If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1950


1. What did you and Cardinal Spellman talk about over the iced tea in Hyde Park last summer?

I think it is hardly necessary to report private conversations, and certainly the conversation between Cardinal Spellman and myself was a private one. I can, however, say that we talked of mutual welfare interests and a number of other things.


2. What do you do with mail you do not like?

I do not often have mail which I do not like, but I sometimes have critical mail. If I think a letter is honest and reasonable I answer it. Occasionally I think it would not serve any good purpose to answer it, so I simply do not answer it. I have always kept a file of disagreeable letters, which I call my "hair shirt" file, so that in case at any time I should feel the nice letters were giving me too much satisfaction I would always have something to turn to to keep my feet reasonably safely on the ground.


3. Do you agree with Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell, who says in his book Crisis in Education that today's schools are turning out "confused juveniles instead of educated adults"?

That is the kind of generality which is extremely hard to prove. Of course you will find some "confused juveniles" who have been through college, but you will also find some "educated adults."

When people make such sweeping statements I think they do very little good, particularly when they rarely give a formula by which education can be made to produce mature and educated human beings able to be useful citizens under a democratic system of government in a very troubled world. We are in an experimental period at present, and I think all great institutions of learning are making experiments—some good and some not so good—but sweeping generalities will not help very much to improve our educational methods.


4. I have heard that the graduates of certain colleges have trouble finding jobs because people believe there is a communistic trend in those institutions. What is your opinion about this?

I think people should not accept offhand rumors about educational institutions. They should investigate. I think they would frequently find that there is no basis for the rumors, in which case they should not be affected by them. They should judge the person to be engaged on his performance and not on any rumor of any kind.


5. What is your recipe for turkey stuffing?

When it is possible to get chestnuts I like to have them used in turkey stuffing, but at times I have used anything from just plain bread stuffing to oyster stuffing.

I soften stale white bread with water, mix in chopped onion, eggs, boiled and chopped chestnuts, melted butter and seasoning (I like it well seasoned with salt and pepper and poultry seasoning). The amounts, of course, depend on the size of the turkey. I usually have small link sausages, broiled, around the turkey when it is served.


6. In This I Remember you stated that our late President was advised to eliminate the famous "stab in the back" from his speech after Mussolini attacked France, and that he refused to do so. Miss Grace Tully said that it was not in the President's script and that he ad libbed it. Which of you is right?

Miss Tully is quite right. The phrase "stab in the back" was not in the President's script. It had been discussed beforehand, and his advisers urged him not to put it in. He put it in on his own initiative when he was making his speech. He did this sort of thing quite often, so there is nothing contradictory between what Miss Tully said and what I said.


7. Do you think a friend of several years' standing should feel free to drop in unannounced and bring friends with her whenever she feels like it?

I think it is the right of every individual to give his friends whatever privileges he wishes them to have. One creates the rules by which one lives with one's friends. If you have a relationship in which a friend feels free to drop in unannounced and bring friends, then I should think it quite all right for a friend to do so. If, however, you do not like it, that is something you should explain, because such intimacy grows, and it grows by mutual consent. If it is disagreeable to you it will eventually end your friendship.


8. Will you please explain your criticism of Paul Robeson as "debasing his art"?

I consider it debasing your art when you are a great singer and can give concerts which everyone can enjoy but instead of giving a concert you stop in the middle of it and make a political speech. This may be displeasing to part of the audience, which has not been asked to a political meeting, so you spoil the artistic performance. Besides, you have deceived your audience, which paid to hear your music and not your political views.

< Previous Column 1950 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1950

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

McCall's, volume 77, January 1950

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC