If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1949


1. Somebody has defined a liberal by calling him "a radical with a wife and two children." That definition doesn't satisfy me, and I can't think of any other which does—especially in these times. How would you state the liberal position?

It is very difficult to put into words the liberal position, but I would be inclined to say that a liberal tries to see a question from as many points of view as possible and then decide which is the point of view which will benefit the greatest number of people. He need not be either conservative or radical, but he must be able to be objective, to try to free himself from prejudice and to subordinate his own special interests to the interests of the people as a whole.


2. It seems to me that the German underground is more active in the United States than most Americans think. What happened to the Germans who left Germany immediately after the last war and went to South America? More to the point, in building up Germany to reduce the threat of communism are we forging a weapon which might be turned upon ourselves?

I have no idea whether there is a German underground in the United States, though I think the FBI would be on the watch for it. I imagine the Germans who went to South America largely settled in the Argentine and are carrying on their activities from there.

The original policy in connection with Germany, as I understand it, was to try to make her self-supporting. There are, of course, different opinions as to the way in which that should be done. Germany must not be freed from supervision so that she can build up strength for a third world war. It is obvious that whatever she is allowed to build—should she decide that her salvation lay with the Communists and not with the democracies—might be used against the democracies and, therefore, against us. She might also try again to build up a superior power in the center of Europe. Only eternal vigilance on the part of those who have had the experience of two world wars begun by Germany will safeguard the world from another war. We certainly should not let Germany, nor anyone else, become a menace to the world as a whole.


3. My daughter is young and pretty and talented, but she hasn't any beaux. Friends of ours with only daughters seem to have the same difficulty. I'm afraid of meddling and making matters worse. But I'd like her to have a more satisfactory social life. What can I do?

I should think the simple thing would be to make it possible for your daughter to bring her friends to the house in a simple and easy way, never trying to do too much for them but making the young people feel welcome. If girls come, eventually boys will come too, and if your daughter does work in some organization like a church organization or the Y she is sure, sooner or later, to meet and make friends with young men as well as with other girls.


4. Since you are considered an intelligent and farsighted woman, do you think that the Roman Catholic Church plans to maneuver us into a war with Russia by trying to get people of that faith into key positions within our government and throughout the world?

No, I do not think the Roman Catholic Church is trying to maneuver us into another war. It is true that probably the two great disciplines of the world are the Communist discipline and the Jesuit discipline, which is a fact pointed out by a Frenchman brought up by the Jesuits. I think the Roman Catholic Church should do all it can to reduce the strength of communism, but I do not think it would want to see any nation go to war.


5. What is your opinion of the North Atlantic Pact? Is it a wise move, or are we just looking for trouble?

The North Atlantic Pact is a wise move, I think. At the present there is no force within the United Nations because, until the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. come to some kind of understanding on atomic energy, there can be no force set up within the United Nations. Therefore some kind of strength to give security to the smaller nations must be set up. The North Atlantic Pact assures greater security to all those nations belonging to it, since it is a defensive pact and it agrees that if any nation is threatened with aggression the other member nations will immediately consult and take such steps as seem necessary. This should help us to safeguard the peace of the world.


6. Why are farmers singled out for subsidies while other businessman—lawyers, for example—are left to shift for themselves?

Because the farmers are engaged in a basic occupation. If the farmers were not willing to continue their work the rest of us would starve. The farmers are engaged in probably the most exciting gamble that there is as a business venture. They gamble with the unpredictable whims of nature. The government, knowing that people must eat, tries to reduce the dangers which may overtake those who engage in this hazardous occupation of farming.


7. In a recent magazine article Edgar Mowrer says: "Eleanor Roosevelt had to argue endlessly with the U.N. Economic and Social Council before she admitted that her freedom was imperialism to the Soviets, that their democracy was slavery to her." Do you think this statement is a fair and accurate summing up of your attitude and conclusions? "Endlessly" would mean a lot of arguing. And "slavery" is a strong word to use if one really desires to represent a situation fairly. With war panting for an occasion to break loose, writers should try to use words that mean what they say, should they not?

I think Mr. Mowrer was slightly in error, since I do not belong to the U.N. Economic and Social Council and, except for appearing before it once or twice to give a report on the work of the Human Rights Commission, I have never opened my mouth in the Council. I do not think the sentence quoted makes sense, because it would make it appear that I was arguing with myself. It is true, I think, that the Soviets confuse freedom and imperialism and democracy and slavery, but I do not have to argue on this point to convince myself. Perhaps the quotation is not accurately given. If it is accurate Mr. Mowrer has been rather ambiguous and not too careful in the use of words.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1949

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

McCall's, volume 76, July 1949

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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