If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1949


1. Tell me, how did you adjust to the heartaches caused by seeing your children wrestling with divorces and job problems? Have you learned to let your children's problems affect you no more than those of friends?

No matter how devoted one is to one's friends—and I happen to be very devoted and feel close ties to some of my young friends and many of my own age or near it—still there is a special relationship or a peculiar and indestructible tie that exists between parents and their children, and I think there is a special bond with the mother. I doubt if it would be possible to learn not to let the problems of your children affect you, nor would you want to.

I think, however, as one grows mature in life one learns to carry burdens, particularly emotional burdens, better. You know about them, you listen, and when asked you give what advice you can and try to be helpful. You cannot help grieving for them when they are unhappy or have difficult situations to face, but you know that they alone can and must deal with those situations. It would not be right for you to interfere, if you could. And somehow I think you acquire a philosophy of life which leads you to go on with your own occupations—and your chief preoccupation is that you shall be available if needed and not fail those you love.


2. What do you think would happen if one of our ships was torpedoed? Would it be handled diplomatically by the United Nations or would it cause an incident similar to the blowing up of the battleship Maine?

I would hope that if one of our ships were torpedoed we would first of all try to get satisfaction through the United Nations. Certainly we should not consider going to war until every other possibility had been exhausted.


3. Is it really true that if you are married to a serviceman it is impossible to get a divorce regardless of the circumstances? A lawyer tells me that with this Serviceman's Law still in effect it is impossible, since peace hasn't been declared, but I have heard elsewhere that this isn't so.

On this question, which is a purely legal question, I do not think it would be proper for me to give an answer. The way to get an authentic answer is to write to the Secretary of Defense or to the Veterans Administration in Washington and get from them a statement on which you can rely.


4. Why did you say that Cardinal Mindszenty was not altogether an admirable man?

I do not think that I said exactly what you quote. I said that I had heard from certain sources that there were certain reasons why the cardinal had not been favorable to agrarian reforms and that was one of the contributing factors in the problems surrounding his situation.


5. In the book called Jim Farley's Own Story he claims you made the remark: "…my husband never felt comfortable or at ease unless he was with people of his own social class and standing." Is that true?

I never made the remark attributed to me by Mr. Farley in his book. I may have said something which he interpreted as meaning what he has put down, but whatever I may have said had a different meaning to me from the one which he has placed upon it. My husband got on with all kinds of people, and among the friends he enjoyed the most were people who certainly did not have the same education or social background.


6. Do you believe that the parents of "juvenile delinquents" should be punished for the sins of their children?

I think it would be logical to punish the parents of juvenile delinquents for the sins of their children, but perhaps it would be a little difficult. Perhaps the troubles their children go through are punishment enough. The object in dealing with juvenile delinquents themselves is to try to put them on the right track. Very often the parents of juvenile delinquents with whom I have come in contact are too far gone to be changed in any way. But sometimes they can be changed, and I hope we will always stress constructive remedial work with both parents and children rather than punishment.


7. If you were single, minus 75 per cent of the brains and energy you have, 41 years of age, a civil service employee, happy in your job, living at home—what would you do in your spare time? I go to the theater, visit relatives and friends and enjoy life. I have thought many times of how you would use precious time to better advantage.

I think if I were in your situation I would do just about what you are doing, though if I had some pronounced outside interest I would give a little time to developing that interest. That depends, however, on whether you have some hobby or interest to which you want to devote some of your spare time. None of us has too much leisure.


8. How do you get an appointment to see President Truman?

I know of no way to get an appointment with President Truman except by writing to his secretary stating the reasons why you wish to see him and, realizing how very busy a President is, asking that the appointment be arranged at the President's convenience.


9. Do you not think that persons deserve a trial by jury before being committed to a state mental hospital?

I hardly think a trial by jury for mentally disturbed patients would have much value, because the jury would probably not be made up of people with much medical knowledge. I do think, however, that before people are permanently committed to a mental hospital there should be a consultation with doctors, some of them not connected with the family or the hospital, to insure that the individual gets proper consideration of his particular case.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1949

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

McCall's, volume 77, November 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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