If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1950


I have heard, from what I think to be a reliable source, that your son John is a Republican—at least he is not a New Dealer. Is this correct?

My son John is one of the members of our family who has no interest whatsoever in politics. His interests lie entirely in business. Jokingly he has said to us that he is a Republican, but whether he has ever voted the Republican ticket I do not know, for one’s political beliefs, like one’s religious beliefs, should not be questioned. He knows that I am a Democrat and believe in the Democratic party and why. If he should feel differently I would respect his feelings and not try to make him state his beliefs unless he volunteered the information. He certainly never opposed his father, so he must have accepted the New Deal, at least at that time. During the war I do not suppose any of my sons were able to vote regularly.

I notice, however, that in spite of his declared indifference to politics John has taken considerable interest in his brother James’s campaign for the nomination for governor of California and has frequently been able to give me the latest news as brought to him by some people in his organization, so he is at least interested in one Democrat!


Was Amelia Earhart on an official mission for the United States Government when her plane was lost in the Pacific?

As far as I know she was not on an official mission but undertook the flight on her own initiative, as her husband was interested in having her make a record which would have been hers had she flown successfully around the world. When her plane was missing United States ships joined in the search, but I never heard that she was on an official mission.


I have terrible attacks of stage fright every time I have to make a speech or preside over a meeting. Can you suggest any way to cope with this?

Stage fright is something you can overcome by constant practice. One good way to help yourself through the first crucial moments is to write out the beginning and the end of your speech or statement, perhaps only a paragraph. Then you know you have something before you to hold on to if you are frightened so much you are at a loss as to how to begin and then become wound up and do not know how to stop! If you try this method of writing out the beginning and end and carefully thinking out the points you wish to make during your speech—or, if you preside over a meeting, the particular points you want the meeting to keep in mind so that the objective of the meeting is always in sight—I think you will find your stage fright will grow less and you will be able to preside or make your speech without too much difficulty.


I am seventeen years old and have just finished high school. My mother insists that I go on to college, but I would rather take a job on the newspaper at home. Mother says I will always regret missing college, but it seems to me the women I admire most in public life never went to college. Don’t you think the world is better training for a newspaperwoman than the classroom?

I am afraid I do not agree with you. There are certain kinds of knowledge acquired in the classroom—history, grammar, a knowledge of literature—which, if you want to be a really good newspaperwoman, will be invaluable to your career.

My husband always complained bitterly that even some of the best newspapermen lacked sufficient knowledge of certain countries when he visited them and that he was constantly briefing them on trips to give them more background which would make their stories more interesting and understandable.

I know it is hard, when you want to take a job, to stick to the kind of work college means when you are not going to college just to enjoy yourself. But if you are serious in making newspaper work your career, you had better get as good a background and training as you possibly can.


How do you keep your feet from aching and your face from getting paralyzed when you greet a great many people in one day?

I don’t. Ever since the Washington days when I stood so much, the bones in my feet have suffered, and now they often ache—and, of course, one’s face gets an almost frozen smile after a certain length of time.

I remember that on one occasion after I had shaken hands with several hundred people I walked into the dining room, where my guests were having tea, and saw two old friends. I said, “Where did you come from?” They told me they had just shaken hands with me as they passed in the receiving line. I was so weary that the faces had merged and looked like one great blur.

It is much easier to stand and shake hands when you are doing it regularly and often. At the beginning of the autumn in Washington I used to find it painful—my back ached, my feet ached—but after a few times all those aches disappeared. I gradually got so I did not mind it at all, and I was well repaid by the interest of the people who came.

Roy Larsen* asks “As against the 100,000 new elementary-school teachers needed next fall in our public schools, I understand that only 22,000 will be graduated this year from our teacher-training institutions. How can citizens help in closing this serious gap between the need for and the supply of teachers?”

They can see to it that the states raise teachers’ salaries and, in the individual communities, that people give a better standing to teachers, treat them as people should be treated who are being entrusted with the future of the United States of America. I do not know the figures now, but I cannot believe that there is a shortage of space in teacher-training institutions. There must be a greater interest developed in this branch of service, and it seems to me that if opportunities for advancement were greater and life were made pleasanter, it would attract more young people.

[1] [2]

< Previous Column 1950 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1950

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

McCall's, volume 77, September 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