affect most women in the domestic and international fields.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, November 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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